Sewer line issues/costs

Looking for some advice/suggestions on a problem in a community that is seeking some help with management:

Scenario: Community has very high sewer bills that the billing entity feels is due to rain/storm water infiltrating old sewer collection lines. Couple of questions…

  1. Any suggestion for best methods to help in verifying the cause(s) of the problem?
  2. IF lines need replaced, anyone have an estimate on the cost per lot or per linear foot of line to do so?

Thanks in advance!

How does the city know that you have rain/storm water infiltration, as the sewer line flow rate is not measured by a meter? Are they using ESP? If so, can they us that same ESP to tell you where the problems are? Sounds like it might be a bit of a bluff. See if they can scientifically quantify their argument, for starters. Water flow is measured, but sewer is not, as it is not pressurized.

In over 250 mobile home parks owned and operated over the past 20 years, we have NEVER had to replace a sewer system in a single park. You can always patch together what you have, through replacing sections and roto-rooter. There is a new process called “pipebursting” which works on clay tile lines and costs 1/3 of replacement cost, but I again think that you really have no problem based on the city’s complaint so far. Think how much water you would have to take into your line to have any measurable effect. You would need gaps the size of a donkey to make that happen.

Before you do anything, get the facts and see if the facts make any sense. I once had a city inspector that told me that we had a huge leak in the park, even though the water bill had not increased. When pressed for how we had a leak with no evidence of one, he literally came out to the park and put his head to the ground in front of the manager and said “sounds like the leak is fixed”. Maybe this same guy now works for your city?

Mr Rolfe, Thanks so much for the input. I am trying to help the current ownership determine the reason their sewer costs are so ridiculous. When I contacted the sanitary dept’s manager this afternoon and I asked how this community could be averaging $80-90/per lot/month in sewer charges when the communities we own/operate are closer to $15/mo, and whether these figures were estimated, he told me that the billings were actual charges based on meter readings and that the ‘collection system’ must be at fault thus pushing more water through the system and “spinning the meter faster”. I will take your advice and dig deeper. Based on what you are saying, the sewer flow can’t be metered and thus If their were a meter to read, it sounds like it should be at the well/pump house in order to measure water flowing into the community, and in this case the “collection system” would have no impact on the bill. Thanks Again!

I have never heard of sewer charges that high – I would demand a complete chronology of how this “meter” works and request that it be tested for accuracy immediately. I looked online and the only sewer flow meters available are as high-tech as Star Wars and I seriously doubt the city has one of them installed on a mobile home park. In the interim, I would call the other mobile home parks in the city and see what their sewer costs are running, to see if there is any similarity.

Again, thanks very much for your input. I will be digging into this further with the owners this weekend and the sanitation dept on Monday!

How did this turn out?

I am curious as well. I have spent years with sewer issues in several parks but only because we had infiltration into our treatment plant and it overflowed thus creating EPA violations. Isolating those leaks is not as easy as it sounds. Since it only happens during heavy rains you have to catch it at the right time and with the right equipment. We used several different measuring methods (and by the way you can measure sewer flow using Doppler sensors and other devices. We finally ended up just replacing many of the lines.

If you are dealing with city utilities, the sewer charge is typically based on water usage. You don’t state how this calculation is made or how the bill is figured or if the water portion of the bill is high also. That would be step one.

The issue is not resolved. The county continues to state that the sewer is being metered (the park uses well water) at the county owned lift station just outside the park and that the problem must be with the sewer collection system. Still working to get to the bottom of it. By my rough calculations, the community sewer bill is 400-500% higher than it should be based on typical usage in a community…

Have you considered submetering the water in order to get the sewage flow under control? You could use those numbers to divide out the sewage costs, could be you have some huge water wasters in the park.

Also, a VERY long time ago, it used to be normal to combine storm water and sewage into the same system. Any chance of that?

Or - any chance a neighboring property has tapped into your sewer lines?

Just thinking out loud here.

