SPOKANE, Wash. -- It's a big problem, with an even bigger price tag to fix if it isn't addressed quickly. Area experts say they get up to 20 calls a day about tree roots clogging pipes.
"The more you know about your sewer can save you a lot of money," said Chris Jordan with Action Drain.
Jordan said tree roots getting into sewer lines, especially in older neighborhoods, is the most common blockage they respond to.
Janna Watkins-Blunn knows the struggle that can follow that all too well.
"It's been going on a long time," she said. "There have been two minor floods, and one major flood. It's been intensely frustrating."
Janna and her family tell our 'Help Me Hayley' they bought their North Spokane home in 2009. By 2017, they were dealing with backup number one. Growing trees in her neighborhood combined with aging pipes have created a very expensive combination.
"I've been told our section here is some of the oldest in the county's system," she said. "It's showing its age and wear. The (pipes) are becoming cracked allowing roots to penetrate."
And that is what causes the flooding.
"Slowly, that root ball collects debris coming through the line, which prevents our line from draining into the main," she said.
Janna sent a google maps photo to our Help Me Hayley indicating where the trouble spot is. It's not on her property but instead where it meets the county's. A Spokane County spokeswoman says they have been checking the location regularly, and did help financially after the most recent, and most severe flood. Janna says she can't help but fear they're making fixes in her home that could be damaged again.
"I desperately want them to open up the street to replace (the issue,)" she said.
The county tells KHQ they are trying to find the most cost-effective solution. They are trying a new technique that they say is already used by other agencies call RootX foam.
Janna and her family are left just hoping it works and they can finally put their worries down the drain.
"It's been so devastating for our family," she said.
Janna's situation is unique because she says the damage is originating from a portion of the system that is not hers. Experts say, oftentimes, the destruction is on your property and if caught quickly, can be fixed. They urge homeowners to schedule an inspection to video your system, especially before closing on a home. If something is found, annual maintenance can stop it from becoming a major repair.
Janna and her husband have purchased a water leak flood alarm sensor that will alert them to trouble as soon as it starts. You can find similar sensors at many hardware stores.
A county spokeswoman says they are ‘sincerely trying to work with this family.’ They provided the following county code for clarification that maintaining the side sewer is the property owner’s responsibility:
8.03.1870 - Side sewer.
"Side sewer" is a sewer, not directly controlled or maintained by a public authority, which begins approximately two feet outside the outer face of a structure wall or foundation, conveying wastewater from the building(s) drain(s) to a public sewer or private sewer. The term "side sewer" also includes any double plumbing dry side sewer and temporary sewer connections. The property owner is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the entire side sewer, including the portions located within the public right-of-way.