Full Throttle

Louisiana plumber blasts jetter for 5 hours straight to clear customer’s clogged drainline

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A typical drain service call for Parsons Plumbing, Heating & Cooling doesn’t last more than an hour. So when owner Doyle Parsons received a call from one of his technicians on the morning of Feb. 20, and heard his employee had been working on a clogged drainline at a residence for more than two hours with little success, he knew other factors were at play.

And not only was the blockage severe, but the family living in the home had been dealing with it for two weeks. “It was a sad situation seeing the family have to live like that. There was no way the toilet could take any more,” says Parsons, who started his company in 2007 in Ball, Louisiana.

The company handles an average of five to seven drain cleaning jobs a day among about 30 service calls. This one wasn’t necessarily an unusual or challenging job, Parsons says, but to get it done, as many as four crew members were on site for a total of six hours. After two weeks of living with the problem, the residents of the home appreciated the effort.

“They saw the sincerity of our technicians and were confident that we weren’t going to leave,” says Parsons. “We reassured them that we weren’t going anywhere until everything was flushing and flowing.”

DIAGNOSING THE PROBLEM

When the Parsons Plumbing tech first arrived on the job, he initially attempted to clear the line using a cable machine, quickly realizing a jetter would be required. With no accessible clean-out on the ground, the line had to be dug up. Then a General JM-3080 water jetter was used to clear the line from the home to the municipal sewer line. A larger jetter that would’ve been able to work a little faster was tied up on another job.

“He had to run the jetter for literally 2 1/2 hours to clear the 40 to 50 feet that was on the ground level between the house and the city tap,” Parsons says. “Thinking that the line was clear, he went inside and checked the toilet, but it was still overflowing. That’s when he called me.”

There was still sludge buildup in the line running underneath the home.

“The buildup wasn’t just fresh solids. It had been in the pipe so long, it had started to deteriorate and break down, so it was like thick muck,” says Parsons.

But in Parsons Plumbing’s service area, homes do not have basements. Everything is built on a slab. With no accessible clean-out, the jetter had to be taken to the roof, and the crew spent another 2 1/2 hours jetting through the vent stack.

“In our area, it’s not that unique to have to get on the roof,” Parsons says. “The generation before us plumbed things differently than we do nowadays. Sometimes the clean-outs are buried 2 or 3 feet deep. In situations like this one, where you can’t put a camera into the sludge because you won’t be able to push it through, it makes it more difficult to find a clean-out.”

After flushing the line, as well as using a spin nozzle to ensure the side walls of the pipe were free of grease residue and buildup, Parsons Plumbing put a camera down the line. That’s when they discovered a major cause of the problem: The home was one side of a duplex, and the neighboring unit had an illegal tie-in to the building’s sewer line that blocked the flow from the home.

“If it had been properly tied in, we wouldn’t have had an issue,” Parsons says. “It was just a hole cut into the sewer line and the pipe was pushed into it. So it blocked the other unit’s flow. Water would make it past, but the solids
were not.”

PUTTING CUSTOMER SERVICE ABOVE PROFIT

The property management company overseeing the duplex was only authorized to allot $200 to a fix. Upon realizing how extensive the blockage was, Parsons Plumbing had to negotiate with the property owner, using the management company as the go-between.

“We had almost an hour of just telephone calls back and forth,” Parsons says.

Eventually Parsons Plumbing got the go-ahead from the property owner to do whatever was needed to clear the line, but in the end the owner didn’t want to repair the illegal tie-in. “It’s kind of discouraging because you know this is going to happen again eventually, and they’re going to call back,” Parsons says.

Still, the amount of time Parsons Plumbing was on site for the cleaning efforts alone should have cost about $1,800, but a $600 cap had been negotiated with the property owner.

“We consider that job a loss, but at that point, it’s more about helping the tenant than gaining a profit,” Parsons says. “If a tenant is in a tough situation like that, we’ll help them out even if the landlord doesn’t want to pay. My guys will stop their paid time and volunteer.”



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