Municipal Pipe Cleaning
Sewer systems and storm drains are wonders of modern infrastructure. Many, many years ago, cities had open sewers where waste flowed through open canals on city streets. Today, we transport our waste underground in large pipes. Sewer pipes are essential to modern plumbing.
In fact, even our storm water now flows underground to nearby and pre-planned retention ponds that are built into neighborhoods, toll roads, highways, and even businesses.
Every time you flush a toilet, use a sink, or take a shower, you create liquid waste of various chemicals (including soap scum) that have to be transported and treated. You could just flush it into a septic tank, but these tanks require maintenance and come with a host of other issues. It's important to manage our waste because of the odor, the bacteria it contains, and the dangerous chemicals that could affect the environment.
You probably know that wastewater gets treated at a wastewater treatment plant, and it gets there by way of a sewer main. But how it gets to the treatment plant is a vital part of the maintenance issue facing municipalities.
While sewers have their own sets of debris, anyone who has lived in Florida long enough to endure at least one major hurricane knows that our storm drains also absorb a great deal of debris as well. As a result our storm drains need to remain free-flowing as well in order to keep up with the needs of our cities and municipalities.
Pipes or drain lines carry waste from a home or building to the sewer main, which often runs beside the road or under it. These main lines carry the sewage to the wastewater plant. The system uses gravity to keep the waste flowing along If your house is below the elevation of the waste station, pump stations are located in strategic spots along the way to collect the sewage from lower elevations and pump it up to the needed height so that it can continue on.
Because there are miles of sewer line, along the way, manholes are located as access points to get to the sewer main in case there is an issue. Common issues include blockages from grease, food scraps from a garbage disposal, flushable wipes, and tree roots. Debris can also cause issues in sewer lines.
Cities and municipalities have a hard time maintaining their sewer system. When it comes to dealing with the system having a blockage or a broken pipe, municipalities have a more complicated job. It's not as easy as dealing with residential or commercial plumbing issues.
When a city faces pipeline issues, dealing with traffic, pedestrians and businesses can translate to more time and costs than bargained for. But before a city gets to the repair stage, maintaining and servicing the sewer system can prevent a lot of these issues.
To deep dive into the complications of maintaining a sewage system, there are quite a few parts to it. First, you have the upper lateral, which is also called the sanitary lateral. This lateral line runs from a house or building to the property line. From the property line, the lower lateral runs to the main line. These two laterals together make up the sanitary sewer.
The sanitary sewer system carries waste to the water treatment plant. This whole system is the collection system, which also includes catch basins and storm drains where storm water drains to. Catch basins aren't used in modern systems anymore.
Municipal sanitary sewer collection systems are an extensive, valuable, and complicated part of a city's infrastructure. To recap, collection systems consist of pipelines, conduits, pumping stations, and all other facilities used to collect waste from residential, industrial, and commercial sources and transport it to the treatment plant.
The proper functioning of these waste systems is among the most important factors responsible for the general level of good public health we have in the United States. Members of the general public take a well-operated wastewater collection system for granted, since they aren't aware of its design and technical workings.
The general population expects these systems to function effectively at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. As you can see, the sewer line maintenance division of public works has a lot to keep up with.
Common Issues with Storm Drain and Sewer Lines
Since maintenance is very important for keeping our sewer lines flowing, here are some common problems that occur with sewer system:
- One big problem can be tree roots. Because roots seek moisture, they will find the tiniest hole or crack and push through. Roots will either block the line or create more cracks or both.
- A second problem is cracked pipes. As stated, tree roots can work their way into a pipeline and create more cracks. Cracks also happen due to corrosion. Corrosion develops from the hydrogen sulfide found in the waste.
- Blockages are a big problem in sewer lines. Grease, wipes, toilet paper, and whatever your two-year-old has flushed down the toilet are common reasons for blocked pipes.
Inspecting Storm Drain and Sewer Lines
Whenever there is a storm drain or sewer backup, flow issue, or other problem, the problem needs to be located and dealt with. To locate the blockage or break, a TV inspection or CCTV inspection may be used. This process involves using a robotic camera to see inside the storm drain or sewer pipes.
It's one of the most reliable methods to determine defects in the sewer, and it's used to figure how to fix them. It uses cameras operated by remote control to capture high-quality videos and pictures of internal pipe conditions.
There are quite a few reasons for a TV inspection, but three big reasons are to pass an EPA sewer pipe inspection, selling your home, and for locating existing issues and potential problems. CCTV inspections can aid in maintenance of the system.
Another service that can be performed to help locate leaks or cracks is called smoke testing. Smoke testing is simply explained as artificially produced smoke being forced into a blocked off pipe in the sewer line. While under pressure, the smoke will fill the main line plus any connections.
If the storm drain or sewer is in good condition then the forced smoke will emerge from manhole lids along the line and house vents on the roofs. If the line has defects, the smoke will find the leak and escape through it, quickly revealing the source of the problem.
Storm Drain & Sewer Maintenance Pro Tip
An important maintenance tip for the municipalities to follow is to clean the storm drains and sewer main and other lines on a regular basis, To keep the pipes functioning properly, a sewer system needs a cleaning schedule. There are several traditional cleaning techniques used to clear blockages and to act as preventative maintenance tools.
Municipal Pipe Cleaning
Inspection and testing are the methods used to gather information about the storm drain and sewer systems in order to develop maintenance programs. It's important to ensure that storm and waste-water collection systems serve their intended purpose.
These three testing and maintenance methods, a cleaning schedule, a smoke test, and a TV inspection are examples of preventative maintenance. Maintenance exists to assure that when a problem is found, it's taken care of before it has a chance to get out of hand.
The Division of Sewer Maintenance is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the city’s sewer system. They operate and oversee the wastewater system, which is the flow of waste from your home, through the sanitary sewer system, to the water treatment plant. There are miles of storm sewer pipe that collect the rainwater, and send it to our rivers. There is also miles of sanitary sewer line that takes the waste to the water treatment facility.
Maintenance requirements vary with the type of sanitary sewer a municipality may have. In general, all sewers deteriorate with age, but infiltration and inflow are problems unique to sanitary sewers since both combined sewers and storm drains are sized to carry these contributions.
Infiltration is groundwater that seeps into sewer lines through cracks, holes, or joint failures. Inflow is stormwater that rapidly flows into a sewer by way of downspouts, foundation drains, and through holes in manhole covers.
When groundwater and stormwater (infiltration and inflow) enter city collection systems, wastewater facilities become less efficient and systems become stressed. The extra water can also cost a city money. Money can be saved with proper service and maintenance of the main line.
Since our wastewater collection system is divided into the private and public sector, maintenance by homeowners is important and expected. For maintaining a home's system, first, pay attention to where trees are planted. Tree roots are a common issue for drain lines. For mature trees, a trained plumber will know how to trim roots without damaging the tree.
Investing in a professional drain line cleaning from a plumber is always a good idea. Grease and oil can build up in your pipes. Food waste can also get trapped in the lines. By spending a little on clearing out build-up, you avoid costly repairs. Keep in mind that should these things make it past the lower lateral to the main line, it now can clog the city's pipes and it becomes part of their maintenance issues.
Consistent and thorough maintenance of the collection system will enable the system to serve its stated life. Preventive maintenance should be practiced by Public Works. Monthly grease flushes, cleaning catch basins, flushing sanitary and storm sewers, and regular street cleaning can be a part of a city's maintenance program. Fortunately, there exists today properly designed, constructed, operated and maintained collection systems that can serve as examples of how the job should be done.
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