New sewer rules proposed for Long Beach homeowners

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Long Beach may soon require residents to inspect and repair their homes' sewer systems in an attempt to prevent wastewater in pipes from leaking into groundwater and waterways.

The process, known as wastewater exfiltration, occurred in the city after superstorm Sandy, when flooding also heavily damaged the city's water treatment system.

A proposed local law -- scheduled for a Jan. 21 public hearing at 7 p.m. at City Hall -- would require residents to maintain their sewer hookups to ensure there is no leakage and everything is in working order.

An inspection would be required at the time of the home's sale, and any issues would need to be fixed before the transfer of title, the proposal states.

"This is an environmental concern for the city," said City Attorney Corey Klein, speaking at a Long Beach City Council meeting Tuesday night.

Klein added that the final version of the law was still being revised.

The proposal would hold homeowners responsible for any necessary repairs, city records state. Failure to comply with the law would be considered a "public nuisance," and homeowners would need to pay for any damages caused by their sewer hookups, the proposal states.

The proposal also creates standards for the maintenance of private sewer systems, including that pipes must be "free of any structural defects" and of "roots, grease deposits and other solids which may impede the flow or obstruct the transmission of waste."

The proposal would also help prevent infiltration of stormwater or floodwater into the city sewer system, said Jim LaCarrubba, the city's public works commissioner.

"Ocean and bay waters got into the system during Sandy," he said. "This is seeking to prevent that."

The proposal comes in the wake of a resident's October lawsuit that claimed Long Beach violated federal law by improperly managing and maintaining its sewer system when monitoring leaks from pipes on private property. The city's proposal is "common sense," said Eliot Bloom, the attorney for the resident.

"The responsibility for maintaining sewer lines on private property is exclusively that of the homeowner," Bloom said.

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