A southwest New Jersey contractor attacks a severe case of root intrusion in a cesspool at a small rural church


Toilets backing up during Sunday services at the First Baptist Church in Harrisonville, N.J., brought custodian Chester Randall on the run.

For the first time in 40 years, Randall lifted the lid on the church’s 1,500-gallon concrete block cesspool. He found a tree root almost filling the tank. Local contractors wanted no part of it until Randall found Drain Visions LLC in Blackwood, N.J.

“About 4 feet of root was growing up the 4-inch terra cotta lateral,” says company owner Frank Canora. “The main root entered beneath the cesspool lid, then fused with 4 1-inch roots coming in below the lateral to form the main mass.”

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Canora and lead technician J.R. Moore battled for three hours to remove the intrusion and restore the flow of wastewater from the 500-member congregation.

Jetting first

The men never entered the tank. Canora reached in to chop the root in the lateral with a spinning root cutter. A trailer-mounted 3518-SC hydrojetter from O’Brien Manufacturing (A Div. of Hi-Vac Corporation) powered the 18-gpm/4,000-psi tool.

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“The root was drinking all the water and leaving nothing but solids, so we jetted the line to remove that blockage,” says Canora. He then tied a rope around each individual root entering the cesspool before freeing it from the tank and main mass. Moore dragged away the pieces with the company’s cargo van.

Using a 6-foot-long pry bar, Moore freed the sides of the root from the cesspool walls. Canora had considered renting a hoist to lift the root, but decided to first use his 2004 GMC Yukon SUV with 400-cubic-inch big-block engine and the half-ton stationary winch in the cargo van.

He lassoed the root with a 1-inch heavy-duty rope and looped the other end over his trailer hitch. Then Moore ran out the 1-ton steel cable on the winch and secured it around the root. The rope and cable ran over the pry bar jammed into the ground in front of the riser to prevent them from fraying against the concrete.

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When Canora hopped into the Yukon to begin the pull, Moore hid behind the open passenger door and operated the winch remotely. Within seconds, the men heard a sharp report as the rope cut through the root and a 2-foot-long section snapped off.

From the bottom

After Moore dragged it away, Canora lassoed the root further down its length. Back in the truck, Canora could feel all four wheels grabbing as he pressed down on the accelerator. Once the root cleared the pry bar, it slid out effortlessly.

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The root, 2 1/2 feet in diameter and 5 feet 8 inches long, weighed 400 pounds. It had been growing through the bottom of the cesspool, and it had blocked about 50 percent of the tank’s capacity. “I’ve become the go-to man for the entire congregation,” says Canora. “They couldn’t believe what we did.”


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