The city crew was hard at work Friday, digging deep into East Texas red clay to locate and briefly extract a very old sewer pipe.
Their mission: Remove clusters of roots from the cracks along the 100 feet of pipe and patch up the cracks. The root growth ultimately was threatening the water pressure needed to flush toilets throughout the city.
Of course, this is only a temporary fix – until a permanent pipe replacement can be laid in place.
The crew of seven was toiling in a field directly behind 800 West Rusk. They were working alongside a portion of railroad track that is host to as many as 25 trains each day, according to Union Pacific official Allan Benedetto.
After awhile, a Union Pacific train passed by the work site – its presence radioed roughly seven miles in advance to Benedetto, who is stationed there with the city crew to ensure their safety.
Benedetto, who stays in constant contact with passing trains to make workers stay safe, takes his job very seriously.
On his word, crew members moved their equipment far enough away to avoid danger from the locomotive. After it passes, the crew moves back and resumed their work.
The roots threatening the sewer pipe, meanwhile, come from area trees. These roots tend to inch toward the sewer line cracks because of the water that comes out of them.
Unless they are removed, the cluster of roots – nicknamed a "rootball" – will simply keep expanding. Ultimately it threatens the aforementioned water pressure that allows city residents to flush.
"It's been a chronic problem for years,'' explained Will Cole, public works director for the city
When a leaking manhole was spotted in this area, city officials knew there was something wrong with a sewer pipe, Cole said.
This particular pipe is very old and patched over numerous times.
"It's 70 years old and our plan is to take care of this problem now and come back later to fix it up," Cole said.
City officials hope to put in a new line in the next 12 to 24 months. The pipe will probably cost between $50,000 and $75,000, Cole said.