Talkin' Shop

Blocked septic tank causes sewage geyser

Contributed by Ryan Clayton

With hundreds of miles of stunning Atlantic Ocean landscapes, the Outer Banks on the coast of North Carolina is a popular vacation destination. Beautiful summer homes scatter the coastline and house the seasonal influx of beach visitors, but the jobs in this beach town aren’t always so pretty.

Ryan Clayton, a plumber from the Outer Banks town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, shares his story.

“I was sent on a service call to figure out what was going on with a customer’s plumbing. None of their toilets were flushing, and all of their drains were taking a long time to clear. We start troubleshooting the problem by running the drain snake down a toilet. We clear the toilets on every floor. We clear every drain. But nothing seems to be working. We still can’t find the problem.

One thing to keep in mind in the Outer Banks is that just about every house is on a septic tank. So after making sure every other drain and pipe is clear, we go check the septic tank. That’s when we discover that a tree’s roots have invaded the septic line and are clogging the pipe.

Our only solution is to pull the tree out. We start pulling the tree out slowly, and then the roots pop out like a cork out of a bottle. That’s when it happens. The raw sewage shoots up into the sky like a geyser. It goes all over the yard, all over the driveway, and all over us. It’s EVERYWHERE. The tree root had unleashed days of backed up sewage, and there was nothing we could do to stop it. It was like hot lava coming out of a volcano.

After the sewage shower, all we could do was fix the leak. We popped two plastic couplings and a shot of pipe on it, got in our work truck and called it a day.

My tip to any plumber who is pulling tree roots out of a septic system is to put a tarp down to minimize the threat of a sewage blow-out. I also think it’s important for homeowners to know where their septic tank is and be aware of any trees that are nearby to help them keep sewage issues at bay.”

Folks submitting stories featured in Talkin’ Shop were sent an incentive gift in exchange for the use of their stories which may have been edited at the discretion of Ferguson.

Ryan Clayton

Plumber – Outer Banks, North Carolina