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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sewer News: Dye Testing & Sewer Lateral Video Inspection: What, When, Why & How?

How a Sanitary Sewer System Works

A sanitary sewer system carries sewage (from sinks, toilets, showers/bath tubs, washing machines) from homes and businesses through privately-owned sewer laterals or pipes to publicly owned sewer mains, which are usually in the street, and then to the wastewater treatment plant located on North Washington Street.

The sewer mains and the wastewater treatment plant are owned and operated by the Evans City Water & Sewer Authority.

A storm water sewer system carries rainwater from streets, parking lots, sidewalks, and roof leaders (or downspouts) to publicly owned sewer mains, which are owned and operated by the Municipality of Evans City and not the Authority.

Infiltration and Inflow

Evans City residents and businesses have an important role to play in improving our sanitary sewer system. Without knowing it, many properties may be contributing to the flow of unwanted rainwater entering the sanitary sewer lines.  The technical term for this problem is Infiltration and Inflow or, “I&I,” and its source just may be your home.

This extra flow may not seem like a major problem, but when Evans City experiences a heavy rainfall it can cause sewage to backup into homes or overflow manholes and run down our streets.

During heavy rainstorms large amounts of water, which is supposed to flow into the normally separate storm sewer system, instead often finds its way into the sanitary sewer

Homes that have downspouts connected to the lateral are contributing Inflow by bringing rainwater directly into the sewer system.  Likewise, floor drains and sump pumps connected to the laterals are also sources of Inflow.  Even the curb vents or cleanouts in your yard or sidewalk may play a role.  If the vent is loose or lies below grade, rainwater can enter and flow into the sanitary sewer system.

Infiltration is a less obvious problem because its source is underground.  Tree roots can cause breaks or cracks in your lateral, allowing water in the ground to seep into the broken pipe.  Sections of sewer pipe under your yard or sidewalk may have separated over time, providing another way for water to enter into the sewer system.
Most people don’t realize how minor sources of I&I can add up to a major problem.  One or two downspouts connected to laterals doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when downspouts from hundreds of homes are tied into the sewer system, they can create a major surge during a rainstorm.  And even if I&I is not having a direct impact on your property, it could be contributing to a sewer backup into your neighbor’s basement down the street.

I&I is not limited to private homes.  Public sewer mains also become broken and cracked, and rainwater can seep through the pipe as well as the joints in manholes.  So, the solution to I&I can only come through the efforts of both the Authority and the residents and businesses of Evans City.

This issue is more important now than ever.  The costs of operating the treatment plant are rising and are to a large extent dependent on the amount of sewage flowing through the facility.  As a result of I&I, it is not unusual for the flow during a heavy rainfall to be six or seven times the normal flow.  Higher flows from I&I mean higher operating costs, which in turn mean higher sewer rates.

One of the ways the ECWSA is tackling the problem of I&I is by requiring Dye Testing and Video Lateral Camera Inspection of homes at the time of transfer or sale.

What is Dye Testing?

A dye test is conducted to determine whether or not your home plumbing is properly connected to your city’s sewer system.  Colored, florescent dye is added to various areas where storm water might flow into the sanitary sewer system.

Dye testing is a simple procedure where storm drains, yard drains, and   the outside of the foundation walls of a house, or other areas are flooded with water to simulate a heavy period of rainfall.

During inspection, the inspector checks your yard drain, driveway drain, subsurface drain, and ensures that they are not connected to a sanitary only sewer.

If colored dye shows up on the camera in the building lateral, then it  is evident that there is a defect in a given area in the private sanitary sewer line.

What is a Lateral Video Inspection?

During a lateral inspection, a camera attached to a cable (pictured below) is inserted into the inspection tee where the interior of the building lateral can be seen on a monitor.

An operator monitors the camera to see if any water infiltrates and drains into the building lateral.

The camera image is recorded on a video that can be reviewed again at a later date.

The operator is able to see if there is any root infiltrations or cracks in the sewer line. During the inspection, the inspector will also dictate and create a graph drawing to help locate the lateral and main for any necessary repairs.

Why is testing so important?

Everything wears out!

Even though all of these items are completely unrelated in their uses, 

they all have something in common. Cars, roof shingles, and socks are all items that everyone purchases and replaces when they get old.

Why should your private home’s sanitary sewer lines be any different? As a homeowner benefiting from the public wastewater treatment system, it is your responsibility to make sure the sewage lines in your home are properly maintained and not contributing infiltration to the public sewer system.

Common Causes

Infiltration into the sanitary sewer line can be caused by many different things.


Tree roots can grow into the pipe joints and cause small cracks which eventually expand and become worse over time.

Removing the tree might prevent future damage from getting worse, but any existing damage will remain.


Deteriorated joints in the pipe can also be a source of infiltration. In addition, stress causes the pipe to warp and crack allowing infiltration to enter the sewer.

Infiltration of storm water and groundwater into the sanitary sewers is the biggest problem the Evans City Sewer Authority faces.

The problem is important enough that the federal government has ordered the states to ensure every house passes dye testing.

