Skip to comments.Looking for plumbing advice (trees breaching into our pipes through the cities connection)
Posted on 09/27/2012 4:17:45 PM PDT by Red in Blue PA
We recently had some sewage make it's way up from the drains in our basement. When plumbers were called out, they found that where our pipe connects with the main sewer line, the terra cotta junction has been breached by tree roots. Keep in mind this is out about 10 feet into the street from the curb and our pipes are intact......the only part which has been breached was the city's terra cotta junction to the main sewer line. And this was shown by a camera sent down into the pipe. When talking to the plumber's however, we were shocked to hear them say that we are responsible for digging up the street, and replacing weak joints which are not even ours! And the job to do this would cost approximately $20,000!
Has anyone been through something similar? I believe this is entirely unfair and would like to fight it, but I would like to hear from people who may have gone through something similar, as I am learning that this is fairly common. But I am still shocked that we are responsible for something 10 feet from the curb, and which has been broken but is not even ours, as our pipe is still intact.
I never thought I could like government any less.
If its under the street, then its their job to fix it
Call your city maintenance department because it sounds to me like your plumber is trying to scam you.
Many sewer utilities are responsible only for the main sewer and the person whose lateral is involved is responsible for everything else including the tap.
Doesn’t sound right to me. I would bitch to my city council person. Flush some copper sulfate crystals down your toilet a couple times per week to kill the roots.
That’s a very good point. You should always call them before a plumber in case it is the city’s problem.
Get some weed killer that is intended to be connected on the
end of a hose (concentrated) and flush it down the drain.
Repeat a little later.
The weed killer will be absorbed by the tree roots and that will kill them further up the pipe than just a drain cleaner.
Well, I think here it stops at the property line or where it meets the city line at the property
There are materials and equipment today where, for some situations, they can seal up a pipe from the inside without digging. I saw this on one of those home repair shows, but I have no idea which one. You might want to google a bit.
It may be happening to other houses. With these local politicians, the towns are probably all going broke, and they probably may need the right motivation, i.e., a lot of angry constituents or legal action, to get them to crack open the checkbook. For what municipal funds Should be going towards. I bet they’re right there to collect property taxes, though.
More than likely his can be fixed with a “no dig” option. Google “slip lining,or pipe bursting” for contractors in your area. Still expensive but you won’t have to bond a road cut.
When we were discussing options, I wondered if there was something similar to the tire sealant which seals from the inside. Will need to Google that. Thanks. Most likely a short term fix though.
I tried to find the story but I know there was a fraud case last summer involving plumbers that were doing the same thing you mentioned here in and around Minneapolis. But maybe the guy is telling the truth and that is the job that has to be done. Talk to the city and get three bids to do the work.
***Flush some copper sulfate crystals down your toilet a couple times per week to kill the roots.***
A friend of mine did that. It killed every tree on the local line.
He then had a rotary cutter company come in. They rooted out his line and left. He still had problems so he called a different roto-rooter company.
They hit a blockage which would not budge, so the pulled out their cutting head, and caught in it was the cutting head which had broken off from the last rooter company he had called.
Once that was out of the way, they then rooted out the line and he never had another problem.
Will definitely look into that. Do you know if that process can be used where the pipe meets the main sewer line?
Plumber is giving a ball park IF its on the homeowners side or the run and probably wouldnt do the job.
FWIW, I had a similar issue in Livonia MI.
Long story short, I was responsible for everything up to and including my connection to the main. Which was across the street from my house.
The repairs did not dig up the street though, just all of my front yard and they slid the pipe through under the street without digging that up.
I would check on your local laws though for sure. What else can they say other than no?
I’m with geronl, if the break is on city property, the city should repair it. 20000 seems out of line. I had replaced the entire line at my previous home to the tune of 8k. Maybe, you could work out something with the city to share the costs. Or periodically pour some root eating products down the line and deal with it. You could install a check valve for a couple of hundred bucks. Hint ..... don’t tell city that you have check valve. Good luck.
Usually, and I say only usually, the city is responsible only for providing a tap on the main line, beyond that it's the property owners problem.
Sewer line problems are expensive, you get the line cleaned but roots will grow back, poisons take time and the roots will grow back since evidently the pipe joints have opened up.
Very like the pipe will have to be replaced to solve your problem.
Whose tree do the roots belong to?
We were told that same thing - that WE were responsible for digging up the City street and fixing the pipe where it was offset at the joint to the main sewer. It was going to be $7K. We decided to go to Rome instead, haha. Honestly!! My friend had to pay for the sewer connection from her house, set way back, to the center of the road sewer pipe. City decided the foothill communities here in Los Angeles could no longer have cesspools, even tho the soil is alluvial, huge boulders and such.
So the city paid for the fixes eventually?
Yup, root killer helped clean out our pipes too. Something you mix x + y, get it in fast, and don’t flush for 5 hours. (Can you tell I am NOT a chemist?).
