City will recommend — not require — side sewer inspections starting Dec. 1

Beginning Dec. 1, real estate professionals and the City of Tacoma permit office will distribute educational fliers recommending side sewer inspections before a property purchase and when property owners seek permits for an addition or major remodeling.

The requirement for an informational campaign is part of Tacoma Municipal Code 12.08.720, titled “Inflow & Infiltration Removal from Private Side Sewers,” originally adopted by City Council in December 2009 and amended Nov. 16, 2010. The amended ordinance replaces the former side sewer inspection requirement with an education requirement.

The City of Tacoma recommends inspecting a building’s side sewer if it is more than 25 years old and/or does not have PVC pipe running from the building to the city sewer main. The city also recommends knowing the location and condition of a building’s side sewer before building a garage or addition to an existing building.

The new education requirement is part of a program aimed at keeping rainwater and groundwater out of the city’s sanitary sewer lines. This water should flow into the separate stormwater system and ultimately be discharged into Puget Sound.

Rainwater and groundwater can enter the sanitary sewer system through damaged side sewers that connect individual homes and businesses to the sewer main. It can also enter the sewer system through improper connections from roof drains and sump pumps. This water goes to the wastewater treatment plant where it is unnecessarily – and expensively – treated. During major storms, excess flow can overwhelm the sewer system, resulting in sewage backing up into homes, businesses and streets, and overflows of partially treated or untreated wastewater into Commencement Bay.

Side sewer repairs and replacements can be expensive. Homeowners should plan for side sewer maintenance just as they do for roofs, furnaces and other major working systems of the home.

The City of Tacoma offers a Sewer Conservation Loan for homeowners and businesses in need of assistance with side sewer repairs and replacement. Go to or call (253) 591-5588 for more information about this loan program.

For more information, go to , or call the Environmental Services Science & Engineering Division at (253) 591-5588.