Dye testing and inspection alone will not fix sewer infrastructure problems facing Evans City Sewer Authority, but it is a critical component of the long-term solution. Keeping your lines up to date and in good repair is doing your part to help ECWSA keep our waterways clean!

Selling or Buying a Home

If you’re selling your home you will be required to schedule a dye test and lateral video inspection. Typical fees range from $150.00 – $800.00. ECWSA’s inspection fee is $200.00. Tests are typically ordered by closing companies, but applications are also available at our office or at

Having a sewer line inspection prior to purchasing a property is proactive in making educated buying decisions, planning for any upcoming maintenance, budgeting for necessary repairs, or to gain valuable purchase price negotiation.

What to Do If You Fail a Dye Test / Inspection

Depending on the reported findings, if your line fails, you may be required to replace the existing lateral and or redirect storm water.

The ECWSA Sanitary Sewer Rules & Regulations provides valuable information about how to proceed should your home fail inspection. Information such as application procedure and specific materials and construction methods for lateral replacement, as well as other important information is available there. 

ECWSA Rules & Regulations are available at our office or at our website.

The ECWSA asks that home sellers please review our current rules and regulations before replacing sewer laterals. And, remember all lines must be re-inspected after repair, but prior to backfilling.  It is also extremely important to call 811 – PA One Call System, before commencing any digging.

If you are thinking about selling your home it’s wise to order your inspection before putting it on the market. This way you’ll have an idea of any repair costs, which can then be negotiated in the sale price.

Authority News: The High Cost of Delinquent Accounts

When businesses look at what it costs to collect payments, they rarely look beyond the cost of postage and the paper the bill is printed on, ignoring the labor that goes into the preparation and processing of each bill, which includes:
  • Preparing bills
  • Resolving disputes
  • Processing the resulting payment
  • Answering customer questions
  • Reconciling bank statements
  • Correcting any data errors
  • Making bank deposits
  • Pursuing delinquent accounts
This is where the true cost of billing lies. Due to the sheer volume of time required, over 90% of the total cost of billing comes from labor.

The following table provides insight into the amount of time it takes the average business to send bills and receive the resulting payments each month.

Average Percentage of Administrative Time 

  • Preparing invoices-10%
  • Recording receivables and maintaining accounts-50%
  • Making bank deposits and reconciling bank statements-5%
  • Pursuing and handling delinquencies-35%

The ECWSA charges a number of penalties and fees to recoup the costs involved in handling delinquent accounts. They are:
  • 10% per annum penalty charge on the first of each month.
  • $10.00 Delinquent notice fee.
  • $25.00 Administrative fee.
  • $75.00 Service termination fee.
These fees might seem outrageous, but considering that more than a third of administrative time is spent on handling these accounts the fees are negligible, not even covering costs. 

So, not paying bills on time costs you money and it costs the ECWSA money. Delinquent accounts are expensive for everybody!

ECWSA Delinquent Account Policies & Procedures

LATE CHARGES: Payment must be received by the last business day of the month, regardless of its postmark or the date you authorized payment. There is no grace period after the due date. No reminders will be sent. A late penalty of 10% per annum will be applied to all unpaid balances on the 1st day of each month. Failure to receive bill does not relinquish responsibility for payment or paying penalty.

NOTICE-OF-TERMINATION:  If we haven’t     received payment within 35 days, we will issue a pink service termination notice. This notice will indicate the date scheduled for service termination and payment instructions. Termination notices are mailed on or about the 15th of each month. A $10.00 notice fee will be added to the account. In addition, a door notice of impending service termination will be placed at least 24 hours prior to service termination.

SERVICE TERMINATION: If the account balance is still unpaid by the scheduled termination date, a work order for service termination is generated and a $25.00 administration fee will be applied to the account. 

Once service has been terminated a door tag will be placed on the home or business announcing that service has been terminated and an additional $75.00 fee will be added to the account.

SERVICE REACTIVATION:   Payment of account balance in full must be paid by 1:00 p.m. on a business day to reactivate service on that day. If payment is received after 1:00 p.m. service will resume on the next business day. There is an additional $75.00 service call fee for reactivating service after hours or on weekends.

This means that a delinquent account can cost our customers more than $100.00 per month! 

Both the ECWSA and our customers could save a lot of time and money if account delinquencies were reduced or eliminated. 

The ECWSA offers several convenient options for payment.

  • At payment window during office hours.
  • Drop box located at our office.
  • Online credit and debit card payment via eNETPAY.
  • ECWSA AutoPay-enrollment is required.
  • Coming soon: Customer portal payments.

The ECWSA always recommends conserving water to save money and the environment.  Another great way to save is by keeping your account current.

Authority News: Fall 2016 Announcments

Holiday Hours: We will be closed on:
  • Monday September 5th 2016 in observance of Labor Day.
  • October 17th – 21st for staff vacation
  • November 24th – 25th for Thanksgiving.
  • December 23rd & 26th for Christmas.
  • January 2nd for New Year.

The ECWSA will be updating our billing software this fall. Customers will have access to our new online Customer Portals. Look for launch date announcements soon.

ECWSA meetings are held on the last Wednesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. Meetings are held in the community room at 204 South Jackson Street.

Authority News: Water Saving Tips