Soakwells are required by law in some Australian states to prevent the damage caused to property and public roadways by flash flooding and sudden, torrential downpours. If the concrete cover that seals the soakwell pipe is damaged, leaves and other debris can get into the soakwell, blocking it and causing excess water to overflow, rather than being carried safely away. This could mean that your garden is flooded every time there's a storm and excess run-off could find its way into the foundations of your home, causing serious structural damage.
So, what can you do? Unfortunately, this is not really a DIY job, but here are some possible solutions to the problem that you could discuss with your local contractor.
- Pressure jet One very effective solution is to use a high pressure jet wash. A special pipe is inserted into the soakwell pipe. Jets on the pipe's head are used to push the head forward into the pipe. When the pipe is pulled backwards with water running under high pressure, any blockage and debris in the pipe is flushed backwards. Although you could hire suitable pipework to carry out this procedure, a domestic water supply does not provide sufficient pressure and your contractor will come with a water tanker to do the job for you.
- Blow bag Another method of clearing blocked soakwells involves using a gadget commonly called a blow bag. The blow bag is attached to the end of a hose, which is inserted into the drain pipe. When the water supply is turned on, the bag swells inside the pipe, forcing a powerful jet of water out of the front. As the swollen bag effectively blocks the pipe, the water cannot backflow and under sufficient pressure the blockage is forced out of the other end of the pipe. For this method to be effective the pipe must be in good condition and any joints must be sound and not leaky.
- Dig up the pipe and fit a new one The final and least desirable option would be to excavate the blocked pipe, remove it and fit a new one. This will be necessary in the case of old, damaged pipes where the other methods outlined above haven't proved effective.
When your soakwell pipe has been cleared, check all grids to make sure that they are not cracked and fit mesh to prevent fallen leaves from entering the pipe. Cracked concrete pipe surrounds should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
If your soakwell pipe is blocked, one of the above solutions will clear it. Have a chat with your local contractor for more advice and information on clearing the blocked pipework and returning your soakwell to full, working order.