Matthew Moss from Pennsylvania and Tom Thompson from Ohio lower the robot into the sewer in the Pohick Stream Valley. Photo by Susan Laume / The Connection
Hikers and other users in the Pohick Stream Valley may have seen crews doing high-tech inspections of sewers in the county in the past few weeks. Emergency repairs such as sinkholes, collapses, and flooding from clogged pipes are safety threats to maintenance teams and the public. Regular line inspections reduce the frequency of emergency repairs.
The assigned crews use robotic equipment with television cameras to inspect the 3,000-mile-long Fairfax County pipes that make up the sewage management system. This newer process, known as “Inspect to Clean”, replaces the more expensive “Clean and Inspect” approach. Camera inspection allows crews to more easily identify parts of pipes that need attention before problems become an emergency without having to clear pipes that do not require maintenance.
The job requires the crews to open each sewer cover, check for harmful gases first, and then lower the camera-equipped robot attached to a cable into the 23-inch pipeline. A crew member must enter the opening to place the equipment. The robot then drives along the pipeline to the next entry and records a video of the pipeline. The recorded video is checked to determine the condition of the pipe when the robot is called. Identified problems are noted for repair.
Three-man contractor crews with support staff, such as the crew seen at work in Springfield, work on systems across the county and across the country, employing 14-day weeks with 4-day rest breaks. In fiscal 2018, The County inspected 201 miles and cleaned 502 miles of sewers to ensure unobstructed, maximum flow. Fairfax County has estimated $ 78.9 million to operate and maintain wastewater for fiscal 2020. The cost of the system is funded primarily by customers for the system, which covers 234 square miles of the 407 square miles of Fairfax County’s area. The district’s budget for the 2020 financial year provides for a 4.8 percent increase in wastewater service fees. about 28 cents extra per 1,000 gallons.
A reminder to citizens: do not put baby / disinfectant wipes, oil, or medication in sewer or drainage systems.
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