When it comes to keeping municipal sewer systems “regular” and free-flowing, something more powerful than Drano is needed.
Meet the city’s “combination sewer cleaner” – a specialized truck equipped with a high-pressure water hose that blasts away blockages to make the system run more efficiently.
The city has three combination sewer cleaners, and they’re out working most days, said Levi Lloyd, director of city operations. But they’re expensive. A new Vactor truck costs the city $397,000 and is replaced every seven years, Lloyd said.
The high-pressure lines are equipped with nozzles designed by local manufacturer StoneAge Inc. tools to clean sewer pipes. The nozzle has holes in it for water to flow through – a couple facing at angles to spin the nozzle and cut through debris, and a couple facing backward to propel the nozzle and hose through the pipe.
Water is pumped out of the nozzle at 3,000 pounds per square inch, Lloyd said, enough force to cut through tree roots, grease clogs and flushable-wipe buildups.
“Nine times out of 10, it’ll get through blockages,” Lloyd said. “It cuts through obstructions and sends it downstream to the sewer treatment plant. We break that solid mass that’s clogging things up.”
The city provides its combination sewer cleaner to Fort Lewis College on a by-request basis, meaning that whenever FLC has a blocked sewage pipe, it calls the city and gets the equipment to the mesa, Lloyd said.
“If they have a blockage and they need us to come up, we would come up anytime,” Lloyd said.
The city and college are working on an agreement for the city to provide annual assistance to the college with its combination sewer cleaners, Lloyd said.
The plan is for the city to provide its equipment and services to the college, which FLC will pay for, to sweep every inch of sewer line the college owns for blockages. The whole process could take one to two weeks, Lloyd said.
The city will provide data it extracts from the sewer cleaning process to the college to help FLC have a better idea about the condition of its sewer lines.
“We have asked their assistance in evaluating our sewer lines,” said Jeff Miller, director of physical plant services at FLC. “There’s a very good relationship there.”