Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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General Questions

Common questions about sewer maintenance, services, accounts, and development services.

Indications of a sewer stoppage include plumbing fixtures that do not drain, sewage backing up into tubs, showers or toilets, or if a sewer cleanout pipe exists next to the home, sewage may be seeping from the sewer cleanout. If any of these occur, please call the District at 360-750-5876, 24-hrs a day, 7 days a week.

When a stoppage occurs, the customer should contact the District immediately at 360-750-5876; this number is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays.

Maintenance personnel will come out to the site and assess the stoppage to determine if the blockage is on the District’s side of the sewer line or the homeowner’s side of the sewer line (i.e., private property side or street right-of-way side). If the sewer line isn’t in the street, it may be within a “Public Utility Easement”. The jurisdiction of a Public Utility Easement is determined by the distance of the blockage from the District’s “Mainline”.

The District will clear any blockage that occurs in the “District’s Sewer Main”. The District is responsible for sewer laterals from the Sewer main in the street to the “Property Line Cleanout.”

Customers are responsible for blockages that occur in the private side sewer located between the house and the property line cleanout. If there is no property line cleanout, the District may use the homeowner’s cleanout next to the home to clear the line or determine responsibility.

Most sewer backups happen because the pipe is plugged with debris. However, backups can be caused by several factors, including the condition of the sanitary sewer system itself, natural phenomena such as earth movement or roots, and the incorrect usage of the system by the public.

  • Solids / Debris – Typical solids that build up in the pipe and cause backups are fats, oil, grease (FOG), dirt, hair, bones, sanitary products, paper towels, kitty litter, diapers, broken dishware, garbage, concrete, and debris.
    When oil or grease is discharged into a sewer system, they will solidify and, after a while, they can build up and plug drain lines in your building or complex. They can also plug the sewer lines and clog pump stations owned by the District, thus increasing the maintenance cost to the customers. Plugged sewers can cause flooding of nearby private homes and businesses.
  • Tree Root Infiltration – Tree roots are attracted to sewer lines because of the sewer waters’ warm temperatures and food nutrients found in the sewers. Tree roots can cause backups. Roots can infiltrate the pipe system and clog the wastewater flow.

If there is damage from a sewer backup or overflow and you believe that it is the District’s responsibility, let the Maintenance personnel responding to your backup know. Please then ask the personnel on-site for the claims paperwork. Fill out the claims for damage form, sign it and return it to the District as soon as possible. Determination of fault is reviewed by the Risk Manager and the Adjuster representing the insurance company. The claims forms can also be downloaded here:

Yes, the District has copies of most sewer permit drawings. Please contact our engineering department via email or phone at 360-993-8812, and we’ll provide you with a copy.

Step and Grinder systems rely on power to operate the pumps.In the event of a power outage the pumps will not operate and effluent levels in the tank will increase with use. In the event of a power outage, please limit yourself to “light” usage of the system. It is recommended that you do not use the washing machine, dishwasher or take baths and or extended showers. Most systems will have a limited amount of reserve or emergency storage. But, extended use during a power outage could cause a sewer backup.For more information, please see the STEP or Grinder System Resources pages.

FOG comes from many sources both residentially and commercially. In the food industry, “grease” often refers to fats and oils derived from animal and vegetable sources. These include meats, cooking oils, nuts, cereals and beans, as well as waxes and paraffins.

Sewer capacity constraints are frequently caused by improper materials, including fats, oils, and greases being introduced into the sewer system by residents and businesses. The grease will build-up in the sewer pipes, limiting capacity and can ultimately cause a sewer back-up.

Approximately 50-70 percent of all sanitary sewer system overflows are caused by accumulations of fats, oils and greases discharged to it from the preparation and serving of food.

The District’s Maintenance department has implemented a preventative maintenance program of sewer cleaning and condition assessment of the entire sewer collection system. The periodic cleaning and televising of the sewer lines in your neighborhood greatly reduce the risk of any grease buildup and/or overflows. Information obtained from the condition assessment is used in the District’s R&R (Restoration & Replacement) program.

The District is responsible for our sewer system only. For questions regarding your water service, please contact your local water service provider.

The System Integration Charge is the rate charged specifically to cover the capital costs of constructing improvements to connect the collection system in the City of Ridgefield with the District’s system.  These improvements ultimately allow for flows to be treated at the Salmon Creek Treatment Plant, which is a much larger and more cost-effective facility.  This charge will decrease as growth occurs in Ridgefield and new connections are made to the sewer system.

This is a fee the City charges the District to operate the collection system within the incorporated limits of the City. This fee is collected by the District, but is remitted to the City for franchise, non-compete and non-assumption considerations.

This is a fee the City of Vancouver charges the District to operate the collection system within city limits, per the Coordination of Services Agreement. This fee is collected by the District and remitted to the City. It is equivalent to the 6% utility tax that City businesses and residents pay on electricity, phone and natural gas utility bills, which in turn goes to the City’s General Fund to help pay for community services such as police, fire and general street maintenance.

