Sewer Frequently Asked Questions

Our goal is to provide excellent customer service, educate our community, and answer your questions. If your questions does not appear below, please contact us by phone or email.

  • How am I billed for wastewater collection (sewer) service?

    A. CMSD's customers pay for their solid waste and wastewater services through their property tax bill. Solid waste and wastewater fees appear on the property tax bill as special assessments. To view your property tax bill, visit the Orange County Property Tax website.

  • Who do I call when there is a sewage backup on public property?

    A. During normal business hours (Monday – Thursday from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm) and (every other Friday 7:30 am to 3:30 pm) contact District Headquarters at (949) 645-8400.  For after hours and weekends contact C&R Drains at (714) 641-1545.

  • How many miles of sewer mainline do you maintain?

    A. We are responsible for maintaining 224.2 miles of pipeline.  We are also responsible for maintaining twenty (20) pump stations.

  • What is the leading cause for sewage backups?

    A. There are several leading causes for sewage backups.
    Tree Roots – Once inside the pipe, roots will continue to grow and if not disturbed, they will completely fill the pipe with multiple hair-like root masses at each point of entry.  The root mass inside the pipe becomes matted with grease, tissue paper and other debris discharged from the property owner.  As the roots continue to grow, they expand and exert considerable pressure at the crack or joint where they entered the pipe.  The force exerted by the root growth can break the pipe and may result in total collapse of the pipe.

    Fats Oil Grease (FOG) – Fats, oil and grease in the sewer can build up on the side walls of pipes and actually reduce the diameter of the pipe.  This phenomenon does not just occur in restaurants, but is very common in residential sewers.

    Flushable Wipes – While tree roots and FOG have been ahead of the pack for the leading causes of sewer backups, in recent years sewer agencies around the country are dealing with a new problem, flushable wipes.  Toilet paper manufacturing companies have been knowingly marketing these products as flushable over the last few years, but wastewater professionals are finding out these products are not safe for sewage systems.  Flushable wipes are supposed to be biodegradable and break up like normal toilet paper, but unfortunately they don’t. The wipes will stay firmly intact and do not disintegrate.  As a result, they will cling to the interior walls of pipeline and/or get hung up on snags inside the pipe.  They will also clog pumps from transporting sewage to treatment plants.

  • Where can I take my used cooking oil such as my Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG)?

    A. CMSD has joined with the Orange Coast College (OCC) Recycling Center to promote recycling FOG. Residents are encouraged to place the material into a plastic container, like a milk jug, and then take the container to the recycling center. Please visit the recycling center on Adams Ave. between Harbor Blvd. and Fairview Road or call us at 949-645-8400 for more information.

  • How can I prevent sewage backups?

    A. Tree Roots – Rodding your lateral line and hydrojetting often removes blockages.  Plumbers often will thread a flexible metal rod or cable with a cutting tool attached to the end of it into your sewer line.  However, this is a temporary fix if tree roots are involved.  Eventually, roots will grow back into your sewer line, so be sure to rod your lateral every year. Hydrojetting is more aggressive in removing roots because the line is cleaned with high pressure water.

    Fats Oil Grease (FOG) – Never pour grease and oils into drains, toilets or garbage disposals.  Pour grease and oil into an empty can and let it sit for a few hours until the grease and oil hardens.  Then, throw the can in the trash.  Wipe off grease, oils and fatty residue from cookware and dishware using disposable towels and place in the trash.

    Flushable Wipes – Do not flush paper and cloth products down the toilet. Examples of products that you should not flush include paper towels, cloth or disposable diapers, flushable wipes, sanitary napkins and certain tampons.

  • What is a collection system?

    A. A collection system is a network of sewer lines, manholes, pumping stations and other structures used to collect wastewater and transport it to a treatment plant. The Costa Mesa Sanitary District system is a collection system only; treatment and disposal takes place at the Orange County Sanitation District plants in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach.

