Color Before Digging

Sewer lines are marked green. Yellow signifies gas, and blue of course, water. I’ve seen blue plumbing trucks and green ones too. No wonder those PSE&G trucks are yellow and white.
Fall leaves decorated the sidewalk as I learned that colors are used to communicate for reasons other than a flag on sports fields and traffic signs and signals. But when Father Time allows Mother Earth to reclaim human markers, the sage advice Call Before Digging should flash in neon hues.
It didn’t.
The result: Learning enough about the sewage system in my 90-year-old house to satisfy any question a curious potty-training grandchild may ask.
More words of wisdom: “I don’t think this is a good place to plant the pine. Your plumbing might be under here.”
My response: “It’ll be okay. It’s just a seedling.”
Later: “You weren’t supposed to let the tree get so big.”
Later than that: Massive evergreen arms dripping with needles reached over our house in a hug. Living inside that embrace distracted me from realizing roots, hidden beneath, invaded our sewer line. The water main and sewage cleanout at the curb had disappeared below grass and clay soil so deep that even the plumbing companies couldn’t tell they were there until excavation, and after using a divining rod that looked like a metal detector. The green and blue markings added contrast to the townships’ yellow spry painted gas alerts.
What I also learned, $5,000 later:
·         Cast iron and terra cotta sewer pipes were set underground in sections 90 years ago.
·         Sewer pipes are now made of a heavy-duty PVC material cut to length so that tree roots can’t grow through seams.
·         You can see inside your sewer line using a lighted camera snake with a cool video screen.
·         Large plumbing companies can come out right away when you call them, even at 11:45 pm, so you can flush without being sorry.
·         Small plumbing companies are able to charge half of what a large company has to.
·         Some companies return for the tool they left behind, and some don’t.
Now, tree-less and color-coded, the front of our house looks like it did when we bought it almost 30 year ago. The freshly seeded mound of brown that used to be our front lawn most vividly reminds me to request utility coloring before planting. 



  1. Oh my gosh, Dawn, this is us with our terra cotta sewerage pipes, complete with the droopy pine tree planted over top. Now we have the PCV pipes in place and dirt adorns the front lawn...minus the full-grown pine tree and with a whole tree worth of leaves as a blanket. Hope things are better now.

    1. Really! Did it happen recently to you? Love how our lives match.

    2. It is amazing how many instances are matching as we recount our lives online. Our terra cotta pipes have been gone a few years now, but boy did my world stop when the pipes did.

  2. Oh my goodness, Dawn. I am so sorry this happened to you. Is everything okay now?

  3. That's a shame, Dawn. I know "excavation" work gets pricey. I wish you all the best with this.

  4. What a mess. Sorry this happened.


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