THANK YOU TO OUR SEWER SYSTEM TECHNICIANS!
By Bob Swirsky
Happy winter everyone, it’s December 28, 2021, we are in a pandemic resurgence and Chicago just got the first measurable snowfall of the season, which breaks the previous record for the latest snowfall ever recorded since recording began in 1909. This follows a spring and summer where rainfall was sporadic and below the usual average. It appears the pattern of weather extremes is here to stay. The cycle of drought and then severe wet weather makes the operation of a sanitary sewer system that has a substantial amount of public mainlines and building sanitary sewer services dating back as far as 1904 very interesting. These severe wet weather events have a significant impact on the performance of the sewer system. The problems that the wet weather brings from inflow and infiltration of ground water into the system are possible basement backups and manhole overflows due to surcharging in the mainline. Prolonged draught can cause issues as well, flat or inconsistently pitched lines can benefit from some I&I because in these defective lines increased flow can help a scouring velocity to be achieved.
An annual cleaning program of the sewer system helps keep the sewer lines clear of these solids and obstructions in order to maintain the optimum flow and volume. Normally with the weather being so mild and having no snow until the end of December we would be caught up or ahead with our regular sewer system cleaning program. Being a small sanitary district and having no superfluous employees on the sewer system maintenance crew, the problem of executing a regular annual maintenance program as it is designed has been challenging during the pandemic. Most of the time all you can do is what absolutely needs to be done when not dealing with emergencies. The Downers Grove Sanitary District has a repair assistance program that allows us to do repairs to private building sanitary services that have qualifying defects. The operation of this program makes it necessary for our technicians to enter customer’s buildings and do inspections. As you can imagine a pandemic has made this process and other in person interactions challenging. It starts with the disturbing task of asking the customer that has applied for the program questions about the status of their heath and bodily functions. The technician then televises the customer’s sewer service line which in normal circumstances is not always pleasant but add to that the fact that it is being done during a pandemic and you can imagine the added stress for the technician. They are required to respond to emergency backup calls in all kinds of weather and at all hours of the day and night from customers that are not happy and are sometimes abusive. These technicians are the true ambassadors of the sewer system they are almost always able to relieve a customer’s anxiety and leave with the customer being informed and thankful. I have great admiration and appreciation for our sewer system technicians, they are unrecognized front line workers that do a difficult job each day and they have done a remarkable job during this pandemic.
We will be scheduling an Illinois section meeting to be held remotely in January, we will most likely need to discuss if the seminars being planned by the various committees can be held in person or not.
I am hopeful that the pandemic recedes and that we can all meet together in Madison in May.