Let’s talk sewer leads and its worst enemy: tree roots. Although trees provide shade and add to the curb appeal of your home, their expansive root structures can destroy your sewer lines. This is because trees (and their roots) are attracted to the moisture and warmth of these pipes, as well as the substances flowing through those pipes: water and nutritional material. In an attempt to absorb the nourishing sewage coming from your home, these roots can sometimes force their way into cracks and crevices of the sewer leads. As time progresses, those roots grow larger and larger, increasing the size of the cracks and creating blockages, ultimately causing significant and costly damages.
In my own experience, I had to replace 45 feet of pipe due to root damage. The root that had taken up residency in my sewer lead measured out to be 38 feet long and two inches in diameter. it wasn’t until it hit a turn in the pipe and began growing back on itself that it caused a back-up. As you can imagine, the repair was very expensive and caused a substantial inconvenience for myself and my family.
Fortunately, there is something that homeowners can do to prevent this mess from happening. As with most things, preventive maintenance is your best friend. Once a root has entered your sewer lead, it can take years before the problem shows up and causes a backup. In the meantime, it is slowly causing damage and you may not even be aware of it. Even if you have lived in your house for 30 years and never had a problem, it is a good idea to have a plumber inspect your sewer line occasionally, before the backup becomes a problem.
You might be thinking, isn’t this the City’s problem? Well, the short answer is “no” and many residents are surprised to learn that they own, and are responsible for, the line that leads from your home to the City’s sewer main. The main typically runs along one side of the road, within the City’s right-of-way. Knowing which side of the road the sewer main is on can impact the speed in which you are able to repair the damage. This information will help the plumber determine what materials should be brought with them when they complete the inspection.
Remember, preventative maintenance is your best friend. I was one of those people who had to learn this the hard way and I know I won’t make this mistake again.
Robert Cox, Utilities Supervisor, Department of Public Works