Winter Easement Maintenance Essential to a Healthy Sanitary System

 Kent Newton- SDD Executive Director
December 2023


With another winter season upon us in central Illinois, the Sanitary District of Decatur (SDD) is gearing up for a crucial season of maintenance. Ever wonder why those easements on your property need special attention, especially during the winter?

Winter prompts us to think about less glamorous aspects of infrastructure, and the Sanitary District of Decatur (SDD) turns its focus to ensuring our wastewater systems weather the chill. Specifically, the focus is on property easements – those designated zones on private property are crucial for sewer infrastructure. This month’s blog is about our meticulous winter efforts and why it’s not just routine maintenance.

Why the Fuss about Easements?

The objective of maintaining property easements is to prevent sewer overflows, a problem that can result from a lack of routine inspection and cleaning. Regular easement maintenance is part of the District’s requirements set by state and federal laws to ensure that all sewage remains contained. This is a fundamental service provided by SDD to adhere to regulatory standards and maintain a functional wastewater system. Easement maintenance allows the District access to maintenance holes to inspect the underground sewers with cameras and clean the pipes on a regular basis.

Clearing the Path: Trees, Plants, and Winter Prep

The removal of trees and plants from easements isn’t merely an aesthetic decision. It is a strategic move to maintain unhindered access to sewer lines. Root infiltration is a common cause of sewer issues, and SDD’s proactive clearing ensures timely access for routine maintenance and emergency response. The clearing process also minimizes the risk of sewer water overflow onto private property, mitigating potential environmental impact. Doing this work in the winter allows District staff to have a better view of the ground conditions, reduce the amount of debris removal and avoid environmental hazards such as insects and poisonous plants.

Replanting considerations post-clearance are pragmatic, focusing on erosion control rather than reintroducing deep-rooting vegetation. This approach aligns with the primary goal of continued access for maintenance while balancing environmental concerns.


Behind the Scenes of Easement Maintenance

SDD maintains approximately 100 miles of underground pipeline, necessitating an organized approach. Our recently submitted Capacity, Management, Operations, and Maintenance (CMOM) plan mandates yearly inspections of easements on private property. The goal is to identify and address any impediments that may affect the functionality of the sewer system.

The use of technology, such as drones, is under consideration for above-ground inspections, enhancing the efficiency and accuracy of assessing easement conditions. This integration aligns with a systematic approach to easement maintenance, ensuring that areas are cleared of excess growth before pipeline inspections occur.


The Bottom Line

These and other winter efforts of the Sanitary District of Decatur in maintaining property easements are not rooted in aesthetics but in strategic adherence to legal requirements and operational necessities. The clearing of easements, especially in winter, is a proactive measure to prevent sewer overflows, minimize environmental impact, and ensure efficient wastewater infrastructure that helps prevent catastrophic and costly breakdowns saving ratepayers money.  SDD’s focus on systematic inspections and maintenance is driven by a commitment to regulatory compliance and the sustained functionality of the community’s wastewater systems.

Example of easement after maintenance