How do broken private sewer laterals and cleanout caps harm the Indian River Lagoon?
The Indian River Lagoon is being impacted by leaky laterals in two ways: overflows and sewage seepage. Lateral sewer lines, under normal operation, safely transport sewage from house to the sewer main. When cracked or broken, these laterals allow groundwater to penetrate into the sewer system, which overloads the system. During extreme rain events, such as Hurricane Irma, the inflowing rainwater overwhelms the public sewer system and results in overflows. Defective laterals also increase the risk of raw sewage seeping out of the pipes and into the groundwater.
Most laterals for homes built before the 1980’s consist of piping made of woodpulp and tar (Orangeburg), vitrified clay pipe, or cast iron. These pipes have a lifespan up to 50 years under ideal circumstances, but in many cases can break down much sooner. Newer laterals made of PVC can leak sewage if crushed by tree roots or vehicles. Missing or broken cleanout caps also allow rainwater to enter and flood the sewer system.