Drain Cleaning – The Only Fix?

“You guys that are promoting lateral lining and pipe bursting are trying to sell a product that isn’t needed. If you stay ahead of the roots with scheduled maintenance, you don’t need to repair or replace a sewer lateral!”

I had a drain cleaning contractor say those exact words to me awhile back. I was a little stunned that there are people in our industry that are still thinking this way, but there are more than you’d think. There are a couple of points of view on this topic, one is from the “macro” side or the view of the overall population and the “micro” view or the view as the owner of the sewer lateral in question.

Leaking Sewer Pipe

Let’s talk about the “macro” view first. When you have root intrusion in a sewer line, during dry seasons, you have raw sewage that exfiltrates into the ground. This may not bother you unless you are drinking water produced in the general area where the sewage is exfiltration into the ground. Perhaps your water is piped from far away, but what if the water piped to you is fouled by some exfiltrating sewer near the source? The cost to treat the water is driven up by the extent of this fouling and you pay more for water than getting fresh water that needs less processing. Even more costly is the processing of infiltration water caused by a rain event. Fresh, pure water falling from the sky migrates into the sewer through the pipes where roots have invaded. This fresh water increases the volume at the wastewater treatment plant. My discussions with wastewater treatment plant operators is pretty universal in quantifying that increase. Most tell me that their treatment plants with no rehabilitation efforts performed increase inflow to the plants by double their normal dry weather operation. For you and I, we’re paying twice as much for processing sewage after a rain event than before through tax levies. These facts affect anyone that has a flush toilet, sink, or bath in their homes.

Collapsed Sewer

On the “micro” side or your own sewer lateral, root intrusion and leaking pipes can erode the soil around the pipe and potentially cause a collapse. Regularly scheduled cleaning will eventually end when the collapse occurs, then your choices become very limited and more costly to repair. Moreover, you are inconvenienced every time the drain cleaning guy needs to clean the line. You’re most likely taking vacation time to sit home waiting for the tech to show up to clean the line and unless you like waiting for service people to show up wasting vacation time isn’t the most attractive way to spend hard earned vacation time.

So, yes, you can take the view of gathering a book of business that involves drain cleaning contracts, your customers aren’t being served in the best manner. And when they find out there are other options that scheduling an appointment with you every so often and can fix the issues permanently, you’ll lose the customer to someone who can fix their problem and move on.

So, while drain cleaning is an important component to sewer maintenance, it’s not the one and only options to be considered. If you’re a drain cleaning contractor thinking scheduled cleaning is the only answer, ask yourselves if let the brakes on your truck(s) go until you have a total failure or if you should change brake pads before that happens.

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