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Sewer line problems on decline in city

City officials credit sanitary system upgrades and education.


Dayton crews last year responded to fewer reports of blockages and overflows in the wastewater system and flooding in people’s basements.

Unwanted sewer-related events are becoming less common as the city spends millions of dollars improving and replacing part of its wastewater collection system and steps up efforts to educate the public about harmful disposal practices.

Sewer backups and clogs can lead to expensive repairs, property damage, fines for environmental violations, unpleasant odors and pollution in local waterways, officials said.

“This impacts the health and welfare of the community, and we want to minimize it as much as possible,” said Michael Powell, Dayton’s interim director of the water department.

Last year, the city of Dayton responded to seven reports of sanitary sewer overflows, 39 reports of water intrusion in basements and 66 reports of sewer mainline stoppages, according to Dayton’s work order data.

Compared to the prior year, overflows were down 68 percent, water intrusions fell 43 percent and stoppages decreased 33 percent.

Overflows occur when the untreated contents of the sanitary sewer discharge out of the underground infrastructure before reaching the treatment facility. Sewage often surfaces at manholes once the pipes get clogged or overwhelmed.

Water-in-basement events typically result from internal plumbing problems after downspouts flood the wastewater systems, officials said.

Big rains or rapid snowmelts make these events more likely. The sanitary collection system can be overrun by storm water that is fed in through downspout connections.

And sewer backups commonly arise because of cracking and breaks in the pipes caused by tree roots, age-related deterioration and construction work, according to experts.

Lines also get blocked by items and materials flushed down the toliet or sent down the drain, such as grease and cloth.

Last week, Dayton crews responded to a clogged sewer line that was impacting several residential properties on the 1100 block of Salem Avenue.

Earl Foster, sewer cleaner crew leader, checked the line and removed a hunk of debris, grease, tissue paper and dryer sheets.

Sweeper cleaning pads, such as Swiffer, too often are improperly disposed of via the sanitary sewers, he said.

The cloth can collect grease in the pipes, and then the grease picks up other debris, creating a ball of gunk that can obstruct the pipes.

“Grease builds up and causes sanitary stoppages,” Foster said. “Don’t pour your grease down the sink or in your toilet — put it in a container, make sure it’s locked up tight, and put it in your trash.”

In 2013, London had to remove a 15-ton “fatberg” from its sewer pipes that was a combination of fat and wet wipes that caused major backups, according to CBS.

The city of Dayton has tried to be proactive to keep its sanitary system functioning correctly. The city has shared information on social media intended to educate citizens to not pour grease and oil down the drain.

The city cleans the pipes in all parts of its collection system every one to 1.5 years, which is far more frequent than the industry standard of once every three years, said Timothy Jones, the city’s supervisor of cleaning.

“When you do routine cleaning, you find stoppages that haven’t affected anybody yet,” he said.

Crews are on the lookout for inflow and infiltration, which occurs when water not designed for the system gets in through cracks in the pipes, deteriorated joints or holes caused by tree roots.

The cleaning trucks have products and attachments that can treat and remove grease and tree roots.

Aside from these efforts, the city hopes sanitary system upgrades will reduce problems.

The city has more than 765 miles of sanitary sewer piping.

In 2013, the city embarked on a 10-year asset management program in which it will invest about $160 million into its water distribution and wastewater collection systems.

The city’s goal was to replace about 7.5 miles of the wastewater collection system annually for 10 years.

The city has targeted pipes and areas for line upgrades that are prone to high inflow and infiltration issues.

The city will clean up and fix blockages in the public sewer system.

But people have to hire plumbers on their own when blockages occur on private property and is clearly related to improper disposal practices.


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