There is more than 160 miles of sewer laterals in Castro Valley. Unfortunately, a lot can and does go wrong with them. We’ve seen more than our fair share of sewer problems and can tell you which are most common in our area and how you can avoid them. Here’s what you need to know.

Pipe Corrosion

We’d all love it if pipes lasted forever, but they don’t. What seems like incredibly thick and strong pipes when you put them in the ground will look like they were eaten by a gopher when you pull them up decades later. It’s not an animal that ate them, but corrosion or damage. The type of pipe does matter in predicting when it will fail. Options you might find in your yard are copper, cast iron, PVC, ABS or concrete. The plastic and concrete options don’t corrode per se, but they do break down enough to

Clogs from Fat, Oils and Grease

Fat, oils and grease, or, as Castro Valley Sanitation calls it, FOG, should not be poured into your drain. There is some amount of oil you can’t avoid, like scalp oils when you’re showering. But, emptying out your frying pan and pouring the bacon grease directly into the sink is an (understandable) sin against your plumbing. What you save in the convenience of not pouring the FOG into the garbage, you later pay for when you have to get a plumber to clean out the clog in your sewer.

FOG disposal may seem harmless, but it builds up overtime and eventually becomes something you can’t ignore. The lack of immediate problems from pouring FOG down the drain is probably why this problem is so common.

Other Kinds of Clogs

Fats, oils and greases are not the only things that can cause clogs. Any solid object that you try to get down the toilet or sink may end up as a clog. We’ve seen all kinds of sewer clogs caused by common objects, from those from menstrual products to diapers, so-called “flushable” wipes, children’s toys, and chicken bones. To avoid this one, don’t put anything you shouldn’t down the drain or toilet, and try to prevent children from doing it too. It’s also ideal not to put starchy foods down the toilet or drain, such as potatoes or banana peels, as they can cause the same kind of problem.

Tree Root Problems

Trees always seek out moisture and nutrients with their roots. If they’re close enough to a sewer, they are going to grow into it, slowly collapse it, and cause a huge clog or an entirely broken-down sewer. Trees that have a lot of moisture needs, like willows, are more likely to do this, although they are rare in Castro Valley. If you do have a root problem in your sewer, you need repair/replacement and then prevention. Moving the tree, adding a copper treatment to the pipes, or taking the tree down are all options.