Utilities advice: Watch out for roots and think ‘trenchless’

       Second of two parts
       Part 1, which ran in the Feb. 10 Westside Pioneer, described three modern, “trenchless” options for sewer service-line repair that are usually cheaper for homeowners than the traditional method of excavating and replacing the entire line between the house and the Colorado Springs Utilities main in the street.

Because of the expense of excavating old wastewater mains (as seen in this 2009 photo on 25th Street north of Pikes Peak Avenue), Colorado Springs Utilities uses cheaper methods, where possible, to install new lines with minimal ground disturbance. The same methods are available to property owners who find themselves needing to replace collapsed service lines between their houses and the city main.
Westside Pioneer file photo

       The cured-in-place method especially “can save the costs of digging up your yard, and the price per foot may be more cost effective,” said Mike Weber, the operations supervisor over water and wastewater inspections for Colorado Springs Utilities. However, he was reluctant to cite an exact price that a contractor might charge, noting that such could depend on various unique factors, such as the slope of the land and the condition and length of the service line. A rough cost range, he said, is between $50 and $120 a foot.
       Only four contractors currently are proficient in the cured-in-place method in the region, Weber said, identifying them as Mr. Rooter, Olson Plumbing, Anytime Sewer & Drain and Pipeline Industries.
       A fourth option, also less expensive than a full excavation/line replacement, is a “spot” repair, in which digging is only required for the segment that the camera shows as being broken.
       But that method takes the chance that the rest of the line won't go bad at a later date. And on the older Westside, that can be iffy because many of the homes were built before the 1970s. In those earlier days, pipes were usually made of clay, cast iron or asbestos, Weber said, and these often start to show their age within 50 to 75 years.
       In the '70s, the industry began moving toward sewer pipes made of a type of hard plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These are now the industry standard - and can be spliced onto clay lines in a spot repair - but PVC pipes are still not impervious to roots, Weber said. As a result, Utilities recommends that people not plant any trees within 5 feet of a sewer line. “Even if you use the cured-in-place option, if roots are your problem, they're going to continue to work on that line,” he said.
       He also advised people not to just hire any old contractor immediately when a break occurs. If faced with a line collapse - which normally allows some flow - “make sure you get lots of bids and research it well,” Weber said. “I've seen a wide variety of bids on the same job.”
       If, however, the line is completely broken or blocked, that's a different matter, because sewage could flow back into the house, and Utilities does not allow a temporary bypass to its main, said Dave Grossman, a communications specialist with Colorado Springs Utilities.
       Terry Peet, a Pleasant Valley resident who researched the issue to help a neighbor who had a service-line break, has advocated to Utilities officials that they spread the news about the less costly sewer service-line repair options by providing that info with customers' monthly bills and/or on the Colorado Springs Utilities website (csu.org). David Grossman, a communications specialist for Utilities, agreed it would be helpful to publish the information but did not have a date scheduled as yet.
       For more information on the service-lines issue, call Utililities' main customer service number (448-4800) and ask for Mike Weber.

Westside Pioneer article