Spring planting and your sewer

Four things you should know before you dig

Last Updated: 10/7/2015

We flush or wash things down the drain and they disappear, right? That’s all most of us know (or want to know) about sewers. But what you don’t know about sewer systems can hurt you. Sewer line backups and overflows are serious health hazards and they’re painfully expensive to clean up. Among the most expensive repairs to a sewer service is from damage caused by tree roots growing inside sewer pipes.

1. Plant smart. They will work their way in through cracks and seams and, as they grow, will eventually clog the sewer line. Even small roots can create clogs by catching items that shouldn’t be flushed. Make sure you know where your sewer line runs and avoid planting any trees or shrubs directly over the line. It’s also a good idea to consult your local nursery or a horticulture/landscape specialist for advice on plant selection near sewer lines.

2. Know how your sewer flows. They slope down to meet the main sewer line, usually in the street in front of a house. If plant roots clog the line, sewage will eventually flow back up into the house through the lowest drain or toilet.

3. Understand what you’re responsible for. That means if a clog occurs in the line that runs from the house to the main sewer line; the homeowner must pay for repairs and cleanup.

4. Locate your sewer cleanout(s). Building codes require homes built or remodeled after 1962 to have a sewer cleanout that provides access to the sewer line, usually marked by a round disk in your lawn or garden marked “SEWER”, in case a clog or backup occurs. The more you know about the sewer system, the better prepared you are to prevent a nasty and expensive spill.