Wide variety of items get into city sewerage system

March 30, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

The opening is about three inches, but somehow people manage to stuff basketballs, boots, pop bottles and baby dolls through it.

"I see things that defy the laws of physics," said Mark Long, a plumber with Hugh Long Plumbing & Heating in Danville. In Long's 26 years as a plumber, he said that he has seen "just about anything anyone can drag into the bathroom."

But, when the toilet flushes the contents don't just go away. In fact, contrary to popular belief, there is no such place as "away." The combs, cans of chew, phone cards and, yes, jeans and T-shirts, are squeezed into the city sewerage system, stopping up pipes, lift stations and wet wells.

In April, the city will spend several thousand dollars repairing propellers on a wet well that have been worn quickly by obstructions.


The bulk of sewerage is sent from commodes into the city's 100 miles of pipelines and carried by pumps to the treatment plant on the east end of the city. There, bacteria eat the sewage and excrete a kind of muddy substance called sludge.

It is dried, and, instead of filling up the landfill, Danville puts it on its farm. Hay is grown on 64 acres, but for health reasons can't be used. Farming the land helps keep rates low and saves the city almost $100,000 every year, said Earl Coffey, city engineer.

Stoppages are costly

What is costly is fishing out stoppages. Ronnie Wilkinson, city employee, said that some of the most common foreign objects in the city's lines are coins, jewelry and doll heads. Some of the stranger things seen by city employees were a dead opossum on Maple Avenue, a prison uniform and some really big snakes.

Retail stores have problems with packaging that shoplifters try to stuff down the toilet to hide.

"Some people don't care, especially if it isn't their toilet," he said.

Long has pulled out pieces of old boots. He figures shoplifters have tried to cut up their old boots and put on the new boots to walk out of the store.

"Cans of snuff, phone cards, car keys, diapers. You name it - it gets in there," he said.

Shopping bags, diapers create difficult problems

Some of the more difficult problems are caused by plastic shopping bags and diapers. The bags can get snagged in a pipe and then create a balloon, stopping up the pipes as good as a plug. Even small diapers can cause problems because they expand, as a diaper is designed to do, and inflate with water.

Long said that the newer toilets only flush 1.6 gallons of water a day. Law decreased the toilet design from 3.5 gallons to save water. But, Long said, the newer toilets just don't flush like the old ones.

He knows it first hand, with three kids, Long said that unstopping the toilet is "almost a daily ritual."

Central Kentucky News Articles