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Please teach me my best option for using copper sulfate to prevent another sewage drain blockage.

Discussion in 'Homeowner Helper Forum' started by Jeff Davis, Jan 29, 2019.

  1. Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis New Member

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    I live in a 2-story home that's built on a slab in southern California. Last week, I found my downstairs toilet seeping water (waste too?) out from under it, so I called Roto-Rooter.
    Their guy snaked it thru the 2-½” cleanout in my garage & got it draining but he told me that he couldn't fit his 4” tool in, which is how big the ID of the PVC connector out to the clay sewage system pipe it. This cost me $269.
    Then he showed me with a camera that he sent down into the pipes that he’d only been able to bore a 2 ½” hole thru some sections of roots that had grown into the slip joints of several of the 4” ID clay sections.
    He suggested their Hydro-Jet to blast the pipes clean with water at 4,000 psi for $599. I didn't have them do it.
    So, after researching it, I found that Copper Sulfate can be used to kill roots in sewage pipes and that it will only soak up into about 1’-2’ of each root, kill it, the section in the pipe will break it off and the pipe will keep allowing stuff to drain thru it.
    I researched it and I found that Copper Sulfate is legal in this part of California although it can't be sold or used in a few other counties.
    Can someone teach me what I should do? How much Copper Sulfate do I use the first time & how? I just ordered 3 2lb containers of Copper Sulfate Crystals from Amazon so it will be here in a week.
    https://www.amazon.com/PURE-Copper-Sulfate-Pentahydrate-Crystals/dp/B015OTPK2Y/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1545525232&sr=8-3&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=copper+sulfate+crystals&dpPl=1&dpID=41bPN28l2xL&ref=plSrch
    Is it better to do a little at a time thru the downstairs toilet with a flush after each or should I just pour it all into the cleanout in the garage and let normal drainage from sink, showers & toilets carry it down the pipe to the roots? Does the Copper Sulfate work if it just flows past the roots when it's already dissolved in liquid or does it need to be held behind the roots in crystal form so it is stronger, say if the drain is still stopped up?
    I asked this same thing on a DIY Plumbing Forum at www.plumbingforums.com/threads/any-cheaper-or-diy-fix-of-sewage-line-little-roots-that-just-got-drilled-thru-short-of-a-hydro-jet.14179 but I think since those who reply on that forum are all plumbers, they just think in plumber terms, not about stopping the roots chemically.
    I really don't think, from what I see, that the clay pipes need replacing. I understand how clay pipes are just slid together and how roots can find their way in thru any tiny gaps as they seek food & water.
    Here's a combo of pics that I made. 2 are from their video cam they sent down the pipe. I only showed 2 places where the roots are growing in but there are plenty more. That pipe must have moved a bit since we live on a hill top.
    combo 4 & 6 & camera in floor & front of house.jpg
     
  2. Streblerm

    Streblerm Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I had a very similar problem. I had a floor drain in the basement that the washer drained into that was upstream of the waste stack. I put a nylon stocking full of copper sulfate in the drain tied to the leg of a wash tub to keep it from washing down the drain. I refilled the stocking monthly or as often as I remembered.

    Even with that I found that I still needed to snake the drain yearly. I stopped using roto rooter because they suck. As soon as the water starts flowing they quit. Then they charge you extra to show you a picture of what a poor job they did. A month later the drain would be clogged again. I bought my own light duty snake and snaked the drain every year. Rather than just ramming it through I would slowly work it back and forth 2-3 feet at a time to get all the roots. Buying the snake was less than two calls to roto rooter. I would snake the drain in the spring time as preventative maintenance. That solved my problem.

    I also read about locating the pipe outside and boring vertical small holes near the pipe. Then you would place pvc pipe in the bored holes that would be filled with copper sulfate. This seemed like too much work I never tried it.


    I no longer live at that house. I did see that the new owners eventually replaced the sewer drain pipe which caused the death of the tree that was near it. I guess problem solved.
     
  3. Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis New Member

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    Thanks Streblern. A few things:
    1. Wouldn't any nylon stocking full of copper sulfate in a floor drain hurt the piping? I've read that you're only supposed to either flush it down the toilet or drop it into the cleanout which is a horizontal pipe (PVC?) that leads down to some PVC pipe that goes to the sewer system's clay piping.
    2. Wouldn't a nylon stocking full of copper sulfate in a floor drain block the drain for a while or did you purposefully make it small enough not to block it?
    3. Are you saying that the copper sulfate in that floor drain didn't just quickly dissolve? I've been wondering how quickly it dissolves since if I put it down the toilet or the cleanout, if it doesn't dissolve pretty fast and those roots that Roto-Rooter didn't cut out back it up, will any human waste block the line's flow?
    That's been bothering me.
    4. As far as Roto-Rooter sucking, I agree. That and they over-charge. They went for the Hydro-Jet deal as quick as they could and we get the treatment all the time since we live in a fancy neighborhood.
    5. I can't see snaking the thing myself & for sure not on a regular basis. Doesn't the copper sulfate keep new roots from intruding so why would it need snaking again?
    Maybe just reply using my list #s 1-5 like I used if you wouldn't mind? That would help me.
     
