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Why Clean Sewers?

Common to municipalities around the world is the need to maintain a clean and sanitary environment suitable for humans to live and work. This responsibility includes providing a system for efficiently moving both wastewater (sewage) and storm water along with the solid materials through a collection system from the source to an environmentally safe place of treatment and disposal.

A wastewater collection system is typically a network of pipes, manholes, cleanouts, traps, siphons, lift stations and other required structures to collect all the wastewater from an area and transport it to a treatment plant or disposal system. Some systems are “combined systems” which are designed to collect both sanitary wastewater and storm or surface water runoff.

Stoppages are caused by obstructions in the pipe, such as roots, grease, debris, broken pipe or a joint failure. Partial or complete interruption of the flow may result from an obstruction in a sewer. When a stoppage occurs, material will backup and eventually overflow the system up to the point of the blockage. Streets, homes, and businesses can be damaged from the debris as well as fresh water resources. Human health is threatened with unsanitary conditions and the spread of germs and disease.

Sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) is a condition whereby untreated sewage is discharged into the environment prior to reaching sewage treatment facilities. The main causes of SSO are:

  • Infiltration/Inflow of excessive stormwater into sewer lines during heavy rainfall
  • Rupture or blockage of sewerage lines
  • Malfunction of pumping station lifts or electrical power failure
  • Human operator error at treatment plant facilities.
  • SSO is distinct from a combined sewer overflow (CSO), a similar problem of untreated sewage discharges, but which occurs only in a municipal system specifically designed with a combined sewer.

    Stormwater run-off often carries gravel, sand, leaves and other street debris. This material often runs down the system after it has rained, creating build up within the storm sewer system. When the rainwater can no longer flow down a system because pipes and culverts are blocked, streets will become flooded which creates hazardous or impassable travel conditions.

    The best way to keep a sewer or storm system working properly is to perform routine inspection and cleaning. The objective of a Sewer Cleaning and Maintenance Program is to operate and maintain the wastewater collection system so it will function as well as:

  • Minimize the number of stoppages per mile of sewer pipe
  • Minimize the number of odor complaints
  • Minimize the number of lift station failures
  • Maintain intended flow in the system
  • Protect fresh water resources.

  • Systems around the world vary in many details. Type of material for the pipe, shape, size and location all differ. Regardless of these variables these systems must be routinely cleaned to ensure safe, consistent movement of the material.