Sewer Lateral/Tree Conflicts:
Residents occasionally submit complaints to the City indicating they have roots in their sewer lines causing poor drainage and other issues.
Root growth into a sewer occurs where the sewer lines have been damaged by factors such as soil compaction and aging sewer laterals. The roots themselves do not cause the original sewer line damage but may result in blockages and further pipe breakdown.
Nutrients, oxygen and warm temperatures inside cracked or eroded pipes attract and encourage rapid root growth, filling the pipe with multiple hair-like root masses. The root mass inside the pipe then becomes matted with debris discharged from the residence or business. These root masses will expand and exert considerable pressure on the pipe resulting in further pipe breakdown or total collapse. Pipes that are structurally damaged from severe root intrusion will require replacement and are the responsibility of the property owner.
Property owners may first notice signs of root intrusion through evidence of a slow-flowing drainage system. This may take the form of gurgling noises in toilet bowls or the appearance of wet areas around floor drains. A complete blockage may occur if no remedial action is taken to remove the root masses.
The best way for a homeowner to prevent a blockage and/or damage to pipes is to keep the sewer lateral structurally sound. Homeowners may wish to hire a plumber to video the sewer lateral to determine its condition and if any repairs are needed.
It is also important to schedule regular cleaning of the sewer lateral. The common method of removing roots from sanitary sewer service pipes involves the use of augers, root saws, and high-pressure flushers.
Should a blockage occur, the following list describes some of the treatments needed to correct the issue.
- Root-Cutting/Hydro-Jetting: plumbing contractors have special equipment for removing obstructions from within a sewer lateral. In the case of roots, cutting or hydro-jetting alone is not a long-term solution to the problem. Roots will usually re-grow into the favorable environment of the damaged pipe.
- Chemical Root Inhibitors: some plumbing contractors can supply chemicals that kill roots and prevent re-growth into damaged sewer pipes, one example being Copper Sulfate. Foam that fills the entire inside of the pipe when applied is best. The foam kills all the roots inside the pipe, as well as roots in the soil surrounding the damaged area of the pipe. In addition to killing roots inside and around the pipe, the foam impregnates the surface of the pipe with a root inhibitor, creating a chemical barrier.
- Sewer Pipe Liners: sometimes it is possible to repair the damaged pipe itself, without excavating, through use of a cast-in-place liner. This system is inserted into the sewer lateral and essentially creates a new pipe inside of the damaged pipe. Lining is a long-term solution and generally has a minimum 50-year life expectancy.
- Replacement of Damaged Sewer Laterals: this is another long-term method of correcting a defective sewer lateral to prevent future root growth and blockage. In cases of extensive collapse or damage of sewer lateral pipes, this is likely to be the only effective solution.