When I went into the basement this morning, I noticed a puddle of water on the floor, and another closer to the wall, and another near the sink, and another near the toilet, and another…
Uh oh. Water leak.
My first thought was that the neighbors had been draining their pool cover, and might have left the hose too close to our window well and sent water cascading into our basement. That happened once before, many years ago. But nope, that wasn’t it. I checked the washing machine. Nope. The toilet in the small bathroom did look full of water, and when I reached in to how deep it was (because it’s dark in there) I realized that the water was hot.
Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser.
I called Darling Husband, who doesn’t have enough stress in his life, and told him what was going on. “Check the floor sewer drain cap,” he said. “Is there any water there?”
No, but there was dampness around it. His diagnosis: the sewer line was plugged, and because the cap was on tightly on the pipe the water backed up into the next closest outlet, the basement toilet. The laundry tub had a few inches of water in it, too. Why was the toilet water hot? “Did you just take a shower?” he asked. I had. “That’s the water that didn’t drain.”
What do I do? “Call the plumber,” he said. So I did.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one on my street to call Mr. Rooter this morning. “What’s going on over there?” the secretary asked, and told me my neighbor had just called with the same problem. She set up an appointment for me right after theirs. I called my neighbors – clearly something more was going on than just roots in our sewer line – and agreed that, yup, something more was going on that just roots on the sewer line.
A lot of people criticize the village I live in because our taxes are so high. And they are high. But included in our taxes is a lot of personal service from our village employees that you don’t necessarily get from other communities. The building inspector once came over to help me take care of a half dead squirrel right outside my kitchen door. I had called the village office asking if the animal control officer could come and help with the dying critter. I couldn’t get out of the house, and it was lying there, trying to get up but couldn’t, because it was bloody, its back end torn apart by a hawk or a cat or a Yeti. The secretary told me it wasn’t something they normally handled and suggested I call an exterminator. But the squirrel was screeching, and I was freaking out, so the building inspector – who, it turns out, is also the animal control officer – came right over. He wore tall rubber boots, and had a grabber with a very long handle, and a brick. “Don’t look,” he said, and took care of the situation as humanely as he could. Then he took the rodent corpse away.
My tax dollars actually at work. Thank you, very, very much. Seriously.
So I wasn’t surprised at all that the DPW came out right away. They checked the situation in our basement, and then checked the lines and determined that there was a blockage in the street lines. A little flushing here, some flushing there, and my drains were draining but my neighbors were not.
I debated canceling the Mr. Rooter appointment. It’s likely that resolving the problem at the street would resolve the problem in my house. But tree roots in the sewer pipes is an ongoing problem that requires removing them every couple of years. There may not be a problem right now, but if there are roots we’re going to have a problem at some point. As long as the plumber was going to be here, I figured I might as well have it checked out.
The good news is that because there were two customers in one stop, the plumber gave us a discount. He scoped the line with a camera and saw that there was a very large root ball at the beginning of the line and a clog of, well you don’t want to know, at the end where it ties into the main. The roots needed to come out, and for a mere $350, with a discount, that was taken care of. And no, this wasn’t a scam. If we hadn’t taken care of the roots now, it would have been a problem soon. Tree roots in the sewer line? Back up into the basement? Yeah, that’s a problem you don’t want to have twice. Trust me.
The bad news it that while, yes, we had some roots that needed to be taken out, while he was in the basement he noticed a major – MAJOR – plumbing issue that, if not taken care of soon, could cause a water emergency in the basement on par with Noah’s flood.
In a nutshell, there’s no water shut off on the meter side of the water something or other pipe coming into the house. And the pipe coming off the meter is older than God and weeping dampness. So if that pipes breaks, which it looks like it might do sometime soon, there’s no way to shut the water off, except at the street, which would require a call to the county to have someone come out.
I remembered that when the county came 10 years ago to put in a new meter, they mentioned something about that. And I mentioned it to Darling Husband. And then we both pretty much just forgot about it. Some things, you just don’t deal with until they’re problems. But then we had that pipe burst last summer and I’m a little more maintenance minded now.
The DPW has been back to flush the main lines in the street several times through the afternoon, because there was still some blockage. It’s almost dinner time and they’re still at it, making sure we’re not going to have any more problems, at least from their end of things.
Our sewer line from the house to the street is clear, and we’ve been alerted to a potential problem with another pipe that, if we take care of it, won’t be a problem at all. It’s like my sewer line had a colonoscopy, and some benign growths were found and removed in the line, but in the process a stage 3 but treatable cancer on another pipe was found, too.
Plus, I got to see down the manhole cover. Imagine, hundreds of years ago that all just ran freely in the streets. Now, we have sewer systems and DPW employees and we don’t have to worry about it. In fact, we don’t even think about it. Well, unless the sewer backs up again.