Assess the Entire Problem When Chasing Leaks

Don’t get stuck constantly making point repairs for a customer or they might not stay a customer for long.

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Does this sound familiar?

“I’ve been out to the same house three times doing three different point repairs. It seems like the roots give up on the joint I repaired and move to a new joint just to make me upset. My customer is wondering if I know what I’m doing. Why is this happening to me? Each point repair is perfect when I look at it with my camera.”

If you’ve done point repairs, as I have, this is an issue that occurs too often, but unfortunately it’s a fact of pipe repair. Roots, like water, follow the path of least resistance. Each time you block one source of water to roots, they grow toward areas where they can get an opportunity to find more water. If two joints are leaking but one leaks more than the other, the roots grow toward the largest water source. If that one goes away, the roots move to the next, then the next and so on until all opportunities of seeking water are gone from the sewer line.

So how do you determine when to do a point repair to fix a broken joint and when to line the entire pipe? They key is your camera. When doing a video inspection you typically note the turns, bends, offsets, diameter changes, distances, tie-ins, and roots. The most obvious root intrusions are the ones that grab your attention and are the areas you concentrate on.

This is the most important point I’m going to make: If you see smaller roots that are protruding through joints in the pipe, in addition to the one area where the root ball has blocked the sewer, a single point repair will redirect the roots to grow more rapidly in those other areas where you saw small roots. Your point repair to fix the localized problem at that particular joint won’t be a long-term fix. You may as well discuss other options with your customer.

If, on the other hand, no other root intrusions are observed and there are not cracked joints in the rest of the pipe, a point repair may be the best fix. You need to take a view of the entire pipe and make your assessment accordingly.

Years ago when I was lining mainline sewer pipe, we were convinced that the majority of I&I to the sewer was from the mains with a little coming from the laterals. As we completed lining the big pipe, I&I studies were employed to see how much reduction lining the mains had done. What most of the studies confirmed was that while we slowed the I&I down, we didn’t eliminate as much as we thought and that we moved the problem upstream to the laterals.

Look at the big picture and determine which fix is the best for what you are trying to accomplish. If the point repair fix is the best, by all means go with it. If that solution makes you wormy for the long run, discuss the issues with your customer and give them options for repairing the sewer as a whole rather than just a fix for today. There is only one thing worse than doing a point repair and a year later getting called out to explain that a new joint now needs a point repair. It’s going back after the second year to see roots growing through yet another joint. Your credibility, as well as your customer, is gone.

About the Author
John Heisler is the owner of Pipe Lining Supply and Quik-Lining Systems Inc. He has 20 years of experience in the CIPP lining industry and over 40 years in the underground construction industry.


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