  4. Streblerm

    Streblerm Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I don’t think the copper sulfate will hurt drain pipes either pvc, abs, cast iron, or clay tile.

    I used a cup or so in the stocking and it didnt block the drain.

    I can’t really say how long it took to dissolve I never really checked. I just tried to remember to refill monthly.

    The copper sulfate will only kill the roots that are actually touching the water so on its own it isn’t an effective treatment. It won’t stop the root intrusion, only slow it down. Once they die they don’t automatically disappear and new roots will keep seeking the water thus yearly snaking. There are some foaming root killers but I don’t know that they are any more effective. The copper sulfate monthly treatments allowed me to go from semi monthly to yearly snaking.

    Unfortunately the root of the problem, forgive the pun, is the leaking joints in the pipe. The only permanent fix is to replace the pipe. I guess there are some ways to reline them without digging them up, I never really looked into it other than as a concept. Even cutting down the tree may not stop it. So either treat and snake or fix the leaks. There’s nothing you can flush down the toilet that will permanently fix the problem.
     
  5. Bobby Kirbos

    Bobby Kirbos Scrounger of Cellulose Based BTUs

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    They do have a process where they spray the inside of the pipe with a polymer that cures into a hard plastic liner. I have no idea what it costs. Maybe it would be a good longer term solution? Maybe?
     
  6. Jeff Davis

    Jeff Davis New Member

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    You've got a curious system. I was wondering if you invented it? Things do come to my mind about what you said here.
    I'd read that you never want to put copper sulfate into any drains and only in a toilet or the cleanout. I swear it had said that the copper sulfate could harm the pipes used to plumb normal house plumbing and I'd assumed that the toilet is OK since stuff just drops straight from it into a much bigger straight path to the cleanout and sewer.
    Your cup in a stocking idea is creative. I guess the copper sulfate pellets would then sit in the water in the cup and dissolve and would only then be pushed down the sewage lines as a liquid which does seem like it would be way more effective at having the roots soak it up.
    I'd read that the roots will soak up the copper sulfate mixture about 1'-2' and kill the root up that far so that there's no danger of ever killing a bush or a tree this way. That doesn't really go along with what you say that it only kills roots that are inside the clay pipe.
    I had figured that if it kills the roots that far back away from the pipe, it would take them quite awhile to grow back in so the only ones that might start intruding are new ones that hadn't yet ever intruded or that had just regrown after being shortened 2' by copper sulfate.
    Have any input?
    Why do you re-snake annually? Have you noticed that the drain isn't working or something or do you just do it to be safe?
    I've heard of the ways that they can blow in some plastic (polymer?) and basically lines the inside of the clay pipe including filling any gaps so that nutrient filled waste water can't get out and attract growing roots. But I think that's a pretty expensive deal but not as much as replacing the underground sewer line.
     
  7. Streblerm

    Streblerm Addicted to ArboristSite

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    The thing about drain pipes is they are all made of the same thing regardless of where they are in your house and they all lead to the same place. They are either Cast iron, ABS, PVC, or clay. I can’t see how putting copper sulfate in your toilet would be any different than any other drain. AFIK copper sulfate isn’t reactive and if I’m not mistaken the green powdery corrosion you see on copper pipe is copper sulfate. So how much just naturally washes down the drain?

    From your pictures of the inside of the pipe pipe you can see the roots invade from the top of the pipe. The pipe is 4” which is standard and only the bottom 25% or less of the pipe has any water flowing in it. The pipe doesn’t fill with water unless it is clogged so if the copper sulfate kills 2” of roots it is only going to kill half of the roots already in the pipe. It won’t affect the roots outside the pipe because the roots come from the top and the copper sulfate treated water leaks out the bottom. The roots will never stop looking for water. That’s what they do.

    I settled on yearly maintenance snaking after finding that the sewer would backup like clockwork in late spring/early summer when growth was at its peak. I found that if I snaked the drain mid spring and kept up with the copper sulfate treatments I only needed to do it once a year. Basically once the grass started really growing it was time to maintenance snake.
     

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