I had a similar problem. Park using too much water. Sewer bill based on water. They said there must be massive leaks.
Turned out the backflow preventer i.e. check valve had failed. Water flowed forward through meter, then back and forward just enough to trip the meter. Replaced and problem solved.

Had another instance where they had replaced a tenants meter. They subtracted the old meter value from the new meter resulting in a huge bill. Check if the individual readings make sense…

Where is this meter located? Is this MHP’s sewage & storm lines the only ones going into the lift station? If so, maybe the problem is at the lift station. If a meter is on the influent side of a check valve and the valve is not staying shut properly this could cause backflow thru the meter (seen a 2x4 that went into storm drain get stuck in a check valve and hold it open). If only sewage is going to the lift station, are they using some formula tied to the amount of time the pumps are running (to come up with gallons or cubic feet) in the lift station because most sewer rates are tied to water usage and you are well. Some pumps when they go bad or have toiletries stuck in them (elderly communities have this problem with use of wipes) will have to pump continuously to get the same amount to flow to the sewer plant as a properly working pump would. Let us know what you find out!!


Please let the forum know the final resolution. My best guess is that the city is trying to pay the capital cost incurred in the lift station by billing very high rates. This may also be a tactic to bully the park owner to buy city water from them since they do not own the aquifer that the park is pumping from. Then again, there may actually be infiltration into the parks sewer lines from high water table levels after periods of rain. If the park has VC tile or CI pipe there may be leakage into the pipe but not if they have PVC or ABS pipe. Lastly, there may be downspouts and yard drains connected to the sanitary sewer system which is generally a no-no. A key question for the city would be from where are they getting their numbers? Please note that lift stations are the least desirable and most expensive way to move raw sewage.
Jim Allen

I found this post while searching for something else but I have a story that may help someone. 4 years ago we purchased a park that was bleeding money in sewer costs. The expense was so bad that the owner was behind on taxes and was desperate to sell. The owner was a terrible operator and was doing things illegally so his actions were clearly hurting his relationship with the Township and Municipal Authority.

The park had clay sewer pipes and I heard all the typical stories like: “…your sewer lines are collapsed everywhere…,” “…you’ll need to replace all the sewer lines…,”"…the township is going to demolish that park…" etc.

After many discussions with the Township and Municipal Authority, I determined that the Municipal Authority had attached a meter to one of the sewer mains and was billing separately for sewer rather then the typical water consumption = sewer consumption scenario. The park was using as much as 500,000 gallons of sewer per month versus 150,000 gallons of water. However, in recent months the sewer usage had actually dropped below the water usage! But, the Municipal Authority had reverted to the water consumption = sewer consumption scenario for those months with the plan of billing individually again once the sewer consumption rose again.

I questioned why they were doing this because it only seemed fair that if they were billing separately for sewer, that they stay consistent with that policy. The Municipal Authority’s Supervisor informed me that “they would never bill sewer consumption less than water, only vice versa.” Hmmm…interesting take. I asked where the meter was located and to my surprise, I was told it was located in a manhole located in a local community park over 100 yards off the property line. Hmmm…another interesting finding. I asked when the meter had last been calibrated and was told, “recently.” But, no date was given to me and the name of the company doing the calibration was not provided. Lastly, I asked why they started metering the sewer in the first place. I was told that the Municipal Authority’s sewer plant had become “overburdened” so they had to look into it. I then asked if they had noticed in recent month’s that the plant was operating more efficiently since the park’s sewer usage had dropped by 400%. The supervisor’s response was, “No, we wouldn’t notice any difference with only 400,000 gallons…” Wow. I couldn’t even believe he admitted it…but he did.

I played dumb and and responded, “that’s interesting…I would have thought that since the plant was overburdened several years ago by the park’s broken sewer lines, that the recent drop in sewer consumption would have been noticeable?” Crickets.

