Root of the problem

Workers dig their job in keeping water flowing

Posted 1/14/20

Susan Warmuth and her husband Werner have long experienced a common problem at their Madison Street residence that could be prevalent wherever older pipes are found beneath the surface.

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Root of the problem

Workers dig their job in keeping water flowing

Posted

Susan Warmuth and her husband Werner have long experienced a common problem at their Madison Street residence that could be prevalent wherever older pipes are found beneath the surface.

The issue originated with the cottonwood tree next to their home. Roots from the tree made their way through the cracks in the old sewer piping and simply never stopped growing. By the time the workers were able to remove the old piping, the ingrown roots were over two feet thick.

A number of temporary fixes have been applied to the problem over the years, but never lasted more than a few months.

“The problems have been going on for about six years,” said Warmuth. “The toilet would not flush, the washing machine and sink would gurgle. Hopefully this will help others understand that it is not the city. Unfortunately, it is on my side of the clean out and we have to take care of it.”

The Warmuths replaced the plumbing when they originally purchased the house.

“I wish we went the extra 15 feet at the time and taken care of this problem,” said Warmuth. “But we did not, and hind site is everything.”

“We have a lot of people call with problems in their lateral line,” said Kevin Story, Director of Public Works in Madisonville. “We will run a camera under there and see the tree and sewer line. Nine times out of ten, that is the problem. Roots have infiltrated that sewer line and they just sit there and get bigger and bigger until, eventually, your line is useless.”

The camera will run through the sewer line, allowing officials to identify the location of the problem. The footage will indicate exactly how far the roots are located.

On Friday, the Warmuths took care of the problem once and for all with the help of D&L Plumbing and Charles Drake. David Madden, Justin Dougherty, Dylan Pillow and Gerald Sanders worked tirelessly, using an excavator as well as other standard implements, to cut the roots loose and remove the old sewer line.

Replacing the pipe itself is the only longterm solution to the problem. If the lines are old enough, the issues can also be prevalent in main lines as well as lateral lines.

“A lot of our infrastructure here is old,” said Story. “Back in the day, clay tile was probably an excellent pipe to use. But being in the ground for 40 or 50 years, they develop cracks. That is all a root needs and it will do the rest. Once they get to the water, they just sit there and get bigger and bigger.”

Nowadays, polyvinyl chloride pipes (PVC) are more popular to use and can survive the root problems better than what Story called an ‘Orangeburg Pipe’, the kind found underneath the Warmuth residence.

“This is not only in Madisonville,” said Story. “Everyone deals with this. If you do not take care of the location of the crack, the roots will reenter. The best way to do that is what they are doing (at the Warmuths). You need to replace the roots, replace the line and seal it back up. Nothing you do now is cheap, everything costs. But opposed to the cost of her flooding out her house, this is how you do it.”

While the fix will solve the root issue, Story identifies grease as one of the biggest problems clogging up lateral and main lines throughout the city. This is more prevalent in homes, as most restaurants utilize a grease trap to store and dispose of it.

“Home owners do not have grease traps,” said Story. “A lot of people will just pour it down their sinks without giving it a chance to solidify. If you have grease, even a little teaspoon amount, I tell people to pour it in a can, let it harden, and just put it in the trash.”

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