HARRISBURG, June 3, 2014 – A state Senate committee today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Wayne D. Fontana (D-Allegheny) that would give municipal governments the option of establishing policies and helping residents repair damaged sewer laterals.

Sewer laterals connect one’s home to a municipality’s main sewer line. Residents are responsible for the maintenance of these laterals, which average about 42 feet in length. Fontana said a homeowner’s cost for repairing their damaged sewer lateral can often run from $5,000 to $35,000. He said many citizens neglect to repair damaged laterals.

“Pittsburgh has over 1,200 miles of this lateral sewer pipe,” Fontana said. “When these laterals are damaged, they can cause sinkholes, drastic increases of excess water flowing into treatment centers, and can lead to health and safety concerns.”

Fontana said a study by the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority estimates that 40 percent of the excess sewer water it receives on dry days is the result of unwanted infiltration and inflow related to damaged sewer laterals. He said the percent skyrockets to a whopping 80 percent during rainstorms. The Brookline lawmaker said this drastically increases the amount of water that authorities convey and treat – inflating people’s sewer bills.

“It is imperative that local governments have the flexibility to establish policies for managing these laterals – and the option of helping citizens with repairs,” Fontana said.

Following today’s approval by the Senate Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy, the Fontana bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

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