An old problem may require a costly solution, as the Angels Camp City Council will hear at its meeting tomorrow.

Five people on Hillcrest Court are asking the city to help them correct a failing sewer line.

In a letter to the council, residents Robert and Ricki Rouse, Ray and Rosalie Cardenas and Jennie Anderson say sewer problems have been worsening for the last 10 years to the point where sewage runs down the sides of their street.

"The problems have become so severe that sewage is not only backing up in our homes and yards, but is now running down our road to Mark Twain Street," the letter says.

The sewer problem is longstanding and typical of old systems, said Code Compliance Officer Olen Murphy.

The owners of the three homes are asking the city to replace the existing line from Mark Twain Street to the end of Hillcrest Court. Their letter says they will replace the sewer's lateral lines to their homes.

Reached at home Friday, Rosalie Cardenas said she and her husband were told that the line along the street is not the city's responsibility.

She said she was led to believe that Hillcrest Court is a private road and the city's responsibility ends where the road begins. All three families' houses are on the same sewer line, and her understanding is that they are responsible for fixing the problem.

But that might not be the case.

Murphy said the line along Hillcrest Court is not a main, but a lateral. He said all three homes' lateral lines actually hook into the Hillcrest Court lateral, which then connects with the main line on Mark Twain Street.

"And the city is responsible for that," Murphy said.

Murphy said the system was installed many years ago and that, most likely, one of the lateral lines has collapsed and caused problems all along the court.

"It's going to take thousands of dollars to repair this," Murphy said. "More than what you've got in the coffee can in your back yard."

City officials said three houses on one lateral sewer line would not be allowed today.