Homeowners will need to pay about $30,000 to connect to city's sewer system

(KATU Graphic)

Approximately 90 Southeast Portland homeowners received a notice earlier this year from the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, saying they will eventually all be required to connect to the city's public sewer system.

Homeowners say it comes at a staggering cost -- about $30,000 on average per household.

Many homes, between Southeast 130th and 140th, and along Southeast Claybourne Street, are currently served by private, residential septic tanks.

"We're not a rich neighborhood," homeowner Nicole Bailey told KATU. "We had no choice. It is something every single person in our neighborhood will have to do."

BES says the Southeast Claybourne and 135th Avenue Sewer Extension Project will provide properties that have aging septic systems connections to the sewer system that the city of Portland will build, manage and maintain. BES says some of the tanks are failing, posing major public health hazards.

A spokesperson told KATU that city and state code requires property owners to connect to a public sewer system if their septic tanks fail.

"There is no option to not participate," Bailey said. "There's no option for us to prove that our septic is OK."

Bailey compartmentalized her costs:

  • $480 in permit fees
  • $5,712 charge for sewer system development
  • $6,351 charge for a sewer branch connection
  • Upwards of $7,000 in private plumbing costs to decommission the current septic system and private plumbing
  • Operating costs of $1.71 per assessed square foot, up to 100 sq. feet

"It's not fair," Bailey said. "For us, it might mean that we have to sell the home, unfortunately, and walk away from that investment."

Across the street, Shawna Crase took out a second mortgage last fall to install a new septic tank system.

She says the city approved permits in October of 2016. Then four months later, received the BES notice saying she was going to be required to decommission the new septic tank and hook up to the sewer line when it's completed, sometime in late 2018.

Crase says she'll still be required to pay connection fees of up to $30,000.

"We're not going to hook up to it," Crase said. "By the time the sewer comes in, we're not even going to have a year-old septic tank."

Crase says the city asked her to install a concrete tank, rather than a plastic one, to meet requirements.

"I don't think that that is right, to not have a choice, especially when they issued a permit to get the septic tank, and a septic tank is going to last a very long time," Crase said.

BES says homeowners will have up to 3 years after the project is completed before they will be required to connect to the public sewer system.

Design is currently underway and construction is expected to begin in early 2018. Construction will likely take 12-18 months to complete.

BES says payment plans are available through the city.

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