District News Articles

  2. Mature trees add beauty and shade to landscapes, but their roots can cause extensive damage to sewer pipes. Roots grow into the pipes because they like it there! Sewer pipes contain water, nutrients and oxygen-the essential elements for trees to grow. Aside from sewer blockages and backups caused by FOGs (see related article here), tree roots growing inside sewer pipes are one of the most expensive sewer maintenance items experienced by our customers. Roots from trees growing on private property throughout the service area are responsible for many of the sanitary sewer service backups and damaged sewer pipes experienced in our District.


    Each homeowner is responsible for maintaining their sewer service pipe that connects the sewer pipes in the house to the main sewer pipe, which is usually in a street. Because the pipes are buried and out of sight, homeowners usually don't have any clues to potential problems in their sewer lines until it's too late.


    The flow of warm water inside sewer pipes causes vapor to escape to the cooler soil surrounding the pipe. Tree roots grow toward the vapor to the point of its source. The source of the vapor is usually a crack in the pipes or a loose joint. Once the tree roots reach the crack or loose joint, they will grow through the opening to reach the plentiful nutrients and moisture inside. Once inside the pipe, the roots will continue to grow, and if not disturbed, they will eventually completely fill the pipe with hair-like root masses. These masses can act as a net as they catch household fats, oils, grease (FOGs), tissue paper, and other debris discharged from the residence.


    Slowly flowing drains are the sign that the system is having a problem from roots. Homeowners will notice the first signs of a slow-flowing drainage system by hearing gurgling noises from their toilet bowls. A complete blockage will occur if no actions are taken to remove the roots/blockage.


    As 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 will break the pipe and may result in total collapse of the pipe. Severe root intrusion and pipes that are structurally damaged will require replacement.


    Homeowners should be aware of the location of their service lines and sewer cleanout pipe, and refrain from planting certain types of trees and hedges near the sewer lines. Trees should be located more than 10 feet from sewer lines to minimize root intrusion. Also, homeowners should choose small, slow-growing species with less aggressive root systems, and replace them before they get too large for their planting area.


    What you can do if you have tree roots in your service line?


    Once roots are in your service line they will likely cause an eventual blockage. The best way to prevent this is to schedule regular cleaning of your sewer service. It is also important to keep your sewer lateral structurally sound. Any structural fault can allow roots a way into your sewer lateral. You may wish to hire a plumber to video your sewer line to determine its condition and if any repairs are needed.


    District Root Prevention Program


    A routine activity the District’s contracted operations personnel perform is removing roots from sanitary sewer mains. While root cutting is scheduled each month, the majority of the root cutting activities take place beginning in October and continues through the end of March each year.


    Roots intrude through the sewer main as well as through customer service connections. If not removed on a scheduled interval, the growth can inhibit flow and cause a sewer back-up either in District owned sewer mains or in a customer’s service line.


    A closed-circuit camera inspects the sewer main to locate where roots are growing into the pipe. Then using high water pressure, a hydraulic tool called a root cutter or chain flailer is sent up the pipe, which cuts or rips the roots out of the sewer main. A follow-up video inspection is performed confirming all roots were satisfactorily removed. In addition, if roots are observed growing into the sewer main from a customer’s service connection a picture is taken and sent to the address alerting the customer of a potential problem.


    If you are interested in learning more regarding District root cutting activities, please contact Scott Hand, Operations Supervisor, at 303-979-2333