A Sewer Story

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A Sewer Story, March 9th, 2020
In 1976 I was working days for a sanitary sewer camera company.
At night I was going to Airframe & Powerplant mechanic school in
West Seattle.
But during the day I worked for this sewer firm that was using TV
cameras to examine the sanitary sewers of Edmonds, Washington
looking for leaks. Leaks cause excess water to flow into the sewer
pipes which adds to the load at the sewage treatment plant to treat.
And it rains a lot in Edmonds, WA.
So I’d go down the manhole and the rebar rungs of the ladder to
place the tubular camera cylinder into the 8” in diameter sewage
pipe. The cable from the TV camera went to the van above where the
TV monitor showed the inspector the condition of the pipe.
The camera had a rope on its back end along with the video cable.
To get the camera to flow downstream to the next manhole cover, a
parachute was set in the sewage, by me, to drag the camera forward
and downhill with the flowing sewage. When someone in the
neighborhood did a load of laundry, we were golden.
Then when the camera made it to the next manhole. I’d go down the
rungs again and retrieve the camera. Oh, the things you see flowing
by in a sanitary sewer, not to mention the smells.
After the camera went through, I’d set a smoke bomb at the bottom
of the manhole and a fan would be placed over the top of the
manhole to see where the connections to the sanitary sewer were.
You would be surprised by how many rain gutters had smoke
coming out of them. This was a major no-no. Storm water was NOT
supposed to go down the sewage drain system. Those folks were
fined and made to change their drainage systems.
After about six weeks, they laid me off because the job was done,
but then they called me back to work.
I said, “NO.” I just couldn’t go down into those smelly sewers again.
But at lunch in Edmonds the crew told me a sewer story:
It was at a new development and so the sewer lines were clean and
unused. There was a very tall manhole of thirty feet sitting in the
development with no dirt around it as it hadn’t been filled in yet.
At the bottom of that thirty foot high concrete cylinder were two
men working on the 8” sewer line going in and out of the tower.
Suddenly the tower collapsed and the two men dove headfirst into
the 8” sewer line openings. One at one end and one at the other, so
they could breathe.
The two men lay there covered in rubble for sixty minutes breathing
through that 8” sewer pipe. Clean though it may be, it must have
been a frightening experience.
Life in the sewers.
TJM

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2 thoughts on “A Sewer Story

  1. Oh man, no thanks. As a kid, my buddies and I explored a few sewers, once was enough. The city had decided to tear up our neighborhood to install storm sewers, seems like they would go down twenty feet. There would be turds and colorful toilet paper floating past now and then. Remember you could buy just about any color TP? Wipe your bottom with dioxin !!! The EPA killed that lol

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    1. I forgot about the colored toilet paper. Storm sewers weren’t too bad. But those sanitary sewers were not sanitary. The city inspector for Edmonds came down with hepatitis from cutting his hand on the rebar ladder rungs. I always wore gloves.

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