Residents of Raleigh, NC got a nasty surprise recently, when city officials mandated that homeowners must give the city access to any and all sewer lines on their properties — but the nasty surprise is just in response to a nasty problem.
For the last 30 years, city officials have been rather lax when it comes to gaining access to sewer lines and has only making exceptions when needed — in cases of sewage blockages and overflows. The problem is that blockages and overflows of sewage are much more frequent these days.
Just this week, there was a blockage in a sewer pipe in the Raleigh area, which caused an overflow of an estimated 38,400 gallons of sewage. The News Observer reports that the clog was the result of a build up of paper products in an eight-inch sewer pipe.
The problem with the new mandate is that it requires that homeowners remove any impediments the city might face in accessing sewer lines — including things like fences, dog houses, sheds, and even retaining walls and pools. Furthermore, many homeowners have to pocket the cost themselves.
“Municipal regulations generally prohibit any construction over designated sewer easements, which can run alongside or through private property,” said John Rafferty of TRIC Tools Inc. “These easements are often not clearly marked or maintained, so over time residents may build, plant, or store things in these areas, whether or not they are aware of encroaching upon an easement.”
One of the most common culprits of sewage line problems among houses built before the 1970s is tree roots into the joints of pipes, but otherwise, experts say that sewers generally last around 40 years or so. Additionally, newer methods of sewer pipe replacement, like a process known as pipe bursting, can last up to 50 years.
“If maintenance or emergency repairs are needed, there are non-invasive or trenchless repair solutions. However, access to the easement is still required in most cases,” said Rafferty.
Raleigh residents might have to deal with a few inconveniences, but it’s probably worth regular sewer line maintenance to prevent sewage overflows.
“For about the past four years, we’ve been hot and heavy on easement clearing and pipe cleaning,” Raleigh Assistant Public Utilities Director T.J. Lynch told WRAL.com. “Since we cleared them, we had access to them. Our inspectors can readily get back there to open manholes and see what’s happening inside the pipes on a routine basis, things they couldn’t do before.”