Dig We Must!

Ah, the joys of home ownership. Was quite a wild week at home for us.

The sewer backed up into the basement Tuesday night, requiring an after-hours (and thereby, even more expensive) call to a plumber.

By the way, plumbers have the coolest tools these daze. Besides their old standby, the snake, they have this camera device that runs down the pipe so they can see therein to help diagnose the problem. Suffice to say: I’ve seen enough of the inside of my sewer pipes to last me a lifetime. Even better, the camera can be detected from above ground with a divining rod-like device, identifying the location and the depth of the pipe. Note that my sewer pipes aren’t metal, making this kind of detection invaluable.

Did I mention that the house is on a private road? Hence, the fine folks from the planning office in the city have no liability for what goes on, until it reaches the city sewer main (about 250 feet from the front of my place). The were pretty specific, but not in a bad way.

2-1/2 hours later, we gave up, having traveled 125 feet into the pipe, without clearing (or even hitting) the blockage. Happily, drainage via "seepage" meant we could risk a few flushes and fast showers the following morning, but it’s dishes by hand and careful monitoring of the floor drain in the basement.

The guys helped me locate the pipe on a non-paved corner of the property, where we planned to install a ‘cleanout’. A cleanout is an access point to the sewer at a point further down the pipe (about 80 feet from the basement access point). Once installed, we’d use the cleanout to send the snake and the camera further down the pipe.

ShovelBeing an action-oriented kind of guy (and having an excess of frustrated energy over the situation), I set out to dig the 3′ wide x 5′ long by 5′ deep trench on my own (my mind was telling me I’d be saving on digging expenses this way).

In a word: pain. I am feeling muscles I didn’t know I had.

Eight hours of digging later, I gave it up. I was five feet deep and three wide, but had not found the pipe. The little green line the plumber had chalked on my lawn 60-odd cubic feet of dirt ago wasn’t quite in the right place, and to make matters more interesting, the location of the pipe based on the ‘as-built’ plans from City Hall suggested the pipe was a few feet to the southeast, underneath the driveway. Ouch.

In another word, stupid. Why the hell was I doing this by hand?

Did I mention sunburn? Yes. You can get sunburned in Seattle

Turns out, I’d missed the pipe by only a few inches, and it was actually to the northwest of where I was digging. On Friday, the diggers came and found it in about thirty seconds. Within minutes, they had the trench widened using a backhoe. In another 60 minutes, they had the cleanout installed and we were ready for the plumber and his magic camera and snake.

A few hours later, the plumber found a root ball (concentration of tree roots) a ways further down the pipe and chewed through it in a matter of minutes.

We flush, therefore we are.

About Michael Coates
I am a pragmatic evangelist. The products, services and solutions I write about fulfill real-world expectations and use cases. I stay up-to-date on real products I use and review, and share my thoughts here. I apply the same lens when designing an architecture, product or when writing papers. I am always looking for ways that technology can create or enhance a business opportunity .. not just technology for technology's sake. My CV says: Seasoned technology executive, leveraging years of experience with enterprise and integration architectural patterns, executed with healthy doses of business acumen and pragmatism. That's me. My web site says: Technology innovations provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses. That said, having the "latest and greatest" for its own sake isn't always a recipe for success. Business successes gained through exploiting innovation relies on analysis of how the new features will enhance your business followed by effective implementation. Goals vary far and wide: streamlining operations, improving customer experience, extending brand, and many more. In all cases, you must identify and collect the metrics you can apply to measure your success. Analysis must be holistic and balanced: business and operational needs must be considered when capitalizing on a new technology asset or opportunity.

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