  • What is a Sewer Service Charge?

    A. The purpose of the sewer service charge is to raise revenue for the cost of maintenance, operation, repair, and rehabilitation of the existing sewer system.

  • How do I pay my Sewer Service Charge?

    A. The District’s sewer service charges are a separate line item on the Orange County Assessor’s property tax statement sent to each property owner.

  • What are the current sewer rates the District charges me?

    A. The District has one of the lowest sewer rates in Orange County.  A single family household currently pays $7.70 a month for sewer services. A complete listing of all sewer rates can be found on the Finance page of this website.

  • How does my rate compare to other sewer service rates in the area?

    A. The District historically has one of the lowest rates in Orange County.

  • When there's a sewer backup what should I do?

    A.  Property owners are responsible for maintaining their sewer lateral line until past the point of connection with CMSD's main line (usually in the middle of the street). If you experience a backup in your sewer lateral, contact a plumber to assess the situation. To take a proactive approach to sewer lateral maintenance, consider applying for the District's Sewer Inspection Rebate Program.

  • What is the purpose of manhole covers?

    A. The manholes circular metal lid usually located in the middle (sometimes to the side) of the street are for access to the sanitary sewer main. Only authorized District personnel can remove the manhole cover and enter the manhole.

  • If I notice missing, damaged or noisy manhole covers (loose fitting) what do I do?

    A. Please report the occurrence to the District immediately at (949) 645-8400.

  • What do you mean by sanitary sewer system?

    A. Sanitary sewer systems are the sewer mains, manholes, and pumping stations that collect and transport wastewater.

  • What causes a sanitary sewer to backup?

    A. Most sewer backups occur because the line is plugged with grease or roots or a combination of grease and roots.  Backups are also caused by a sag (or belly) in the line or a sewer lateral that has collapsed.  Never place anything in the system other than bathroom tissue.  Products like baby wipes and rags and other products labeled “flushable” frequently cause backups because they do not disperse like bathroom tissue.

  • What kinds of problems do fats, oils and grease (FOG) cause?

    A. When fats, oils, and grease are introduced into the sewer, they are usually warm and free flowing.  However, shortly thereafter, they cool and harden and adhere to the pipe wall.  A FOG buildup will eventually cause a backup.

  • How large is the FOG problem?

    A. FOG is the number one cause of sewer line problems and the State Water Resources Control Board has mandated through an Order that all sewer agencies in the State of California have a comprehensive FOG reduction and management program.

  • Where does the FOG come from?

    A. FOG is a by-product of the cooking process and may be discharged into the system by restaurants, institutional kitchens, and residences.

  • What is an Easement?

    A. When a public sewer line crosses private property, the property owner grants the Costa Mesa Sanitary District a right to operate and maintain the sewer line, and this right to use the private property is termed an “easement.”  The District is usually granted a 10-foot wide strip of land over the length of the sewer.  Easement documents are recorded at the Orange County Recorder’s office.

  • Who owns and maintains the Easement?

    A. The property owner continues to own the land and has only given up defined rights on the portion of land used for the easement. Maintenance of the property within the easement is the responsibility of the property owner.  The property owner continues to use the surface of the land but may not erect a structure in the easement.

  • Who can enter my property?

    A. The District may access its easements at any time. The District may, on occasion, have a Contractor perform specific tasks on the sewer inside an easement.

  • Can I make improvements within the Easement?

    A. Easements are typically granted to the District with the understanding that the property owner may make improvements to the surface such as fences, asphalt paving, irrigation and lighting systems or similar improvements. However, structures are never allowed inside an easement.

  • What is an encroachment in an easement?

    A. An encroachment is a physical intrusion into the limits of the easement. The District may require that any unauthorized encroachments be removed at the property owner's expense.

  • Are there penalties for locating structures or improvements on an easement?

    A. The property owner may be faced with the costs of removal and any associated damages resulting from unauthorized structures or improvements on land subject to an easement.