Below you’ll find answers to our most commonly asked questions about root control in sewer lines.
Root Control FAQ's
Plants have either a fibrous root system or tap root system. Plants with fibrous root systems, such as garden plants and grasses, occupy the upper layers of soil and extend outward. They are not normally associated with sewer problems.
Taproot systems are made up of trees and woody plants, in which the primary root of the plant grows directly down into the soil. They are well adapted to deep soils and soils where the water table is relatively low. Secondary roots, grow laterally from the primary root. These branches can grow several inches in diameter. If they invade sewer pipes, they can exert enough pressure to spread pipe joints and brake pipes.
The leading tip of a root shoot, the meristem, senses minute differences in nutrient and moisture levels and grows toward them, enabling the root to locate a sewer pipe. Temperature variants between wastewater flow within a pipe and surrounding soil may cause condensation to form on the pipe.
Also, loose pipe joints, cracks, and pipe porosity allow high nutrient content water to seep from the pipe into the surrounding soil, attracting and encouraging root growth.
Various soil conditions around sewer lines influence root growth, including:
- Backfill used during sewer construction may provide more favorable soil for roots than the existing undisturbed soil.
- Fluctuation of water table levels from seasonal changes, so that sewer lines above the water table draw roots in that direction.
- During drier seasons when the water table drops, roots will grow deeper in search of moisture (hydrotropism).
- Colder seasons, especially where ground frost occurs, roots grow in the direction of the warmer soil temperature surrounding the sewer pipe
Microscopic openings permit hair-like structures to penetrate pipe joints, cracks, connections, or any other opening. Heavy secondary root structures may follow a sewer pipe for many feet, exploiting each opportunity to penetrate pipe joints.
Roots thrive in sewer pipes, a perfect hydroponic environment. Roots are suspended in a well-ventilated, oxygen-rich environment with a plentiful supply of water and nutrients.
Generally, root growth is greatest in fall, winter, and spring before leafing. At this time roots are either storing or distributing nutrients. Root growth is less active in the late spring and summer when the above-ground portion of the tree is growing.
The roots of most trees cannot grow or survive if constantly submerged in water. Therefore, roots generally do not cause problems in sewers that are located below a permanent water table. With adequate water, available roots need not expend energy trying to penetrate the water table and sewer pipes. However, if the water table fluctuates, or if porous soil profiles permit rapid downward movement of rainwater, roots can be found in saturated soil and can be a major cause of sewer infiltration. In this case, tree roots suspended in the atmosphere of the sewer can carry on metabolic activity while the woody, submerged portion of the root system serves as a pipeline for plant nutrients.
Roots must always grow because parts of the root system are constantly dying. If a root system stopped growing, the plant would die. When the nutrients or moisture in an area of soil is depleted, feeder roots die. Secondary roots elongate or stop growing, depending on the availability of additional nutrients. In time, bacteria in the soil break down the dead root tissue helping to replenish the depleted nutrients. *
*Adapted from the original text “Sewer Root Control Manual” by Kevin Duke and Eric Jessen.
The intrusion of roots into sewers is can be the most destructive problem encountered in a wastewater collection system. Root related sewer problems include:
- Sewer stoppages and overflows
- Structural damage caused by growing roots
- Formation of septic pools behind root masses which generate hydrogen sulfide, other gases and odors
- Reduction in hydraulic capacity, and loss of self-scouring velocities
- Infiltration where the pipe is seasonally under the water table
Sewer stoppages and overflows are the way that most municipalities and homeowners find out about their root problems. Structural damage, on the other hand usually goes unnoticed until the damage is determined through television probing. In the long run, structural damage is probably costlier than sewer stoppages.
Sewers are underground, so root problems are not noticed until backups or overflows occur. Effective use of early, preventive root control can avoid costly and permanent structural damage. However, many municipalities are unlikely to fund a preventive root control program until a known problem alerts official to the need for control.
The initial root control treatment is guaranteed for two years. Lines should be retreated no later than 6 months after the expiration date. We will guarantee for an additional three years all lines treated upon the expiration date or within six months after the expiration date. From then on, treat every three years to keep your sewers under guarantee.
A very small percentage of the tree root system lives in the sewer pipe. The root control treatment will only kill the roots inside the pipe and approximately twelve inches outside the pipe. Duke’s guarantees not to kill any above-ground vegetation.
Additionally, it will not have any adverse effects on the Wastewater Treatment Plant. It also will not disrupt the wastewater treatment process. The main ingredient in Razorooter®, diquat dibromide, is EPA approved for aquatic use and is also used in ponds to kill algae.
