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Question DetailsAsked on 12/2/2017

City making us connect to sewer which requires us to pay for 180’ extension of the main pipe & install manhole, 50k

Has anyone heard of this?! Apparently once septic fails, since our house is 189’ away from a sewer on adjacent street, we would be required to extend main line, install manhole, and connect to city sewer which would likely cost 40-50k. How can they make anyone do this?!

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Not unheard of and does happen - some places are looking at $100,000 plus connection costs with even shorter runs. I would suggest talking to a Civil Engineering firm which routinely does septic and sewer system designs for residences. A LOT depends on your state and local law and such, and also on how effectively your engineer or lawyer can argue your case, but here are factors which commonly affect the situation.

1) if your area is a "non-attainment" area under environmental regulations - meaning septic systems are seriously contaminating surface water or groundwater, sometimes new septic systems are banned any any that fail are required to be abandoned, and hook up to pulbic sewer if within reasonable distance - commonly if within 200 or 250 feet or so. Other times you only have to hook up if a sewer] main has been installed along a street bordering your property (on any side).

2) sometimes, and generally unless in a non-attainment area, you have to option of "fixing" the septic system. Depending on distance from nearby residences, septic systems, and wells and on finding suitable soil conditions on your propery this may be attainable by building a new leach field elsewhere on your property - though depending on topography may not fit in gravity flow situation and require a septic (at house) or septic effluent (at tank) lift pump to pump the effluent uphill to the new leach field.

3) If the above factors prohibit that, then depending on local/state laws building a "raised bed" leach field on top of the existing one to treat the effluent in essentially an above-ground "artificial ground" mound works.

4) If you are lucky, just rehabbing your existing field will work - usually non-destructive rehabbing with jetting out the drain field pipes only works a few years and may not be considered suitable, but sometimes excavating the leach field pipes and their trenches (or sometimes the entire field to several feet in depth) and putting in new filtering soil and piping will work - this is generally accepted as long as the highest seasonal water table is not too high.

5) there are also other treatment options possible depending on specific conditions - which for areas with deep water table may include septic pits (basically shallow leaching wells), or more advanced treatment like a mini treatment plant - though that option is commonly $20K or more and higher maintenance than a normal septic system.


Now - assuming leach field rehab or replacement is out or not allowed by law, about the hookup situation. Things to check on that which might affect their ability to require or enforce or charge for it - which might require an attorney's input- thereis likely an attorney in your area who has handled this sort of case before.

0) unfortunately, since you said "189' away from a sewer on adjacent street" this weakens some of the followingwhich might apply if they were requiring you to hook up to a sewer main on a street which does not border your property

1) sometimes cities or utilities put in this sort of rule with no legal basis, so it can be challenged- either directly, or by getting it revoked by complaint to the board or supervisors or assembly/city council or such

2) in many states, the totoal cost cannot exceed a certain $ amount or theuy cannot require it - this prevents them requiring paying for a long installed length of public service line

3) there are court cases in some states that they cannot require you to pay for trunk line - line which will be connected to by other parties now or in the future - unless they charge ALL potentially served property owners for it at time of installation, as a capital assessment.

4) I have heard of this being stopped, if they are looking to extend a service lateral or trunk to your property (which will be used by other connections in the future) by claiming if you are paying for it then you own it and they cannot connect others to it without paying you back for your investment in it

5) if this is on an bordering street, generally the connection cost is on the order of $1000-2000 - but they may not be able to make you pay for a manhole - just for an underground connection, unless your system uses manholes at every connection point (pretty rare - usually is just sleeved or grouted into the side of the sewer main).

6) unless the entire system is pressuried sewer (rare), sometimes they cannot require you to hook up (assuming a functional on-site septic rehab of some sort is feasible) unless it is a gravity line - there are court cases that requiring you to put in a lift pump to reach their system is only legal if tht is the only suitable option for sewage disposal. This is usually valid only if a gravity sewer line would be possible to another bordering street if a sewer line were put in there in the future.

7) I have seen a LOT of times where government agencies demand something which is simply not backed up in law or regulations, or which violate state law.


One other factor - which the civil engineering firm could do a cost estimate on - is, assuming this is 180 feet across your property to the street main, not in-street main cost, normally a couple thousand would give you the connection - though some districts charge more like in the $10,000 range to include some of the capital cost of initially bringing public sewer into the area, to pay for the sewer lines and treatment plant and such.

Anyway, after factoring out any capital investment recovery fee as above, and any physical connection fee from the utility/city, then installing sewer line from your house to the street (assuming gravity sewer run is feasible) would typically run from $20-40/LF, assuming not in bedrock or extremely hard digging soil and assuming burial depth of not more than about 4-5 feet. In deep frost penetration areas that can go up to $40-60 range commonly, and in solid bedrock can run to $100/LF range - so depending on required burial depth could run from about $3600-18,000 for the portion of the line on your property.

Lot of issues addressed here - I would start (depending on how much pressure and what timeline they have put on you) with finding a local septic/sewer experienced civil engineering firm - lawyer first if on short fuse or they are getting nasty, later after initial engineer discussion and rough cost alternatives (connect to public sewer versus rehab/repair leach field) and you still intend to fight it or need help understanding the law/regualtions.

One other thing - where connection charges are high (usually because of a high capital cost recovery component), law mandates that not more than so much per year can be assessed - so they put a lien on the title for the connection cost, then add so much to your monthly bill to gradually (typically over 10-20 years) collect the assessment. This is typically put on the property as a title lien which survives any property transfer, so it does not have to be paid off when you sell- the buyer assumes the lien and the future responsibility for continuing payment.

Good Luck

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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