The Township would not approve the sale unless we had the entire sewer lines inspected. After this was completed, I met with the company who performed the inspection and I watched all 1,200 linear feet of video footage. To everyone’s surprise, there was no sewer line collapse. In fact, the only thing that was found was some root intrusion at the joints which would be customary for any 50 year old sewer line. The inspector informed me that the sewer mains were actually in good shape and that he didn’t see any issues.

The Township approved the sale and we bought the park. The sewer meter was discontinued, Water and sewer bills went back to normal. We have had zero issues with the sewer main. Every so often, I’ll lift up a manhole to check the flow and never once have I seen anything concerning. In fact, most times when I check it, it’s bone dry.

For anyone in a similar situation, my advice would be to “ALWAYS challenge the assumption.” Unless you’ve been inside those sewer mains, you don’t know. Spend the money and get them inspected. Arm yourself with data and surround yourself with experts and professionals who support your findings.


I forgot to add some financial detail to the story. At the time of purchase, the annual water/sewer bill was $60,000. Eliminating the sewer meter helped us drop the annual bill to under $30,000. So, day 1 we recognized an annualized savings of more than $30,000. At a 7 cap, that’s an increased valuation of $428,000.


GREAT, FACTUAL INFORMATION! That’s why I love our forum.

Thank you for sharing this data.

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My pleasure! This forum has helped me, encouraged me and saved me on numerous occasions.


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To chime in on the topic of high bills, but from a different angle.

I’m also dealing with a park that has high water/sewer bills. It’s master metered by the city, a few meters due to the size of the park, one meter is bigger than the others. Each home is individually metered.

The issue however isn’t the cost of water or sewer, is that the city has a bunch of “base fees” regardless of usagfe. Here’s a breakdown so you can see how ridiculous it is:

  • Waste Water Base Fee (12.96 per lot)
  • Fire Hydrant Base Fee (0.69 per lot)
  • Storm Water Base Fee (1.02 per lot)

So a tenant’s water/sewer bill can come out to be, say 10-15 dollars with tax included. The base fees essentially are doubling their bills… - How has anyone else’s experience gone, if they have had a similar scenario, billing these fees back (if legally allowed?).

Worst part for an owner? The fees are charged even for vacant lots in the park! That’s right, the lot with just grass on it also gets put in the count.

I am thinking on shrinking the meter to a smaller one (since billing is based on meter size, it would help). But I have no experience there, and just starting to consult an engineer on such a prospect. Has anybody ever messed with a project like this?

I am currently pushing back on this with legal assistance, as I feel the fees are egregious, and charging vacant lots to me does not sound right. Will report back but if anyone has any insight, please share.

We considered a project where we’d use the smallest meter available, but then have a 10,000 gallon water tank to smooth demand over time to bypass some of the base water charges. In our state you then get into some tank regulations, like design specifications, cleaning frequency, administrative paperwork though.

The project was mothballed for other reasons so can’t comment if that would have ultimately been successful, but “messed” with it as you suggested. It made sense on paper though.

I’m in a similar situation. My base fee is $30 per lot for sewer and $11.45 for water per lot that has a home on it, occupied or not. On top of this there is a fee for every 1000 gallons of water provided and for every 1000 gallons of sewer processed. I challenged the city asking why they charge a per site/home fee when there is only one water line supplying the park and only one sewer line connection… there is no more work to do on their end to read my meter as it is to read the meter at a sfh or a gas station. given one connection for each, I should only be charged one base fee for water and one for sewer. They didn’t have a much of a response - they just said that each tenant is being serviced so there is a fee for all.

And the city, naturally, bills the park, and not the tenant, correct? Despite it being a per tenant cost, right?

Any success in convincing the city to “directly bill” the tenant? So the park effectively skips the cost and also the hassle of billing?

I have another park where the sewer base fee is 60 dollars! But the lot rent is insanely high, and I recently passed half of that bill to tenants with no push back. City refused to direct bill. But the neighboring houses (SFH) get direct bills. Wondering if I can push with an attorney on that precedent for them to directly bill.