Nonconforming Sewers

Information
The City of Portland code requires individual properties to have direct and independent connections to the public sewer. Typically, a nonconforming sewer property does not have a separate lateral connection to the City's sewer, or the property's lateral crosses another property's lot.
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Nonconforming Sewer Types

There are three basic kinds of nonconforming sewers.

  • Party Sewers
  • Cross Property Line Connections
  • Private Sewer Line in the Right-of-Way

Detailed information on each nonconforming sewer type is outlined on this page.

If you own a property with a nonconforming sewer connection, Portland City Code requires you to abandon the nonconforming sewer connection within 180 days of receiving notice from the city that an individual and direct sanitary sewer connection is immediately available.

Visit the Installing Your Private Sewer Line page for resources to help you during the sewer line installation and connection process.

Party Sewers

Party sewers are when two or more private sewer laterals join in a single pipe before connecting to the public sewer in the public right-of-way.

With a party sewer, at least one private sewer lateral crosses into a neighboring property to join in a single pipe connecting to the public sewer line.

When a private lateral crosses a neighbor's property line before connecting to the sewer, it is a nonconforming sewer connection.

It's not uncommon for property owners with nonconforming sewer connections to be unaware of the problem. The best way to find out is to hire a private plumber to scope your private sewer lateral.

Party Sewer with Public Sewer Available

Diagram showing a sewer line of property B cutting across property A to connect to the public sewer while there is access to the public sewer available without having to cut across property A.

In the diagram, the property connected directly to the public sewer is the host property. Properties without a direct connection to the public sewer are guest properties.

Party Sewer with No Sewer Immediately Available 

Many properties with party sewer connections have access to a public sewer, but in some cases, no public sewer main is directly available to the guest properties. If that is the case for your property, you have two options.

  1. You may be able to secure a temporary easement agreement with the host property owner to maintain the current connections until the City builds a public sewer main that is available to your property. Environmental Services staff must review and approve easements. Once staff has approved your easement, you must file it with Multnomah County.
  2. If you cannot secure a temporary easement, you may need to build a public sewer extension. Consult with the Environmental Services staff first.
  3. Wait for the City to build a sewer extension, which will result in a conversion charge.

Cross Property Line Connections

A diagram showing the sewer line of property B crossing property A to connect to the public sewer.

Some private sewer laterals cross property lines to make an independent connection to the public sewer in the public right-of-way.

If no recorded easement allows the private sewer lateral to cross another property, if city staff has not approved your easement, or if the lateral does not meet set standards and requirements, this is a nonconforming sewer connection.

Private Sewer Line in the Right-of-Way

Diagram showing the private sewer line of a property extending into the right-of-way before connecting to the public sewer.

Some nonconforming sewer connections are private sewer lines extending beyond the property boundary, typically parallel to the public right-of-way, and connecting with the public sewer. Most of these private lines were never recorded, so their location is not marked before utility construction in the right-of-way. The inability to mark a private sewer line in the right-of-way can make the owner liable for construction delays and equipment damage.

It's not uncommon for property owners to be unaware that a private sewer line in the public right-of-way connects their property to the public sewer. The best way to know for sure is to hire a plumber to scope your private sewer lateral.

Accepting or Adopting a Private Sewer Line in the Right-of-Way

Under certain conditions, the City may accept or adopt a private line in the right-of-way serving residential properties. For more information, view the Accepting or Adopting a Private Sewer in the Right-of-Way page.

Public Sewer Main Extension

A sewer extension is an addition to the public sewer. If your property has a nonconforming sewer connection but doesn't have direct access to a public sewer main, a public sewer extension can allow you to connect your property directly to the public sewer.

Either the City or the property owner can construct a public sewer extension. The City schedules sewer extension projects based on available resources and the capital improvement project schedule.

If you need a public sewer extension to resolve a nonconforming sewer and an extension is not part of the City's capital improvement schedule the extension may become your responsibility.

Rules and Regulations

The following sections of the Portland City Code regulate nonconforming sewers:

  • 17.32.020 defines a party sewer
  • 17.32.070 establishes that responsibility for private sewer systems stays with the property owners served by that system
  • ENB-4.27 describes the regulatory activities for the Nonconforming Sewer Conversion program