The intrusion of tree roots into Queens sewers is one of the biggest problems facing homeowners with older properties. Large, well-established trees constantly send out new growth in their efforts for a constant source of water and nutrients. What many New York City homeowners do not realize is that winter sewer problems caused by backups from debris entangled in tree roots often start by tree root growth in the fall.
Roots of all kinds of plants, including trees, experience their most vigorous growth during the cooler months of autumn. In the Spring and Summer, trees and brushes concentrate on the growth of branches and foliage above ground. But as soon as the temperatures begin dropping, root growth picks up underground to prepare for new and stronger foliage growth the following year.
Even trees located far away from sewer pipes can cause problems. That is because although trees have a tap root system that grow vertically down into the soil, they also have fibrous, laterally growing secondary roots. Secondary roots are attracted to sewer pipes and can grow alongside a sewer pipe for many feet, looking for a way inside. Tiny cracks that appear from normal wear and tear are large enough for the meristem, or root tip, to penetrate to the interior of the sewer where they continue to grow. Over time, the hair like roots can increase in size and width. Eventually, if left untreated, they can crack and dislodge a sewer pipe, or disrupt the entire drain system.
Sewers are attractive to tree root growth for several reasons. For one, city landscapes give them limited areas from which to obtain water and nutrients. Backfill soil around the sewer is often more conducive to roots than undisturbed soil. Most importantly, however, is that tree roots thrive in the oxygen- and nutrient-rich environment produced by sewage. Even when temperatures drop to well below freezing, roots that have found their way into sewers will continue to grow because of the warmer temperatures therein.
If you live in an area that is prone to tree root growth in sewers, fall is the ideal time to schedule an inspection to head off growth problems that will continue to occur throughout the winter. Contact Joseph L. Balkan, Inc. Sewer and Water Main Specialists for more information on how to regulate root growth and schedule your inspection.