Cutting of tree roots is only a temporary solution. When roots are cut out of the pipe they grow back quicker and heavier, eventually destroying the pipe. As a result, the long-term costs of replacement or relining due to the use of cutting will far exceed the cost of maintaining the sewer with chemical root removal treatment.
Municipalities are responsible for maintaining a clean and sanitary environment suitable for humans to live and work, which includes efficiently moving both wastewater (sewage) and stormwater along with solid materials through a collection system from the source to an environmentally safe place of treatment and disposal.
If lines are not maintained, causing a sewer lateral or main to clog, it can cause sewage to back up into the drains – damaging streets, homes and businesses. Human health is threatened with unsanitary conditions and the spread of germs and disease.
Sewer stoppage overflows (SSOs) are caused by obstructions in the pipe, such as roots, grease, debris, broken pipe, or a joint failure. Problems can also occur in wastewater systems when:
- The systems are engineered with inadequate flow capabilities for the area served, or the community experiences unexpected population growth.
- The collections systems were not installed as designed, resulting in faulty construction, poor inspection or low-bid shortcuts.
- The joint seals have become damaged due to earth movements, vibration from traffic, settling, or construction disturbance.
- Pipe joints have been damaged by plant and tree root growth.
Duke’s can help you design an ongoing sewer maintenance plan to preserve property integrity and most importantly, keep locals healthy.
Smoke/Dye Testing FAQ's
If you received a pink door tag notice indicating that RMS crews would be in your area performing sewer evaluation testing, there are some simple things that you can do to prepare.
Before we conduct the smoke test, pour water into your floor drains and into any unused sinks. This water in the trap creates a type of seal and blocks gases from rising up through the drain and into the home. This trap will also keep the smoke from entering your home also. A dry drain trap could be found in drains which are not used regularly and the water has evaporated. If you have any dogs, cats, birds or other pets that will be confined alone in the building during the test, it is recommended that you open or vent a window in case any smoke enters the building through a plumbing defect.
Please inform us if you have any of the following situations:
- A person who will be alone and is an invalid or sleeping during the test
- Any individuals with respiratory problems who will be in the building
- Elderly persons who will be alone and might be alarmed or confused if they see smoke.
YOU CAN REACH US AT 888-655-4085 if you have any concerns or questions prior to the smoke test. You can also leave an email to be contacted by visiting our CONTACT US page.
If smoke should enter your building during the test, it probably means that there are defects in the plumbing that could allow DANGEROUS SEWER GAS to enter. Note the location of the smoke and call us at 888-655-4085 or 847-344-9276 to arrange a meeting with our inspector. Open doors and windows to ventilate any smoke that enters the building. Your police and fire departments have been notified of the testing in your area.
If you see smoke in the yard, that is the sign of a sewer defect and our inspection crews will be surveying the area during the test to note the defect and take pictures.
No. The smoke has no odor, is non-toxic, non-staining, does not create a fire hazard and will dissipate in a few minutes.
Does Your Municipality Need Duke’s? FAQ's
Want to save resources, extend the life of your pipes and systems, and better serve your constituents? The professionals at Duke’s Root Control are here to provide you with sewer solutions for better quality root control that fit your budget and schedule.
Duke’s can help you digitally inventory your collection system, including miles of pipes, number of pump stations, and number of manholes. In addition, we can help you document and present where defects exist, which pipes/manholes have been monitored, rehabilitated, and/or repaired.
If you normally respond to each call by scheduling a point repair (cutting the roots out) or replacing the pipe, we can help. And our solutions will make a dramatic difference. Duke’s foam root control maintenance program allows municipalities to eliminate roots before they cause issues, avoiding maintenance calls and the time and expense of point repairs or pipe replacement. We will help you extend the life of your pipes by up to 20 years.
Learn more about the powerful product we provide, RazoRooter®.
Our program improves efficiency at the wastewater plant, by optimizing the treatment process, which results in:
- Reduced electrical costs.
- Removed bio-solids.
- Reduction of chemical usage.
- Reduced FOG and odor in collection systems, greatly reducing odor complaints from constituents.
Duke’s clients can save more money with us than what they spend on their bioaugmentation program. Contact us to learn more.
Sanitary Sewer Evaluation Survey (SSES) has evolved from “CCTV and clean” to the next generation. Duke’s 360 is a smart wastewater strategy that helps municipalities prioritize through innovative technology. We provide a system of Triage, Diagnostics, Renewal and ongoing Monitoring, all managed through our dynamic user interface to power your infrastructure.
The results? With our guidance and technological capabilities, you’ll be able to pinpoint where defects exist, better understand the best technology to repair or replace them, dramatically reduce costs, and better serve your constituents.
Learn more about Duke’s 360 technology.
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