When you contact the city sewer department again you should find out what the written policy is and if there are any exceptions. Have them send you a copy; a lot of times the original policy is a little fuzzy in the minds of those who should know it well. Many places the owner is responsible all the way to the main line however in some places if the sewer is very deep there may be excecptions and the city might take responsibility.
There are lots of places in the country where the sewer systems were put in sixty or more years ago and even the mains are starting to fall apart. If you live in one of those places and you can keep your system limping along long enough without major repairs; there is a good chance the city will be replacing the main before you have to lay out any big bucks. In that case they would be doing the repair anyway.
I really like the other suggestions here about how to kill the roots causing the problem. Maybe you can figure out which tree they are coming from and have it removed. I had a water line broken by a tree roots in our front yard. My wife didn’t want me cutting it down. I am worried that a few years from now we will be facing the same problem again.
Do your research, but overall the same thing here in NY State - the property owner is responsible for the connection. Tree roots are a big problem here as well.
In fact, the house I live in now must have had a similar problem, because we learned that the previous owners had to dig a new connection from the basement into the street sewer.
In our city it is the homeowner’s responsibility. But the city charges every homeowner an annual fee that goes into a fund to help offset the cost when it arises. Homeowner pays a third and the city two thirds.
They can line the pipes from the inside. It is expensive (”Cadillac” they told us) but a very good way to go. We have a lot of trees around, and they LOVE the sewer pipes of course. We use the RootX like our plumber suggested and have saved a lot of money on RotoRooter.
Contrary to popular belief...
Plant roots, of any kind, don’t have brains. They don’t know what’s in a pipe; water, sewage, gas, whatever. The only way they can invade a pipe is *if it’s leaking, through a hole in the pipe*, itself.
A plant’s root system will normally grow around a pipe, of any size, if it’s not leaking a liquid, just as they would grow around a rock or log, buried underground. Roots are attracted to liquid, as nourishment. A gas is generally poisonous to plant root systems.
The leaking pipe will have to be dug-up and replaced.
“You could install a check valve for a couple of hundred bucks. Hint ..... dont tell city that you have check valve. Good luck.”
Yup! That’s what my Dad did when he built his dreamhouse. Won’t help your currant problem, But it will stop sewerage from backing up into your basement.
Yup, it’s like that here too. They would have had to dig a deep trench, etc. I liked the inside-sleeve plan, but the RootX did the trick. For now.
Every two years we paid $50 to roto our sewer out because of tree roots.
That’s not a lot.
Likely many others will be having the same problem and the city will come through with a plan for doing everyone.
The EPA may require them to!
Meanwhile find the tree and kill it.
Check with the city. Politicians can be corrupt, which means the law doesn’t always make sense. For instance, where I live the homeowner is responsible for the city sidewalk.
I don't remember if my plumber said anything about who would bear the cost of replacing the street pipe but I've always heard stories that the homeowner becomes liable. Anyway, the cheap solution is working for me quite well.
Oft times in older tract houses cheap tough trees were planted that would survive anything but they were usually ones that put down deep roots and were water loving.
My plumber wanted $750 to install another clean out and recommend cutting down the problem tree, several more hundreds, or replacing the whole run of pipe. $2000 doesn't seem unreasonable even if painful for the work you suggest.
The city was not going to pay for it. The pipe was offset slightly where it joined the main line, and there were problem roots (city trees, if I remember correctly). We used RootX and did NOTHING. The city did nothing. My husband thinks it was a scam, looking back.
$20,000, not $2,000.
They would be digging 15 feet down however, through concrete.
I would for a certainty try the cheapest thing first. If it doesn’t work you’re out a few bucks and no harm, but I just haven’t had good experience with poisons, etc. over time.
I would ask the plumber if its possible to sip a large pex plastic pipe into the current pipe to prevent any future issues. I have an illegal water pipe. The builder put 1-1/4 inch well pipe(inspectors name was payola) instead of copper. Was talking to the town water guys, who were all too familiar with the issue and the said one of their “friends” had a rig to pull a correct copper pipe to the city connection. I was restoring a 1870’s house with a bad gas pipe. The plumber used the old pipe as a conduit to push a new pipe. In your case all you need is a barrier, so even if the connection isn’t perfect, all you want is to prevent the terracotta from being a problem down the road. Since the likelyhood is the pipe is straight you might even be able to dig up a 6-10 foot section on your property and shove some pvc through your current pipe.
just my 2 cents
If that is the case, the Copper Sulfate solution is a good one. They sell it in the plumbing department of the hardware store. It's not expensive, but you have to keep on top of it and do it regularly.
I had this happen, and the roots got too thick so I had to have it dug up and fixed. The city's responsibility ends at their pipe, which makes the junction your problem. Sorry.
Go to the end of your property, dig up the end of your pipe and stick a new piece on it and shoot it into the street! k probably not a good idea but it would be fun!!!
Twenty? Do you have 15 feet of solid concrete? The street and under soil can’t be more than a few feet, under that soil.
Twenty thou sounds a bit much given a couple days use of a back hoe and trench shoring.
No, not all concrete. But 15 feet down and through concrete.
I wish you well. Ouch!