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Guide to Requesting a Permit for Sewer Access

Anyone needing to enter the city's sewer or stormwater system must apply for a permit. Environmental Services requires authorized access in order to protect the public, city workers, and the systems. The city can refuse access if the applicant's request is not in the public interest.
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Accessing to the Sewer

Access includes entering or putting something into any part of the city's sewer and stormwater system. For example, putting a camera into a sewer (even if a person does not go into the sewer with it) requires authorization. But someone lifting a manhole cover for a visual inspection does not need authorization, as long as they don’t break the plane of the manhole.

Access does not include right-of-entry into bureau buildings, like pump stations. That authorization, if needed, must be obtained separately through the existing right-of-entry process.

Types of Activities Allowed

Authorization is needed for any access to city stormwater, sanitary, or combined sewer conveyance systems, which has not been authorized by another city agreement, permit, contract, or approval mechanism. Requested access must not conflict with Environmental Services' mission to protect public health, water quality, and the environment. Access will only be granted for a defined duration and cannot include structural changes to city assets.

Examples of Activities Allowed with Authorization

  • Sample or data collection activities required by a state or federal agency (e.g., characterization of discharges from contaminated sites under approved DEQ or EPA work plans) or in anticipation of obtaining a city permit. NPDES permit holders who need to collect samples in the sewers will require a permit with multiple entries unless they have other authorization from the city that allows entry.
  • Work complying with an enforcement action from the city.
  • Conveyance or other system cleaning by non-city contractors.
  • Video surveys to:
    1. Confirm locations of lateral connections;
    2. Evaluate dry and wet weather discharges to the system;
    3. Monitor the effects of construction activities (e.g., grouting);
    4. Confirm locations of contaminants for required cleaning or to check cleaning effectiveness; and
    5. Identify locations of future sampling activities related to permits or required cleaning activities.
  • For emergency response work, an annual permit allowing multiple entries is required.
  • The Environmental Services Director may make specific exceptions to this provision to facilitate public interest projects that don’t adversely affect the protection of public health and the environment. Requests for exceptions should be made to Environmental Services.

Examples of Activities that Do Not Need Authorization

Prior notification of activity is required for items in italics.

  • Visual observations where access does not entail breaking the system plane, for example at a manhole or inlet.
  • Data collection or entry activities that are covered by other permits or authorizations (e.g., wastewater, stormwater, batch discharges)
  • Dye-testing where appropriate notifications have been made to the city and any other required agency.
  • Routine discharges through approved stormwater and sanitary connections.
  • Work that is performed under the direction of BES employees (covers BES, PBOT Maintenance, and city contractors’ work).
  • Survey work that does not require confined space entry.

How Are Requests Evaluated

Environmental Services reviews authorization requests to confirm that the requested access does not conflict with the bureau’s mission to protect public health, water quality, and the environment. Requests must be for a defined duration and cannot include structural changes to city assets or go against public interest. The city has the right to refuse access to its conveyance systems.

Authorization will not be issued if:

  • Required documentation, such as insurance certificate or materials management or safety plan when appropriate, were either insufficient or were not provided by the requesting party.
  • The request poses an unacceptable risk to city assets or operations.
  • The request is for an activity that is not in the public interest or may be detrimental to the public health, water quality, or the environment.
  • Activity does not fall into one of the allowed activities above.

Conditions Required to Enter Sewer

Parties authorized to enter the sewer are required to:

  • Notify Environmental Services of the times of entry;
  • Comply with all other regulatory requirements (e.g., OSHA confined space entry and PBOT right-of-way requirements);
  • Allow access by a bureau inspector (if appropriate); and
  • Provide any data obtained from entry activities (including TV and chemical data) to Environmental Services.

The authorization may require that copies of all recorded data collected under the authorization be provided to Environmental Services. Details of this requirement are included in the terms of the authorization.


There is no fee for a sewer access permit.

How to Apply

Request a Permit for Sewer Access