Lights, camera, sewage

November 23, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

Whenever toilet paper and raw sewage bubble out of manholes in front of a house, the solution starts at the treatment plant.

Danville City Engineer Earl Coffey said that it can be fixed at the manhole, but doing so would be like putting a bandage on an open chest wound. Instead, the city has to work backward, from the treatment plant through the pump stations, trunk lines and, finally, the sewerage lines in front of homes.

When someone complains about sewage, the city sends out a TV crew. Todd Conger and Jerry Gooch come out in a white truck with their camera. It's about two feet long and is designed to crawl inside the lines.

Inside the truck, Gooch watches the images the camera takes on a TV screen. He can tell if there are leaks in the lines or tree roots blocking the pipes. Workers have a smaller camera that will crawl inside residential lines to tell if the problem is on the homeowner's property.


Gooch said when they investigate a complaint, about half of the time there is a blockage in the city lines, and half the time on the resident's side.

When they aren't investigating complaints, Gooch and Conger systematically check all of the lines around the city, mark the problems and fix the lines.

This is part of the city's ongoing maintenance of the sewerage system.

A mess in the '70s

In the 1970s, Danville's sewer treatment plant was in such bad shape that 1 million gallons of raw sewage was going into Clark's Run Creek every day. The system was a hodge-podge of pump stations, and Danville was being forced by the state to fix the problem or be prosecuted.

In 1979, the city started to work on the biggest problem, the treatment plant. It built the plant on Stanford Road so that it would be downstream of Danville. It's best, Coffey said, when gravity can bring sewage from homes to the plant.

At that time, there were 32 pump stations in the city. The stations pump sewage from a lower elevation to a higher one because sometimes geography makes it impossible to use gravity. There were some cases, however, when pump stations were installed unnecessarily.

By 1982, 28 pump stations had been eliminated.

When someone takes a shower or flushes the toilet, the waste water goes down the sewage line at the house into the city's line. The water in these smaller lines meets and collects at larger trunk lines. There are four in Danville, each in one of the watersheds: Spears Creek, Clark's Run, Ball's Branch and Mock's Creek. The water in the trunk lines is then pumped to the treatment plant.

The trunk lines are sized to keep up with 20 years of growth.

Four remaining pump stations

The four remaining pump stations also needed work to be able to keep up with the volume of wastewater. The one at Spear's Creek, on Ky. 33 off of Ky. 2168, has been resized to carry more than 7 million gallons of sewage a day.

The Clark's Run station at the end of Ky. 52, and the Mock's Creek station on Ky. 33 are set to be updated by 2006. Design has already started to fix the Ball's Branch pump station in Junction City.

Fixing the pump stations will limit sewage backups in manholes, but it won't eliminate the problems. Pump stations are mechanical and can fail. Sometimes tree roots or grease can block the sewage lines and force water up the manholes.

Coffey said that once all of the pump stations are fixed, Danville will have a system that other cities its size will envy.

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