The Problem of the Root: North Bend, OR Eliminates Root Blockages
North Bend OR is a small city (pop. 10,000) surrounded on three sides by Coos Bay, and the moist, temperate climate makes it a very green and lush place, with an abundance of trees and hedges. And that means that City of North Bend Collection Foreman Joe Vos has a real problem keeping roots from clogging the sewer network he maintains. “We’ve never been able to narrow it down to, say, Douglas Fir or Spruce or hedges,” he says. “We just know that roots used to be a real problem in our system.”
Used to be? Yes, 20 years ago, roots in the sewer system were a significant challenge, with routine callouts to blocked sewers, lots of jetting, and many hours and dollars budgeted for digging up and replacing hopelessly clogged sewer lines. But now, Vos says, “We’ve eliminated most of our root problems—we may get a call out now and then for laterals, but never in the mainlines.”So what changed 20 years ago? “We realized that roots were a problem that we had to take seriously, and jetting and cutting wasn’t very efficient,” Vos explains. “So we took a look at the various root killers available, and RootX looked right for us. We put it to work right away, saw quick results, and we’ve stuck with it ever since. If it’s applied correctly, it’s amazing.”RootX is effective mainly because it’s designed to foam on contact with water, which fills lines and raises the root-killing active ingredient to the top of sewer pipes, where 90% of root intrusion occurs. The foam is also formulated to strip away grease and grime, which allows the active ingredient to penetrate roots, killing them and stunting future growth. This is far more effective than simply jetting or cutting roots, because cut roots grow back aggressively and will soon clog pipes.And also, importantly, the active ingredient, Dichlobenil, does not have a negative effect on downstream wastewater treatment plants. It simply kills roots and retards future root growth, keeping sewer pipes running effeciently, significantly reducing sanitary sewer overflows.
The sewer system network in North Bend is mostly made up of 6-12” lines, 30% of which are clay, 50% concrete, and the rest PVC. And they’re all in good shape. “Even the clay is holding up well, and it’s been in since the 1920s,” says Vos. “We only have root problems because of the joints.”In the rst few years of RootX use, North Bend applied about 12 boxes of RootX annually, using the supplied foaming applicator. The strategy then was simply to foam every line clogged with roots. And it worked well. “We had a list of clogged lines, and treated nearly all of them, and honestly it worked well from the beginning,” says Vos. “In less than four years, there wasn’t a single clogged line left, and we could CCTV all of them.”
And after that initial heavy treatment protocol, RootX use dropped dramatically; the initial use of 10-12 boxes annually has dropped to just 16 boxes applied every other year. “We don’t have to treat roots annually now,” Vos explains. “We CCTV our entire network on a three-year cycle, and use that data to identify lines that should be treated, which we do every two years. That has kept our lines continually clear of roots, and works so well we’re considering treating every three years.”Vos tells two anecdotes to convey how happy he is with RootX’s effectiveness in his system.“When we started, we had one line that was so clogged that we couldn’t even push a jetter through. We assumed it was going to have to be dug up and replaced, but we went ahead and tried RootX. Three years later it was completely clear and we could even verify that with a CCTV run.“We even had a manhole that was completely filled up with roots, and we treated it in the simplest possible way by pouring in a bag of RootX and applying water to foam it up. The next year, we pulled all those roots easily, and haven’t had a problem since.”So essentially, root-clogged sewer lines are not a problem in North Bend, and haven’t been for nearly 20 years. At least, root-clogged main lines haven’t been a problem. “We never get callouts any more for main lines,” Vos explains. “But laterals are different—they’re up to owners to maintain, and roots do get in there.” So how does Vos deal with root intrusions into laterals? “We let them know about RootX, and usually they give it a try and it solves their problems.”20 years is a long commitment to one sewer solution, especially in an age where new technology is being introduced constantly. But Vos says that, “I want to say to skeptics, that if it’s applied correctly it’s amazing. The way RootX worked immediately for us, and then kept working and keeping lines clear, and I can demonstrate that with before-and-after CCTV footage throughout our system. I do keep evaluating other products, but so far nothing else looks nearly as effective—so why replace RootX if it’s still working so well for us?”