Sewer Separation and Education

Brownsburg is improving its collections system with regular maintenance, combined sewer separation, and a robust public outreach program.
Sewer Separation and Education
Bill Shaw Jr. and Steve Wyland empty the tank on their Vac-Con combo truck after cleaning a sewer line.

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Nothing would make Brownsburg (Indiana) Wastewater Facility Superintendent Kathy Dillon happier than if everyone in the town knew as much about the sewer system as she does.

And if that seems like an impossibility, take note of Brownsburg’s public education and communications program, which includes:

  • • Town Resident Academy program
  • • Door hangers
  • • Sewer camera demonstrations
  • • News articles
  • • Online messaging
  • • “Lift Stations 101” — a comprehensive effort to inform residents about neighborhood lift stations and keeping flushables out of the sewer system

“It’s important that our citizens know and understand their sewer system,” Dillon says. “We’re really big on being open and transparent. It’s part of our strategic plan.”

The system

Located 10 miles west of Indianapolis and growing rapidly, Brownsburg operates a collections system consisting of 100 miles of sanitary sewers, some combined.

The system includes 31 lift stations and a 1-million-gallon overflow facility. Dillon’s staff is also responsible for 120 miles of storm lines and catch basins, and two major pumping stations that feed Brownsburg’s 2.2 mgd (average flow) wastewater treatment plant. One of the pump stations has its own headworks, consisting of a pair of swirl concentrators to remove debris, a Muffin Monster auger grinder (JWC Environmental), mechanically cleaned Hycor bar screen (Parkson Corp.), and grit removal.

Six of the town’s wastewater staff are devoted to collections, and they are responsible for inspecting the infrastructure, televising and cleaning the sewers, responding to customer requests, and clearing storm grates.

“The summer storm events are definitely our busiest time,” says Dillon, who’s worked in wastewater for 24 years, 18 at Brownsburg. “During the winter, when it is more dangerous and difficult to conduct inspections and maintenance activities, we assist the street department with snow removal.

“The winter months also provide a time to review televising video and allow our team to categorize and prioritize the sewer lines needing additional repairs for the next budget cycle.”  

To evaluate the system, the Brownsburg team uses a truck-mounted camera system (Envirosight) to televise existing storm and sanitary sewers. Each camera operator is PACP, MACP and LACP certified or in the process of becoming certified.

In addition, Brownsburg purchased a second jet/vac truck (Vac-Con) in 2013 to augment its older 1999 vintage truck. “It provides us with a backup and allows the team to complete more preventive maintenance on both sanitary and storm infrastructures,” Dillon says.

“We generally use the older unit for tasks that are harder on the equipment — cleaning of storm lines and catch basins, as well as hydroexcavating tasks like locating utilities or assisting with water main repairs.”

Brownsburg also purchased a portable lateral camera unit (UEMSI Procam) in 2013 to help troubleshoot lateral lines. “The lateral camera often provides a clear picture of what the customer cannot see or struggles to understand,” Dillon says. “Once customers can see what is going on in the sewer line, they can better work with their private contractor to get the line functioning again.”

She says the lateral camera has helped speed repairing laterals and removing blockages, resulting in better use of staff time.  

Brownsburg’s goal is to televise 75,000 feet of sewer line and clean 100,000 feet a year, according to Dillon. “The goal is attached to our performance reviews and helps us do a better job,” she says, adding that the staff targets areas where there are concerns about roots, backups and larger-than-normal flows to lift stations.
Grease is another culprit, especially from food establishments. In fact, online listings show nearly 90 operating restaurants in the Brownsburg area.

“We have an awesome grease program,” Dillon says. “Our team of two plant operators conducts grease trap inspections throughout the year to protect the collections system. Right now we do one inspection per site per year, but that’s not enough. Ideally, we’d inspect four times a year.”

Pat Duncan supervises the grease program and does a superb job, according to Dillon. “He’s good about catching new food places and buildings that have large cafeterias.”

Brownsburg also guards against discharging what Dillon calls “trap decant” back into the grease trap. “We found that as the traps were being cleaned, the grease was liquid enough that a large amount was getting returned to the trap during the decant process,” she explains. While this requirement can be frustrating for some of the firms doing the cleaning, she says, it decreases the number of times traps need to be cleaned and allows the trap to function more efficiently.

Repair and replacement

Brownsburg is using cured-in-place pipe to reline about 2,000 feet of older sewer line a year, a process Dillon describes as less disruptive but expensive. “We’re committed to a four-year program, and we’ll see how it works out,” she says. Insituform and Reynolds Inliner (now known as Layne Inliner) have done the work.

Dillon says the system includes a lot of old clay tile, which can become clogged by roots. “We also watch for leaks after rain events, and TV to locate lines that are in worse condition and will make the biggest difference (in system operation),” she says. “We prioritize where to work first.”

The town is aggressively pursuing separation of sanitary sewers and stormwater lines, as well. The Tilden project, to be completed in late 2016, will separate 55 acres of combined area with the installation of a 48-inch storm line and minimize the number and volume of combined sewer overflows. Next, the Green Street improvement project will install storm sewers beneath a major street renovation.

In addition to repairing and replacing sewer lines, Brownsburg is preparing for future growth with a plan to expand its wastewater treatment plant.

“We have included screening of the sanitary flows coming from the west side of the community,” Dillon explains. “There currently is no removal for items such as baby wipes for this flow. We anticipate seeing a reduction in pump clogging and possibly regaining plant capacity as a result of adding the screening process.”
Communicating the action

Brownsburg makes sure its citizens and ratepayers keep up with all these developments through an effective communications program. “With the help of our communications director Annisa Rainey, we share different aspects of the wastewater profession with our customers,” Dillon says. “It’s a great opportunity for us to acquaint others about our profession.”

One of the highlights is something Brownsburg calls “Lift Stations 101.” Using a combination of different media, including the town’s website and Facebook page, Brownsburg lets people know what a lift station is and how it works. “It’s important that people understand what these utilities are in their backyard,” Dillon says.

“We tell them, ‘This is how you can help us. If you hear an alarm in your neighborhood, call us so we can respond before the backup gets to your house.’”

Lift stations are also covered in a new series of meetings with citizens called the Town Resident Academy. Three dozen area residents are participating in sessions with each of the town departments to learn about the current status and future direction of town services. The program consists of six two-hour sessions, stretching over a 12-week period.

“The wastewater department, joined by the stormwater coordinator and fleet maintenance superintendent, completed the second session of the academy last August,” Dillon says. “It was a great opportunity to meet a wide variety of community representatives and share the facility and everyday services that each of us provide. The questions they asked were amazing, as well as the ideas they shared with us.”

A number of questions had to do with flushables — an issue plaguing sewer systems across the country.

“I explained that there are many flushables that don’t really flush,” Dillon says. “Spokane, Washington, has a great video on flushables, using a settleometer-type device and mixing blades, and we linked to it. It’s an amazing visual of what breaks down and what stays together.”

The wastewater department also submits informative articles to the local newspaper, and uses its TV truck and camera system in its educational efforts, too. “We set up the truck in the work area and let people — especially students — navigate through a pipe system,” Dillon says. “They can operate the camera and zoom in and tilt to look at different angles.”

Finally, Dillon and her team always close an education program by showing off a collection of objects they have found in the sewer system. “We pass around a jar of what we call ‘sewer prizes.’ It brings smiles to people’s faces.

“It really amazes them and gets them thinking about how those items can even end up there in the first place.”


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