Jefferson County Commissioners Agree to Root Out Sewer Problem

Dec. 5, 2017 – The Jefferson County Commission on Tuesday approved plans to use chemical treatment to clear sewer lines of damaging roots, reduce sewage spills and prevent back-ups into homes and businesses.

The county will award Dukes Root Control Inc. a contract for $1 million to perform the service.

“In a lot of cases, we will send a mechanical rod (into the line) that turns and rips out the roots,” said Department of Environmental Services Director Daniel Denard. “But six months later, those roots are still alive and growing.”

The department is responsible for collecting, transporting and treating the sanitary sewage in Jefferson County. It oversees the maintenance of more than 3,100 miles of county sewer lines. Root control is part of that maintenance. One of the largest causes of sewer overflows is roots that intrude into the sewer lines and cause cracks and distress on the joints, Denard said.

Last year, the county conducted a trial effort using an EPA-approved chemical to rid sewer lines of roots and prevent them from coming back. This year, the county will ramp up its chemical root removal efforts.

The process is threefold: First, inspections are conducted using cameras to identify areas where roots have encroached. Second, a chemical foam herbicide is sent through the sewer lines to kill the targeted roots. Third, after the roots have dried up, the lines can be cleared of the debris and will remain root-free for three years.

Denard said this introductory program won’t be able to cover the entire system. The plan is first to treat lines in the most vulnerable areas.

“Most of the overflows tend to be in the older areas of towns, where the sewers are older and have more cracks. In terms of roots, it’s the residential areas with a lot of trees,” he said.

While Denard estimates that about 80 percent of sewer line back-ups occur in home and business owners’ private sewer pipes, when county sewer lines are the cause of overflow, the county is responsible for those claims.

The county hasn’t quantified the cost of chemical root removal compared to the older, manual method, but Denard does believe the approach will be more economical over the long term since root maintenance will be required less frequently.

“The primary goal is to reduce overflows so that we can comply with the (EPA) consent decree and protect public health,” Denard said.

Pink Christmas Gift Cancer Awareness Forum

Also in Tuesday’s meeting, Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown announced the Pink Christmas Gift Cancer Awareness Forum, a free educational event that will take place Dec. 7, 2017, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bessemer Civic Center.

Brown, Bessemer City Councilor Chester W. Porter and the Latch & Live Foundation will host a panel of health care leaders and advocates who will present on issues surrounding cancer detection, screening, treatment and survival. Partners for the event include Jefferson County, the city of Bessemer, Latch & Live Foundation, Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama.

For more information and to RSVP, contact Debra Smith or Karen Wadington at 205-325-5074.