Thanks for doing an important job

Sewer cleaning contractors and municipal maintenance professionals deserve recognition

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Whether you’ve been directly affected by it or not, most of you are probably aware of the cleanup efforts on the East Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The super storm left many communities devastated, and ongoing recovery projects are far from complete.

I’m insulated in my office here in northern Wisconsin, and it’s easy to feel removed from these situations with a 24-hour news cycle that skips from one tragedy to the next. We’re desensitized, and aside from texting a $10 donation to the Red Cross, it’s also easy to tell yourself there isn’t much you can do but wish these people the best. But Hurricane Sandy was different.

As the editor of Cleaner and Municipal Sewer & Water, I talk to the drain cleaning and hydroexcavation contractors who are doing everything they can to help the people and communities who are suffering. I talk to the municipal leaders who operate and maintain our water, sanitary and storm sewer systems. While I may not be directly impacted by the storm’s wrath, I have a great interest in those communities and the professionals who are literally bailing them out.  

I was lining up a story on the Jersey City wastewater utility when the storm hit. Jersey City suffered major damage. Water was everywhere and people were without power for several days. I put that story on hold for a while, knowing the people there have much bigger issues to deal with. The flood waters broke a long way from Wisconsin, and I can in no way understand the feeling of having everything I own float down the street, but I still felt a little bit more connected.

When I see photos of the cleanup effort, I find myself looking for company logos on the trucks, wondering if the workers are people I’ve talked to or written about. In a way, it’s like looking at an aerial photo of your town and trying to pick out your house, trying to find a known point of reference among the scattered and overturned pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. 

One thing is certain, the contractors and municipal maintenance professionals who are working long hours in brutal conditions to bring a little bit of normalcy back to people’s lives deserve recognition, just as the victims of this tragedy deserve to be more than a quickly forgotten report in the round-the-clock news cycle.

So, to all the cleaners and all the municipal utility people doing everything you can to restore order, I offer you my thanks. Yours is a job that doesn’t get enough of it, but it’s well deserved.


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