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America’s Excessive Use Of Wipes Causing More Sewer System Blockages

The Des Moines Metropolitan Waste Reclamation Authority reports that it spent an estimated $100,000 and deployed specialized sewer blockage-clearing trucks about thirty times, according to a report on Bloomberg.

Larry Hare, a Des Moines, Iowa wastewater management facility manager, says that sewer backups have risen by 50 percent. He links this to the increased flushing of sanitary wipes. Hare says, “ We have always experienced this problem but it hasn’t been as challenging as it is now.”

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, sanitary wipes have become popular, with consumers using them to wipe doorknobs, counters, and other high-touch points to curb the spread of the virus. However, the blockages or fatbergs they cause when flushed results in costly headaches.

Almost all cities in the U.S are facing the same problem, and local authorities are spending more money to fix fatbergs of congealed waste clogs in sewers. To remove fatbergs successfully, wastewater reclamation facilities follow a sewer system maintenance process highlighted below.

Sewer system cleaning

Cleaning sewage systems in cities entails hydro-jetting or running water at a high pressure through sewer lines to eliminate accumulated debris, mostly grease, scale, and roots. While hydro-jetting effectively removes roots from sewer systems, wastewater reclamation authorities apply a mechanical and chemical treatment. Using root saws and chemicals helps inhibit root growth in sewer infrastructures, resulting in reduced blockages. It’s important to note that wastewater management authorities clean sewer systems at least once after five years. However, regular cleaning is required in areas with a history of sewer problems.

Sewer inspection

The primary objective of sewer inspections is to identify pipe defects that cause obstructions, excessive deposits, and clogs. Inspections also help find the location of defects and determine the most appropriate solutions. Considering the nature of sewer components, crews rely on video cameras to perform visual inspections.

Visual inspection is often carried out after removing the blockages to evaluate the pipe conditions. With a pipe camera or borescope, maintenance contractors see defects on joints and bent segments of sewer pipes. Video pipe inspections are also necessary after the installation of new sewer lines. During video inspections, crews look for construction defects that may lead to leaks, obstructions, and excessive deposits.

Assessment of sewer infrastructure

Wastewater reclamation crews are required to note down any deficiencies they notice on sewage components during cleaning and enter the data in an asset management system. This data helps analysts evaluate the overall conditions of sewer systems, especially manholes and pipes in a specific city or town. Analysts also use the details on the asset management system to optimize schedules for cleaning and inspecting sewer lines.

Visual inspections come in handy, as they provide a basis for assessing sewage systems and help crews determine where video inspections are necessary. Information collected using pipe inspection cameras helps analysts develop long-term cleaning, rehabilitation, and repair strategies for sewer systems.

Maintaining sewer systems in good working conditions is crucial to avoid blockages that often result in overflows. One way to prevent sewage stoppage is by discouraging flushing of sanitary wipes and other items that don’t break down in the water, like toilet paper. It’s also essential for municipalities to prioritize sewer cleaning, inspections, assessment, and repairs.