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Finding a leak in yard under a tree....ughh!!

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apache23

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My neighbor has a water leak after the meter under a 20ft, 10 year old tree. The main line is copper and was installed 37 years ago. He first noticed the leak seeing water run across the sidewalk, which is about 15 ft from the tree and the yard slopes towards the sidewalk, so the tree is about 1 ft or so higher than the sidewalk. Since I couldn't tell where the water was coming from, I turned the water off at the meter and hooked my air compressor up to an outside faucet nearest the leak and put 50 psi through the system. The sound was the loudest almost at the property line to the left of the tree where I dug the 3 holes. But that's about 5 ft off of where the main line would be at if it were to run straight up towards the house and not at an angle like it looks coming out of the meter. I guess my main question would be, would they run a main line at an angle or did they correct the pipe's angle and run it straight towards the house? Is there an easy way to find copper pipe that's 24" deep in heavy clay soil? It's been leaking for at least 10 days because we had to wait for utilities to get marked. Sure wish the water dept. would have came and marked the line for us...lol. And btw, there is no sprinkler system or anything else, so the main goes directly into the house. Below is an eerily accurate photo of the yard and my works so far...lol!....yeah.....not an artist in the slightest....
 

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breplum

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Leak locating companies sometimes can find a leak, but cost a lot in many areas. They also have metal detectors to determine path.
Usually, mains are straight unless there is something blocking or if the target entry point doesn't line up so that question's answer is meaningless.
 

RS

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My wife can find underground water lines with 2 pieces of copper wire, I'll have her fly her broom over and help you!
 

havasu

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Sometimes it is best just to dig a new trench and install a new incoming main line, WAY around the tree, then discard the old line.
 

apache23

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Leak locating companies sometimes can find a leak, but cost a lot in many areas. They also have metal detectors to determine path.
Usually, mains are straight unless there is something blocking or if the target entry point doesn't line up so that question's answer is meaningless.
I agree that they usually go straight and that's what I told my neighbor. In fact, I've never seen any lines traveling at an angle from the meter. I think this one is straight also.
 

apache23

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My wife can find underground water lines with 2 pieces of copper wire, I'll have her fly her broom over and help you!
I did make some dowsing rods, but unfortunately they were finding water everywhere because of the tree roots acting as canals. No comment on the broom thing....lol!
 

apache23

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Sometimes it is best just to dig a new trench and install a new incoming main line, WAY around the tree, then discard the old line.
This was my original plan, but my neighbor seemed to think we could find the line and fix it without spending the $200 for a trencher and $100 for materials. He had never dealt with a leak near a tree. He's finding out how hard it is to just "find" the leak.
 

apache23

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Something I found strange about this situation is there are two 3/4" PVC lines running parallel with the sidewalk, about 2ft from the house. These houses all have the copper lines under the slab, entering the houses near the utility rooms. There hasn't been a sprinkler system installed as far as he knows (he's lived there for 29 years). He says he remembers repairing one of these PVC pipes years ago, but has no idea what they are for.
 

apache23

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Leak locating companies sometimes can find a leak, but cost a lot in many areas. They also have metal detectors to determine path.
Usually, mains are straight unless there is something blocking or if the target entry point doesn't line up so that question's answer is meaningless.
Something else I should add is that not only are my drawing skills a pathetic attempt at art of any kind, they also lack any sense of relativity in the objects I sketched. The water meter is actually more in line with the left corner of the house, so if the line were straight, it would meet the house at it's left corner, not more towards the middle as shown. I don't even attempt to draw accurately anymore, because it just ends up worse that way...lol.
 

apache23

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After digging several more holes and not getting anywhere, my neighbor agreed to my original plan. So Monday morning we are going to rent a trencher, tie into the main line near the sidewalk and run PEX pipe around the tree and back to the main near the house. Before digging all the holes and wasting 3 days, I told him how unpredictable can be to find a water leak near a tree. The soil is also red clay, so in my experiences, that has made leak locations near trees even harder.
 

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