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September 14, 2005: Sometimes roots bite

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While waiting for Richard to get home from his meeting after work I was camped out in the living room knitting, and looked up through the front windows to dinner to see activity on the side of our lawn. So I went out to see how things were progressing with the neighbors' pipes.

A little back story - two nights ago the doorbell rang at shortly after 10pm � it was our next door neighbor, concerned because there was a very large quantity of water pouring down from right where our two properties meet. I hollered up to Richard to put on some shoes and grab a flashlight, and then went outside to peer at the water. Eventually his wife came out too, and with a few small flashlights, we eventually figured out that the water was coming from his side of the line. In fact, we could see it bubbling up right behind a tree, only a foot or two away from the water main (where the meter is). Our neighbor removed the water main cover and tried to feel around through the water with a wrench, hoping to figure out how to turn the water off, but since the main happens to be set into the ground, in a spot downhill from where the water was pouring, it was pretty much impossible to see anything at all.

Since I was the only one in bare feet and shorts, I sloshed through the mud and felt around the hole. We�d been hoping it was just a busted sprinkler pipe, but no such luck � the hole was substantial, and also quite deep. So he called the water department (for future reference, there is an emergency number on your water bill � just something to keep in mind), they sent someone out to turn it off, and we all went to bed.

Yesterday when I came home I was confronted with a very odd and very loud noise that reverberated through the entire house. I eventually tracked it down to the water spigot in the backyard, which had been left on. I followed the hoses and found that someone had attached our hose to the neighbors� hose, which was still attached to their house. I immediately panicked, turning off the water and detaching our hose because I couldn�t figure out why someone had done that and I was worried that it would be damaging to someone�s pipes � either theirs or ours. They came home a little later and immediately came to talk, and it turns out they were the ones who�d set up the hose connection, on the advice of their son. Home owners, take careful note here. When the city turned the main water off, that meant they had no water to their home � not such a big deal except that they have several house guests, so not being able to do things like flush a toilet was kind of a big deal. Then their son suggested this little trick. They basically had to turn the water off in their house, and then hook up the hoses, so that, from what I understand, it creates kind of a negative pressure within the hoses, so there would be enough water in the pipes to flush the toilet and so on. Very clever. And once I figured out what they�d done and why, I had no problem letting them hook back up again � although this time to the front hose spigot because it has less of a tendency to �sing� than the one in the back.

So back to tonight. In order to get to the broken pipe (which turned out to be just far enough �downstream� from the main line that the city wouldn�t fix it), they knew they were going to have to take down the tree, because there was just no other way to reach the pipe. Luckily their son either owns, or has access to, the sort of large equipment necessary to take down the huge tree, which was ultimately responsible for the break, so when I walked outside the first thing I noticed was that the tree was gone and all that was left was one poor bush, precariously balanced on several uneven piles of still slightly soggy dirt. They'd dug a rather impressive hole down to the pipe and he showed me the piece that had been punctured. It's an odd concept to wrap your head around, that something as flexible as a tree root can actually bore its way through thick PVC piping, enough to create not only a sizable hole, but also to completely crack it in two. But this does mean that they're not likely to put in a new tree to take its place, just in case in another fifteen years they have to go through this whole thing again. Good news for them, I suppose, since he told me he'd never much liked that tree anyway, but bad news for us in the short term because it turns out that it was this tree that shielded our bedroom window from the glare of the street lamp that's right outside our house, and now there is nothing in the way at all except our curtains, which are simply not sufficient to hide it completely from view. Ah well � a small price to pay for our neighbors getting running water back in their house again. Besides, this whole experience gave us a chance to really chat with them � something we�ve never had much opportunity to do because we usually just wave to each other in our cars as either they or we head off somewhere else.

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