Township Considers Video Inspection Law for Sewers

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Drafting a local law proposed by the Lower Pottsgrove Authority, which would require home sellers to have their sewer laterals inspected by video camera to find leaks or ground-water infiltration before real estate deals closed, was authorized Tuesday (Sept. 7, 2021) by the township Board of Commissioners.

The law also would require homeowners in private residential developments to have similar video work conducted every 10 years.

Both measures could save the township thousands of dollars annually in water treatment costs paid to the borough of Pottstown, authority engineer Fred Ebert explained. Laterals are the pipe connections between properties and municipal sewer mains.

Ground-water inflow and infiltration, often simply called “I and I,” refers to rain and other natural water that seeps into soils and then finds its way, by virtue of cracks and punctures in the laterals, into the sewer system. When the otherwise clean “I and I” mixes with waste water, it then must be treated at Pottstown’s facilities.

Video recordings could identify “I and I” entrance points, and the proposed law would specify they must be sealed or fixed before a property sale is completed. Eliminating “I and I” reduces the treatment volume, Ebert noted, keeps money in the township coffers, and hopefully avoids higher sewer fees over future years.

“It’s the most effective tool we could have” in lowering township sewer expenses, he said. Existing law relies only on above-ground inspections and is far less thorough in finding “I and I” problems. The roughly $300 to $350 cost of having a qualified plumber obtain a permit and conduct the video examination likely would be paid from real estate closing costs, Ebert suggested.

The cost of lateral repairs, if any are needed, would be additional and might reach between $500 and $1,500, he speculated.

Statistics on annual home sale transactions, as well as the experiences of other Pennsylvania municipalities that already have such a law on their books, indicates the township could begin seeing treatment savings in three or fewer years. If the “I and I” is found at the sewer main or beyond, and not within the lateral, the Sewer Authority is responsible for the cost of those repairs.

Commissioners generally liked what they heard. All five board members agreed to allow the authority’s attorney to proceed, and work with the township attorney in writing and fine-tuning the proposed ordinance.

Board President Bruce Foltz, though, first sought assurances that video inspections would be limited to only those homes for which an agreement of sale is being fulfilled, or only every decade for residences in private communities. “There are no witch hunts,” Ebert concurred. “We’re not going looking for anything” except in circumstances approved by commissioners in the law.

The draft version could be ready for review within a month, township Manager Ed Wagner said.

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