Not every company has the capability or the capacity to clean two 1,000-foot-long, 48-inch sewer pipes with 18 inches of glass cullet sediment. But not every environmental company is Environmental Works, Inc. (EWI).
In late January, a field services team from EWI’s Kansas City office began cleaning two extensive, parallel sewer pipes near a manufacturing facility in Kansas. The sewer cleaning was done using a combo unit vac truck hooked up to a vac box. Two field technicians donned hazmat suits and harnesses, clipped on lifelines, climbed into accessible manholes along the sewer lines, descended to the sewer floors, and assisted with pulling the product to the air mover. One of the technicians handled the vac hose, while the other shoveled and loosened the sediment to be sucked up.
Above the manhole watching the technicians was a confined space rescue team and making sure the vac hose was intact and attached to the vac box was an operator and attendants.
“The rescue team was there to keep an eye on what was going on down there in the sewer,” said Mike Johnson, Field Services Supervisor and the on-site operator.
The job was challenged by the type of sediment being removed – glass cullet – which is glass that is crushed and ready to be remelted.
As it was being sucked through the vac hose, the highly abrasive material tore holes in and shredded the ADS vacuum hose. This meant that the team had to be attentive to any vacuum leaks that formed in the hose and had to repair the leaks or replace the hose immediately. This job especially fell on the operator, who could be seen wrapping the plastic hose with duct tape and replacing the ADS portions of hose with hard pipe whenever possible.
Johnson said it was the first time he had cleaned a sewer containing such abrasive material and commended his technicians for their hard work and attentiveness to the vac hose.
“We’d never cleaned a sewer or pipe with this type of material. It’s very abrasive and it heats through all the hard pipe and eventually will wear everything out. It’s just like shards of glass whistling through there. It will tear up the hose and pipe. We just have to replace as we go,” he said.
At 18 inches deep, the sediment in the sewer pipe was also much deeper than the team thought it would be.
“The depth turned out to be deeper than what they anticipated,” Johnson said. “They thought it would be 8-10 inches of sediment, but it was more like 18 inches.”
The significant amount of sediment made for a lot of landfill runs. Johnson said that after four days, the team had taken five full roll off boxes to the landfill.
Currently, the estimated yardage is at 600 cubic yards of sediment removed.