In 2010, the District and the City signed the Coordination of Services Agreement (Agreement) which guides ownership, operation and control of the District’s sanitary sewer facilities and customers within annexed areas. The principles in the Agreement were developed over a multi-year period, which included public outreach and presentations. The Agreement does not promote or accelerate annexation, but rather sets forth a cooperative plan for how the District’s sanitary sewer system and services would be blended into the City, if and when more than 60% of the District area is annexed at some future time.

District sewer customers within the annexed area will continue to receive affordable and reliable sanitary sewer service from the District and sewer service will continue to be governed by the District’s regulations, policies and standards at this time. District customers within the City of Vancouver’s corporate limits will pay an additional 6% City Interlocal Fee. For more information about annexation by the City, visit:

Residential Customers

Common questions about residential sewer billing, accounts, and services.

AutoPay, direct debit from your checking account, is the most affordable and efficient way of payment. The District also offers other convenient methods of paying your bill, including online, over the phone, or in person. The District currently accepts cash, check, cashier check, money orders, Visa and MasterCard. For a complete description of all the options available to you, please see the Payment Options page.

If the bill is due today, we must receive payment by the end of business hours today. You can put it in our drop box located at our office, 8000 NE 52nd Court. Payments in the drop box that are retrieved the first thing in the morning will be date stamped for the previous day.

Customers in the Central Service Area or within the satellite areas of Meadowglade and Hockinson, all Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas, are charged a flat base rate per month for one (1) ERU. Customers within the City of Ridgefield, Tier 3, are also charged a System Integration Charge and City Operating Fee in addition to the base rate. An ERU is a sewer term for an “Equivalent Residential Unit” and represents the average flow for a residential household. Please note that Residential customers are billed bi-monthly, every other month, for two months of service. Commercial and industrial customers are billed monthly based on the corresponding usage of the system. Depending on your location, additional sewer service charges or fees may apply. For more information visit our Rates and Charges page or contact the District via email or phone at 360-750-5876.

The flat-rate billing structure is in the best interest of all of our customers, primarily for the following two reasons:

  1. Lowest Total Cost of Service to All Customers. The District strives to keep the total costs to all customers as low as possible. The flat-rate billing approach is much more efficient to administer which translates into lower operating costs. Under a “consumptive” based billing framework the total dollars billed to all customers would be higher.
  2. Flat-Rate Structure Best Fits the Actual Cost of Service. When we look at our actual costs to provide service (e.g. operating, capital, and debt service) the majority are fixed costs and are not directly influenced by the amount of use of any one individual(s). The variable costs that are directly influenced by the flow in the system (e.g. electricity for pump station operations) are a very small component of the overall costs of operating the utility.

Because the flat rate model provides for the lowest cost of service it is the most common model used for residential customers. Locally, in Clark County there are a total of 7 sewer utilities and 4 utilize a flat-rate system for their residential customers, while 3 have consumptive-based rates. The utilities that offer a consumptive based bill almost always still have a “minimum” charge or “base rate”. Also, they are almost always a joint utility, offering both water and sewer service.

This requires our Customer Service department to access your account. Please contact the District via email or phone with your account number for more specific information.

Yes, residential customers can simply call 360-993-8800 to use our SelfPay system, which will process your Visa and MasterCard debit or credit card or electronic check payment over the phone. Customers may also contact a customer service representative who will gladly process your payment over the phone. We must receive payment by 5 PM on the date noted on the letter. For your convenience, there is a drop box at our office located at 8000 NE 52nd Court where payments may be securely left for processing.

Sewer service is billed based on the availability of service, and the sewer system is still being operated and maintained whether a property is occupied or vacant. Due to public health reasons, and legal and operational considerations, sewer services cannot simply be turned on or off.

The sewer bill is a lien against the property that has received the service, not an individual that occupied the property.

The District is responsible for our sewer system only.

Information on septic systems can be obtained from Clark County Public Health, which is located at 2000 Ft. Vancouver Way in Vancouver, Washington. You may also contact them via telephone at 360-397-8215 or fax them your questions at 360-397-8424.

You must obtain a sewer permit:

  • Anytime you are modifying an existing sewer line that is outside of the building.
  • If you are installing a new sewer line and connecting to sewer.

In addition, if you are changing the use of your building, additional sewer connection fees may be required. Please refer to the Connect to Sewer page for a copy of the sewer permit and for more information.

You will need to have the Sewer permit number, address, lot number and subdivision (if applicable), contact name and phone number.

Requests for inspections can be taken only after the complete connection to the sewer line is made and before the trench is backfilled. Inspections will be done within 24 hours of the request. You may email or call 360-993-8836 24 hours per day/7days a week to schedule an inspection.

When you are requesting an inspection of your sewer line, please post the sewer permit in a visible area, near the inspection site. If you have a County building card that needs to be signed off, post it with the sewer permit.

The cost to connect to sewer varies depending on property location and type of use. Connection fees consist of several different parts, some or all of which may be due prior to connection o