Is Your Sewer Pipe About to Fail?

Nothing lasts forever, and a sewer pipe is no exception.

Property owners are responsible for the sewer pipe (called a lateral or side sewer) that connects the plumbing of their house or building to the public sewer under the street. The Central Contra Costa Sanitary District (Central San) is responsible for the public sewers, only.

While modern PVC (plastic) pipes last for up to 100 years, older pipes made from clay tile, cast iron, or other materials wear out much sooner. If your house was built before the 1970s, there’s a good chance the pipe is clay and could soon wear out.

As older pipes deteriorate, hair-thin tree roots can squeeze into joints or cracks. The moisture and nutrients within the pipe enable the roots to thrive and grow until they block or even break the pipe.

Sewer pipes can also get clogged by an accumulation of grease and debris (such as disposable wipes).

clogged sink

DO: Dispose of grease, wipes and debris in the trash.

How Do I Know if My Sewer Pipe Needs to be Repaired?

Have your sewer pipe inspected by a licensed plumbing contractor if:
• You have a sewage backup;
• A toilet or household drain empties more slowly than usual;
• Patches in your yard are always wet.

DO: Get a video inspection of the inside of the pipe to determine whether it is damaged or simply clogged.

How Much Will Repairs Cost?

The cost of a sewer repair can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars and will depend on several factors, such as location, accessibility, length of the pipe, depth of the pipe, cause of failure, type of material, and the number of connections.

DO: Have repairs made before an overflow occurs, if possible; otherwise, your costs could be significantly more.

What If I Have More Questions?

calling for help

DO: Contact Central San’s Permit Staff at (925) 229-7371.

Interested in Working in the Water/Wastewater Industry?

Treatment Plant workers

Scholarships are available for classes leading to multiple careers in the water/wastewater industry!

The Bay Area Consortium for Clean Water Education is offering Community College classes and scholarships for students seeking a career in the water/wastewater industry.

The scholarship covers the cost of tuition and books, and a Plant Operator Certificate is given to students who complete the 28 required units. Students must maintain a grade of C or better in each course.

The deadline to apply for the free scholarship program is August 26.

The first class begins on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. in Martinez.

Relevant jobs include Water or Wastewater Treatment Operator, Water Distribution Operator, Wastewater Collections Operator, Mechanic/Machinist, Electrician, Instrument Technician, and more.

“The water and wastewater industry offers many opportunities for people interested in careers related to water conservation and environmental protection,” said Barbara Hockett, California Association of Sanitation Agencies Education Foundation Board Member. “And those already in the industry can use this program to expand their knowledge and position themselves to take advantage of new opportunities.”

For more information about this valuable program, please go to or send an email to


Come to Our Open House!

Open House
Help us celebrate our 70 years of service!

We’re having an Open House to commemorate 70 years of service and to thank our customers for their support! This will be a fun, FREE, family-friendly event!

WHEN:  Saturday, July 16, 2016, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WHERE:  Central San Headquarters, 5019 Imhoff Place, Martinez.

WHAT:   A variety of fun activities (have you ever raced a toilet?), giveaways, free food, educational exhibits, games, big truck displays (always popular with the kids), live entertainment (by local band PUSH), tours of our wastewater treatment plant, and much more!

Open House
The tour of our treatment plant is sure to be popular, so advance sign-ups for that are recommended. Please go to to sign up (the sooner the better). Be aware that this tour involves a lot of walking, including going up and down stairs, and closed-toe shoes are required.

Treatment Plant Tour
The Treatment Plant Tour is sure to be popular!

“This is the first time Central San has hosted a public Open House like this, and we’re very excited,” said our General Manager, Roger Bailey. “In addition to commemorating our 70 years of service and showing people what we do, the Open House is a way for us to thank our customers for their support. Whenever they prevent grease from going down the kitchen sink, put disposable wipes in the trash instead of the toilet, or bring chemicals and other hazardous wastes to our collection facility rather than pouring them down the drain, they are helping us to protect public health and the environment. We couldn’t accomplish our mission without their assistance, and we want to show our appreciation by inviting them to our ‘house’ to have a great time and learn more about the services we provide.”

PLEASE NOTE: Our Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility and Residential Recycled Water Fill Station will NOT be open for business on July 16 due to the Open House. However, attendees will be able to get a rare behind-the-scenes look inside the HHW Facility to discover what really happens to all the materials people bring in for disposal!

The Open House is sure to be a hit with the whole family!

Truck displays
Kids of all ages love our big truck displays!

Go here to see our Open House Event on our Facebook Page.  Share it with your friends!

Toilet mug
Win this coffee mug (also makes a fun candy dish)

If you go to the Open House and post pictures of it on Facebook or Twitter, please use #CentralSan70th. You might even win a prize! We’ll randomly select five posters who use that hashtag to receive a cute toilet mug! 

See you on July 16!

Sewer Construction in Your Neighborhood?

Here’s What to Expect

Sewer construction

The single largest asset of the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District is our sewer system, which consists of 1,500 miles of pipes and transports millions of gallons of wastewater every day to our treatment facility in Martinez.

Maintaining this huge system to ensure reliable service for our customers requires construction projects to renovate or replace aging pipes. Since these pipes spread throughout our entire service area, this activity is bound to have an impact on our residential and business customers.

