THE SILENT INFILTRATOR

Posted By: Christian Jensen Rural Life Stories ,

 A small system in central Utah, whose water source is a spring above the community, was caught up in the web of securing funding with the EPA in order to continue providing clean and plentiful drinking water. This community, made up of seventeen connections and a clinic, needed to rehabilitate their spring collection area. After monitoring the process for some time, enough funding came through to rehabilitate half of the originally planned project. The Construction team was on-sight and had managed to dig up most of the newly reduced scope project when their hard work came to an abrupt stop. They came across a problem with the collection lines that were not part of the funded project. What they found prompted a call to the Rural Water Association of Utah for help.

Greg Johnson, RWAU Circuit Rider, was informed that an intricate array of roots had infiltrated the collection lines connecting to the spring that were not part of the funded project. Pipes buried underground are in a constant battle with nature, which starts almost as soon as they are covered. Water Operators know too well the many ways nature attempts to erode and breach pipes transporting water. Root intrusion proves to be a huge culprit of broken and penetrated pipes. Roots force their way into the pipes through any opening they can find, and sometimes create their own. The construction workers noticed that the communities pipes seemed to be almost completely clogged by the roots. Once they realized the roots would need to be carefully cut from the lines, they knew they were in way over their heads. If there was any chance at stopping this root infestation, it was going to be with Gregs help.

Greg arrived and went straight to work, cutting and clearing out roots to what they thought to be the end of the line. They then installed cameras to make sure the pipes were clean and clear. After taking a closer look, they realized their worst nightmares had become reality - at the end of the line there was a 90 degree bend that the cutting equipment was not able to go around, and this bend also had roots. The bad news was reported to the project manager, who began to pace as he came to understand what they needed to do. He knew they needed to install a collection box at the turn point but he also knew they didn’t have the funds to do so. It was decided that they would do the next best thing - dig up the 90 degree turn and replace the turn with a tee angled towards the sky, to make it more accessible in the future.

After they installed the tee, they went back in with the cameras to make sure all the vegetation was dug out on the surface to stop any future root infiltrations. The results of the repair were incredible. The collection line had doubled in water flow. The system finished out the planned project, relieved that the root crisis had been
dealt with.

It is important to note that even though a solution was found, nature will never stop working it’s way into our water. Water Operators throughout the State of Utah need to stay vigilant as these roots will find their way back in. Those who are attentive will have a much easier time cleaning and maintaining their pipes.

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work;
second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” - Thomas A. Edison


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