Drain Blockages: Unusual Causes You Might Not Know

11 Dec, 2023

Tree Root Intrusions in Urban Areas

One of the most surprisingly common causes of drain blockages in Auckland and other urban areas in New Zealand is tree root intrusion. While trees add beauty and greenery to our neighbourhoods, their roots can be drawn to the moisture and nutrients in sewer lines. Tiny cracks or loose joints in the pipes are all roots that need to start growing inside them. Over time, these roots can expand to form a dense mesh, causing significant blockages and even pipe damage. The problem exacerbates in older systems where pipes might already be weakened. Homeowners should be vigilant about the growth of large trees near their drainage lines and consider root barriers as a preventive measure.

Cement and Construction Debris

During home renovations or construction work, materials like cement, plaster, and grout can inadvertently enter the drains. These materials can harden within the pipes, leading to severe blockages that are challenging to remove. It's crucial to ensure that any construction or renovation debris is properly disposed of and not washed down the drains. Homeowners and contractors should be particularly cautious when working near drainage systems, as these materials are not only difficult to clear but can also cause long-term damage to the pipe infrastructure.

Invasive Foreign Objects

Beyond the usual suspects of food waste and sanitary products, drains can sometimes become clogged with unexpected foreign objects. Children’s toys, jewellery, and even mobile phones have been known to find their way into drains, leading to peculiar blockages. These objects can become lodged in the pipes, causing disruptions in the flow and often requiring professional removal. Homeowners with small children should be especially mindful of this risk and ensure that bathroom and kitchen drains are fitted with guards to prevent such occurrences.

Land Subsidence and Pipe Misalignment

In New Zealand, particularly in areas with soft soil or a history of seismic activity, land subsidence can be a less obvious cause of drainage issues. Subsidence refers to the gradual sinking or downward settling of the ground's surface, which can lead to misaligned or broken pipes. This misalignment not only obstructs the normal flow in the drainage system but can also cause recurrent blockages and leaks. Regular checks for signs of subsidence, such as cracks in walls or uneven floors, can help in early detection and remediation of such issues. Professional assessments are crucial in these scenarios to ensure that the underlying cause is addressed, not just the symptoms.

Fatbergs in City Sewers

A more modern and increasingly common issue in urban areas like Auckland is the formation of fatbergs. These are large masses of fat, oil, grease, and non-biodegradable matter (like wet wipes and sanitary products) that congeal together in the sewer system. Fatbergs can grow to enormous sizes, causing significant blockages in public sewers, which can impact individual properties. Homeowners can play a role in preventing fatbergs by properly disposing of fats, oils, and grease (not down the sink) and avoiding flushing non-biodegradable items down the toilet. Public awareness and proper waste disposal practices are key to combating this growing issue.

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