Private Sewer Lateral Defects Frequently Asked Questions

What other options do I have for getting my lateral repaired or replaced?

You may pursue the additional options below for getting your lateral repaired on replaced.

1. Hire a licensed and bonded plumber to repair or replace the lateral in accordance with the  Plumbing Code.

2. Replace the lateral yourself in accordance with the Plumbing Code and proper permits from the City.  A licensed plumber must connect your private lateral to the public lateral.

If either of the two options above is used, provide the applicable documents, such as a copy of the licensed plumber’s itemized invoice, plumbing permits, if required by the City, and the approval sticker from the City Plumbing Inspection Department for a fully replaced lateral to MAWSS to show that the lateral has been repaired or replaced.  It is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure the repairs are properly made.  The City of Mobile Plumbing Inspection Department may be contacted at 251-208-7606

Can MAWSS replace my private lateral?

For convenience and cost savings to customers who are resident owners of homes, MAWSS has hired a contractor, Person’s Service Company, LLC  using the competitive bidding process to replace private laterals at the customer’s expense under an agreement with MAWSS.  The Contractor is available to visit your home and provide a cost estimate for replacing your lateral.  Under the MAWSS agreement, the Contractor will only perform full lateral replacement, not spot repairs, for customers who both live in and own the home needing the new lateral.  This service is not offered to rental properties or other businesses.  Please call the Construction Inspection Department at 251-694-9401. if you would like our Contractor to visit your home and provide you with an estimated cost to replace your lateral.  Attached is the contractor’s unit pricing for performing lateral replacements under the MAWSS agreement.  Only after visiting your home can the contractor determine the quantities of work he will need to perform.  

The customer must contract with MAWSS before the lateral can be repaired by the MAWSS contractor under the MAWSS agreement. The Customer may agree to pay for the contractor in a lump sum or request the work be financed through MAWSS.   Fifteen percent of the contractor’s estimated cost must be paid to MAWSS up-front. The balance may be financed or paid in full.  The customer must sign a Right-of-Entry Agreement giving the contractor access to the property before work can begin.

Person’s Service Company, LLC may also offer pricing as an independent contractor to replace the lateral that is not within its agreement with MAWSS.  Any such pricing and work will be an agreement between the property owner and Person’s Service Company, LLC only.  MAWSS shall not be a party to such agreement.  The property owner must pay the contractor directly for such work. 

Should My Lateral Be Replaced or Repaired?

While your lateral must be replaced or repaired to the extent necessary to stop storm water and ground water infiltration and inflow (I & I), we have not assessed the overall condition of your lateral.  To determine the extent of needed repairs, you should consult a licensed plumber who can visually inspect your lateral and determine its condition.   Our experience with older homes that have vitrified clay pipe, cast iron, or concrete laterals, is that the lateral pipe and joints have deteriorated over time, contain roots and often need full replacement.  A partial repair may only be a band-aid approach resulting in needed repairs on other areas of the lateral in future years.  MAWSS recommends old deteriorating laterals be replaced entirely to prevent recurring problems and expense.  

Are there any other benefits to replacing a lateral besides reducing wet weather SSOs?

Yes.  Defective laterals in the MAWSS service area generally contain roots.  Roots clog the lateral and make plumbing sluggish for the property owner.  Often, property owners will repeatedly pay plumbers to cut roots out of the lateral and then ultimately, still need to replace the lateral.  Defective laterals can also cause holes to form in the yard where the lateral is taking in soil through defects in the pipe.

 

Can I get a loan from MAWSS to cover the cost of replacing the lateral?

MAWSS prefers that customers seek financing through their normal lending institutions, such as banks, credit unions, etc.  However, if such means of financing are not available to you, MAWSS has a financing program for private lateral replacement.  The program has the following requirements:

  • The customer must be both the owner and resident of the house receiving the new lateral.
  • Rental property and other businesses are not eligible for financing through MAWSS.
  • The lateral must be fully replaced by the MAWSS Contractor under the MAWSS agreement.  MAWSS will not finance the work of other independent contractors and plumbers.  MAWSS will not finance spot repairs.
  • Only work associated with the lateral replacement will be eligible for financing. 
  • Fifteen percent of the eligible plumbing bill must be paid up front by the customer before the MAWSS contractor begins work.
  • The remaining balance of the eligible plumbing bill may be financed over a period not exceeding 5 years or paid in full when the work is complete.
  • The annual interest rate on the loan is 10 percent.
  • The financed amount shall not exceed $2500.
  • The customer must sign an agreement for the loan.
  • The loan is not paid to the customer, but is paid to the MAWSS contractor.
  • A lien is placed on the customer’s property until the loan is paid in full.
  • The loan must be paid in full if the property is sold.
  • Lack of payment on the loan could result in loss of water and sewer service to the property. 

For more information about financing a private lateral replacement, please call our Mapping and Connections Department at 251-694-9434.

 

Is there any help for low-to-moderate income households?

Yes.  If you think that you may qualify as a low-to-moderate income household, your lateral repair requirement may be delayed until federal grant money is available to address your lateral.  MAWSS is pursuing grants for this purpose.  To apply for this status, please contact MAWSS 251-694-3471.  We will forward your name and number to Mobile Community Action (MCA).   MCA will contact you and gather the needed information to determine if your household meets the low-to-moderate income criteria.  If you are deemed to be in a low-to-moderate income household, MCA will contact MAWSS and MAWSS will contact you accordingly. To avoid the penalties identified below, you must contact MCA quickly so that your income status can be determined in a timely manner.  

What is a tenant’s responsibility?

If you are renting the home, you have no obligations to MAWSS to repair the lateral. However, you must provide this information to your landlord/property owner so they can repair the lateral.  We will make an effort to notify the landlord/property owner by sending this same package to them,   but it is sometimes difficult for us to identify the landlord/property owner.  If you are a tenant, please call the MAWSS Collection Systems at 251-694-3471 and provide them with the contact information of your landlord/property owner.    

What will happen if I don’t repair my lateral?

MAWSS is providing you a period of 180 days to repair or replace your lateral without penalty.  If you do not qualify as a low-to-moderate income household and we do not receive documentation showing that repairs have been satisfactorily made within 180 days of the date on the attached letter, $25 per month will be added to your water and sewer bill for a period of three months.  If lateral repairs are not made after said three months, the additional charge will increase to $50 per month for three months.  After three months of the $50 charge, water and sewer service to your home may be terminated.  

What is a sewer backup and is my house at risk?

Sewer can backup into a building if the building is constructed too low relative to the rims of nearby sanitary sewer manholes. 

If you choose to hire MAWSS’ contractor to replace your lateral, the contractor will determine if your home is at risk of sewer backup and advise you of steps they can take to reduce the risk of sewer backup.

What is a sanitary sewer lateral?

A sanitary sewer lateral is usually a 4” or 6” pipe that carries wastewater from your home/building to the public sanitary sewer system.   Defects in the lateral can allow ground water and storm water to enter the public sanitary sewer system. See the figure below.

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