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Posted on: February 12, 2018

City Minute - The VacCon Sewer Truck & Sewer Maintenance

VacCon sewer Truck

With the purchase of a used VacCon sewer truck, several customers have asked questions about how the truck will be utilized and why it is needed.   The City Public Works Department is responsible for the yearly maintenance to the sanitary sewer system. 

What makes up the sanitary sewer systems?  This system is made up of 118,625 feet of sewer mains, 365 manholes and 4 lift stations.   Everything that is flushed down toilets and sinks goes to the sanitary sewer main, including waste water from water-based appliances such as dishwashers and clothes washers.  The sanitary sewer main carries this waste to the wastewater treatment plant where it is treated before being discharged.  Manholes are access points to the sanitary sewer.

What is the process for cleaning the sewer main? The VacCon sewer truck will be used to clean our sewer main.  No chemicals are used in sewer main cleaning. High pressure water is used to loosen debris and flush pipes. A high-powered vacuum on the VacCon sewer truck removes debris from the pipe and it’s transported to the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant for processing and disposal. 

Sewer main cleaning helps prevent blockages and backups by removing build-up in the mains including tree roots, grease, grit and sand. This important maintenance work keeps our sewer mains flowing, reduces the potential for nuisance odors and helps protect our infrastructure.  Sewer main cleaning is also done for inspection work that provides information on the condition of our sewer mains so necessary maintenance can be done. 

What can our customers expect during cleaning? 

Toilets, sinks and other appliances can still be used during cleaning.

Customers might experience air pressure in the sewer that can create noise in sewer pipes and possibly cause water to splash out through toilets, sinks and drains. This is referred to as blowback.  Keeping toilet lids closed, and sink drains plugged when not in use will help avoid spills. 

Sewer cleaning can also create short-term nuisance odors. Odors can be cleared by opening a window for a few minutes, running water down drains, flushing toilets, and pouring a pail of water into basement floor drains. 

What can our customers do to assist in this process?  Occasionally adding water to sink and floor drains to prevent sewer gases from entering your homes.  Also checking your plumbing vents each spring and fall for blockages (e.g. bird nests or leaves).    You can also help keep the City’s and your home’s sewer pipes free from blockages by using sinks and toilets properly.  Don’t use your toilet or sink as a garbage can. Dispose of garbage, household hazardous waste, medications and all food items, especially grease and oil, properly.

Don’t flush those “flushable” products!  Flushable wipes and other such products don’t biodegrade and can lead to blockages in sewer pipes.  The City of Phillipsburg learned this lesson the hard way last year.  Those products cannot pass through the lift station pumps which causes the pumps to plug and burn up.  This was the case last spring when the city went through five pumps in three months which cost our taxpayers approximately $5,500 to rebuild each pump.

We hope this information increases the awareness on the importance of keeping our sewer infrastructure in top condition.  Following the simple guidelines will help keep our taxes and sewer rates in check by helping preserve the City’s sanitary sewer infrastructure.  Please share this information with your friends and neighbors. 

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