Life is filled with stories of success and failure. For journalists, life is just plain filled with stories. This issue features my first profile for MSW, a story detailing the success of the Stevens Point (Wis.) Wastewater Department in getting up to date on system maintenance and planning for future needs.
The department didn’t even have a collections crew before 2008. In four short years the department’s four-man crew has made great strides, cleaning the entire 140-mile system of sewer mains while repairing the most troubled areas. They’ve done all this without the benefit of up-to-date management and mapping software and without a huge stable of equipment. The department’s success has been based on good planning and efficient workflow.
The Thousand Oaks Wastewater Division is also accustomed to success. Public Works superintendent John Smallis and his crew continually strive to improve their system, looking for better solutions to the challenges they face. Root intrusion is one. Rather than continue to cut them by hand as they’d done for years, they sought out a different approach. They eventually turned to a combination of chemical foam and new jetting heads. A process that used to require six or seven passes through the line to remove roots now takes only one pass, and roots have been reduced significantly.
The department has also put a lot of effort into lining manholes and older pipes once they’ve been cleared of roots, measurably reducing inflow and infiltration. Because the area has pockets of high groundwater, the treatment plant would get a heavy inflow after rainstorms, and it would last a long time — trailing off for more than a month as the groundwater levels slowly subsided. With the improvements the department has made, initial flow now drops off within days, and the cost has been recovered by reductions in the treatment expense.
This issue holds yet another success story, that of Metro Water Services in Nashville, Tenn. After a massive rainstorm dropped 13.5 inches of rain on the city over two days in 2010, municipal officials were faced with the daunting task of cleaning up the wreckage from massive flooding that saw the Harpeth River peak 15 feet higher than its previous record and left semi trailers piled up below downstream bridges. Metro Water Services was also tasked with taking the necessary steps to ensure that the city would never experience another disaster of this nature.
Significant stormwater infrastructure repairs followed, including replacing culverts, cleaning sediment from stormwater inlets, and redefining ditches. They also developed green sites that incorporate irrigation and graywater harvesting, constructed wetlands, green roofs, bioretention areas, vegetated swales and other features to control stormwater. Several projects within this initiative have won numerous awards, and the city is now much better prepared to handle the next major storm.
All three of these stories highlight the great work being done by municipal sewer and water departments across the country. Perhaps you can learn from their successes and use their blueprints to make your own communities stronger.
Enjoy this month’s issue.
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