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Public Works
 | Sewer Lateral Policy - Tree Related Sewer Lateral Issues
*Bee Keepers *Private Tree Contractors *Tree Related Sewer Lateral Policy
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Sewer Policy Diagram

Tree Related Sewer Lateral Policy

A sewer lateral (House Connection) as defined by the City Code is that "part of the horizontal piping beginning twelve (12) inches from the exterior wall of the building and extending to its connection with the public sewer."  It is the responsibility of homeowners and businesses to maintain, repair and inspect this section of pipe.  

Generally, tree related sewer lateral issues involve old and deteriorating vitrified clay tile pipe that has exceeded its lifetime usefulness.  It is typical to discover cracks in the pipe wall, disintegrating mortar joints and pipe separations in these aged pipes.  Such conditions have the potential for wastewater leakage and/or the intrusion of soil and roots.

Shrubs and trees need water and nutrients for growth.  The existing cracks or openings in older sewer pipes are excellent entry points for root systems seeking such resources.  Although shrub/tree root intrusion into the pipe may cause flow stoppages, they usually are not responsible for the initial sewer pipe breakage and any of the subsequent resulting repairs or replacements of deteriorated pipe.

If you are experiencing sewer lateral issues, it is best to have it inspected and repaired by a qualified plumbing contractor with a current City of Torrance business license.  An inspection should assess the condition of the pipe and should help in your decision to repair or replace the pipe.  If repair work is to be performed, certain construction, excavation and plumbing permits are required to ensure proper installation of the replacement pipe. 

If you discover facts that determine the damage to your sewer lateral was initially caused by a City-owned tree, you may file a claim with the City; however, you must follow the claim filing procedure to ensure that your request provides the best available information in its review consideration.  In submitting a claim, take into account that the City does not pay for the replacement of undamaged pipe sections, or system upgrades including clean-outs or backflow valves. 

The City does not remove trees for sewer issues.  Removing a tree or shrubbery will not solve the issue, as existing roots from surrounding vegetation can still enter a broken sewer lateral.  If you decide to remove a city-owned tree, you must follow the City tree trimming and removal permit process; including the re-planting a new tree as a replacement for the tree removed.


  • Construction and Excavation permit: This permit is required for any work done in the public right-of-way.  For additional information, please call the Engineering Department at 310-618-5898
  • Plumbing permit for "Alter Building Sewer":This permit is required for on-site repairs from the building line to the property line. For additional information, call the Building and Safety Dept. at 1-310-618-5910


  • Claim forms may be picked up from the Risk Management Division in the City Personnel Building located at 3231 Torrance Blvd. You can also obtain a form at the City Clerk's office, located at 3031 Torrance Blvd. In addition, you can have a claim form mailed to you by calling the Risk Management Division at 1-310-618-2950.
  • Obtain at least two written estimates of repair costs, including City permit fees, and attach to the completed claim form.
  • Notify the Streetscape Division, at 1-310-781-6900, one day before any work is started and give the approximate time that the line will be exposed for inspection by a Public Works Supervisor.  Business hours are Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 to 4:30.
  • After the line has been inspected and photographed, mail or deliver the completed claim form and repair bill to the City Clerk's office.
  • If emergency repairs must be made when the Public Works Department is closed, a Public Works Supervisor may be contacted by calling the Torrance Police Department at 1-310-328-3456.