Trees and Their Noses: Root X Treatments

There are few places where we see a nose on a tree.  The Wizard of Oz is one, and assorted tree “art” is another.  This is a good thing!  In either of these instances, the nose is incapable of smell.  Likewise, when a tree sends its roots into a sewer, the smell of that environment is of no concern.  Moisture or “water” is what they are after. The reason the root went toward, and then in to a sewer pipe is because of a leak in the piping, allowing a moisture source for the roots to follow.  Once inside of the sewer piping, the tree thinks it has died and gone to heaven because of so much water available to them.  Again the term “water” is used loosely. So now that the tree has found a water source, it will keep sending more energy to get more water.  This means more and more roots of ever increasing size.  This process may take several years to cause piping flow issues, but once it starts, there can be few options to get this under control. There are ways to mechanically remove the root infestation, but the roots will come back.  We have removed root wads that are the full 4 or 6 inch pipe diameter and 5 feet long!  No wonder the piping did not drain well.  If you remove the tree or bush, that may be the root host, the roots may regrow for a few years trying to get a new tree or bush growing again.  Often, the most effective time to treat a sewer line for the season is in the early spring when the roots are moving the most water to start the growing season.  This is an opportunity to treat the roots when they are most receptive to taking on the herbicide. So now what?  The sewer has been mechanically opened, and a wad of roots has been removed, and they are coming back, what are my options?  If repairing or replacing the sewer is not an option, then there are some herbicides that can treat the sewer line to fight back new intrusions.  Liquid chemicals down the drain will burn what they contact as they flow down the bottom of the pipe.  But what about the top parts of the piping above the water channel?  We have a foaming product that will fill the pipe above the water channel to get to roots that can appear as “stalactites” hanging into the pipe.  This herbicide will kill what is in the piping, but it does not rot or remove them.   Unfortunately, this becomes a maintenance item until the compromised piping can be dealt with. Places where this type of application make sense is under a garage, parking lot, alley, house addition, or similar where cost and accessibility can be prohibitive.