Here’s how we communicate with customers who are likely to be affected by the construction:

Before Construction

• Nine-to-twelve months before construction activities begin, we mail letters notifying people of design activities that will be taking place in their area over the next several months. These activities include marking utility and sewer locations, surveying, and inspecting the area in order to draw up the best construction plan for the project.

• Once we have that plan, if work will be required within easements on private property, we contact those customers individually to discuss the construction and restoration activities.

• As the project nears the bidding phase, we invite all customers in the project area to a public meeting where we share our plan, answer questions, and discuss any issues of concern so we can make changes to the plan, if appropriate.

• Once the project is awarded to a contractor, we send another letter to all customers in the project area announcing when construction is expected to begin and end. A typical project can last six-to-nine months.

• As the project progresses, the contractor notifies customers one week in advance of any construction in their neighborhood.

• Signs are posted in the area which include the project duration and a contact number to call for more information.

Sewer Construction

During Construction

• During construction, one of our inspectors will be on-site to monitor the project and ensure the contractor is meeting our specifications. This includes not only the specifics of pipe installation, but also safety, cleanliness, traffic control, and property restoration.

• Customers with questions or concerns about the project can approach the on-site inspector or call our Community Affairs Representative, Chris Carpenter, at (925) 229-7200.

After Construction

• Once the project is complete, we send a survey to all customers in that area. This survey provides us with valuable feedback: people can make us aware of any issues that may have been overlooked, and let us know how they felt the project was handled. The questions cover the courtesy and responsiveness of staff, timeliness of notices, traffic impacts, and how promptly issues were resolved. Each item is rated on a scale of one to five, with five being outstanding. To date, we are maintaining an average four-plus rating for all aspects on all projects.

We understand that construction can cause inconveniences for our customers. We will continue to keep you informed of work in your neighborhood, and design projects to reduce the negative impacts where possible, all while maintaining a reliable and effective sewer system that protects public health and the environment.

You can find information about current construction projects, including project maps, at — click on “Construction Zone” in the lower right of the home page.

Click here to learn more about how we maintain the flow (video).

An Academy for Curious Customers

Curious about how we clean your wastewater? How we invest your sewer service charge fees? How we prevent water pollution and protect the environment?

Learn about all of this and more by participating in our FREE Citizens Academy!

For details and how to apply, please visit our website: Central San Academy.

Central San Academy

Maintaining the Flow

Central San uses 1,500 miles of sewer pipes and 19 pumping stations to transport sewage from about 160,000 homes and businesses to our treatment plant in Martinez. Here’s how we do it:

Small Device Prevents Big Problems

Although sewer backups and overflows are rare, they can cause a lot of damage, create a health risk, and be expensive to clean up. That’s why Central San has an ordinance requiring all homes and businesses in our service area to Overflow Protection Deviceshave an Overflow Protection Device. (If installation of the device is not practical, a property owner may apply for an exception.) You can read the ordinance here:

Most overflows are caused by clogs in private side-sewers/laterals, which are the pipes that connect a building’s plumbing to the public sewer. These pipes are the property owner’s responsibility. But overflows can also occur in the public sewer main, which are Central San’s responsibility.
Overflow Protection Device
Installing an Overflow Protection Device is the best way to prevent sewage from backing up into your home or business, regardless of whether the problem is in the public sewer main or a private lateral.

Note: The device will not help if a clog occurs between it and the building, so keep your pipes free of grease, wipes, and anything else that might cause a clog!

Because proper elevation and location are critical for the device to function properly, we recommend that it be installed by a licensed plumbing contractor.

If you already have a device, please keep it clear of obstructions such as dirt, plants, concrete, or anything else that might interfere with its operation. If you hire a gardener or landscaper, make sure they know this.

If an overflow occurs and there isn’t an Overflow Protection Device installed and properly maintained, the property owner may be responsible for resulting damages.

If you do not have this device yet, please have one installed right away. They are available at plumbing supply stores.

We can help you determine the best type of device for your home or business. Please call our Permit Counter staff at (925) 229-7371 for more information.

Wipes Clog Pipes!

Disposable wipes, even ones labeled as “flushable,” can clog your toilets or plumbing, and our sewers, pumps and treatment plant equipment. Please put them in the trash, not the toilet!

Disposable wipes are very popular. We get it. They’re convenient and easy to use. We’re not asking you to stop using them. We ARE asking you to stop flushing them.

Sure, they will usually disappear down the toilet if you flush them. But it’s what can happen NEXT that matters.

Disposable wipes are manufactured to be tougher than toilet paper.  They will not break down in water as quickly as toilet paper, and that’s why they cause problems. They get hung up on roots, grease, and other debris inside pipes and then cause clogs and sewage backups.

Wipes clog pipes
This nasty-looking mass of wipes was removed from a clogged pump.

They also clog our pumps and damage our treatment plant equipment; they must be manually removed and hauled to the local landfill. Please just give them the most direct route by putting them in your trash can, rather than the toilet.

As if the clogging potential wasn’t bad enough, many disposable wipes contain harsh cleaning chemicals and are made with plastic fibers that will pollute local waters when flushed.

Please dispose of wipes — even those labeled “flushable” — in the trash can, not the toilet.

Follow the Flow!

Ever wonder what happens to the stuff you flush down toilets and drains? (Hasn’t everyone?) This video tells all.