Are Trees the "Root" of Your Sewer Problems?

Categories: Parks & Forestry

Sewer pipes may become partially or completely blocked for various reasons. Tree roots are often blamed for damaging sewer pipes and then blocking them. However, Root growth into a sewer only occurs where the sewer has first been damaged by other factors such as poor original construction, aging and cracking, soil settlement and the subsequent separation of pipe sections, and the failure of pipe grout joints. Roots do not cause this damage. When small, exploratory tree roots encounter a leaking or partially collapsed sewer pipe, they are stimulated to grow vigorously, often growing into the damaged pipe. The air, moisture, and nutrients available to tree roots from damaged sewer pipe stimulate rapid root growth. In addition, studies show that roots from shrubs planted around the house are the culprits more often than tree roots.

The stationary presence of roots in a pipe can increase the likelihood of sewage solids accumulating. The combination of roots and solid wastes can develop into a partial or complete blockage of the pipe.

The following list describes some of the treatments to correct blockage problems in defective sewer laterals which contain tree roots:

• Root Cutting/Hydro-Jetting: Plumbing contractors have special equipment for removing obstructions from within a sewer lateral. In the case of tree 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. Expanding 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.

If you experience a sewer problem, please call the Municipal Service Building at 920-459-3440 during business hours (Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.), or 920-459-3333 and state that you are reporting a sewer emergency. Sewer line backups, line breaks, sewage odor, and overflowing manholes are considered an emergency. It is important to call the Department of Public Works before calling a plumber, because the sewer main will be checked that it is open, and sewage is flowing. If the problem is a sewer lateral, the homeowner or business is responsible for correcting the problem. The owner of the property is responsible for maintaining and cleaning the sewer lateral from the building or home to the City’s sewer main, including the connection on the sewer main. The property owner should then contact a plumber or sewer/drain cleaning service. The City of Sheboygan cannot make a recommendation of who to contact for services. It may be in your best interest to obtain several estimates.

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