Janesville39.4°

City uses robotic camera to keep ahead of clogged pipes

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Marcia Nelesen
October 15, 2012

What is it? A city of Janesville truck takes video and pictures of the insides of sewer pipes as part of ongoing city maintenance.

Crews thread a camera through pipes to spot trouble spots, such as roots growing into the pipes or deteriorating pipe.

The city has a camera truck; a jetting truck, which uses water to clear pipes; and a truck with rodding equipment with a rotating cutting head.

The city also contracts during the winter months with a private company that has an even better camera and can get farther into the laterals along streets that are included in the city's yearly street rehab programs.

"What we have challenged ourselves with, let's use the tools that we have to be able to expand what the contractors are doing," said Craig Thiesenhusen, superintendent at the wastewater utility. "We have this really nice camera truck that does the same thing the contractors do."

What's new: Proactive efforts to maintain the system and protect homeowners from sewer backups.

Many people are surprised to learn they are responsible for the upkeep of the lateral pipes that lead to their homes from the mains, Thiesenhusen said. The length of a lateral varies, depending on how far back a house is set from the road and where the sewer main is located in the street.

In the past, workers knocked on a homeowner's door if they spotted problems with a lateral, Thiesenhusen said.

Now, staff is creating general education materials to make residents aware of their responsibility.

Staff will also give residents proactive information about their pipes to avoid future problems for both laterals and the mains.

"When a homeowner has a backup, the main can be fine," Thiesenhusen said.

"But you've got this big root ball in their lateral. That's something that they need to address."

Meanwhile, residents should be aware that one major cause of backups is in their control.

"Most people don't understand that when you're done frying up a hamburger, you don't dump the grease down there because it's going to cause a problem," Thiesenhusen said. "It could be an expensive problem for you to take care of."

The camera often shows grease built up at the "Y" going into the main, he said.

"It (grease) just doesn't magically disappear … It's potentially hanging up in your lateral."


 

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