Sewer Solutions - Know Your Nozzles

Sewer Solutions - Know Your Nozzles

For pipeline cleaning professionals, fast and efficient water jetting is essential to maximizing profitability and the return on investment for the jetter. Yet many contractors fail to optimize jetting performance because they don’t understand the basics of two critical components: nozzles and tips.

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Preventing Waterjetting Injuries

You wouldn’t expect latex gloves to protect you from a gunshot. They won’t protect you from water-jetting accidents either. 

An OSHA article describing the dangers of high-pressure jetting notes, “High pressures can cause injuries similar to gunshot wounds, but have the added health hazard of involving contaminated water.” 

In pipeline-related industries, dangers are plentiful. Trenches, excavation, and confined spaces are often touted as the main concerns in risk management, but operators face another underestimated risk on a daily basis — cleaning with water under pressure. 

 “Injection injuries can happen at much lower pressures that are in use in drain and sewer applications. And that carries the risk of infection and tissue damage as well.  …Water injection injuries can appear minor but can cause serious health complications, even at pressures in the range of a consumer pressure washer or drain cleaner,”

says Peter Wright, association manager with the WaterJet Technology Association and Industrial & Municipal Cleaning Association. 

Despite being generally overlooked in terms of safety across the industry — due in part to a relatively low rate of injury when compared to working in trenches and the like — jetting is a concern simply because of how common it is. 

Lines are jetted for daily cleaning operations, inspections, and rehabilitation: With just about any work involving pipes, water jets are in play. 

 “Trying to get people to understand that you can get injured by a water jet strike is probably the most difficult bit to get across to people,” says Nick Woodhead, president of US Jetting. “We’ve got to start promoting safety.”

“I think people assume that hoses are not going to burst, and therefore, they are sort of immune. Or they’ve never seen a hose burst, or they’ve never seen a jet injury, so it doesn’t really register. People get complacent.” 

And it’s not just equipment malfunction that operators need to worry about. 

Case in point: Chad Unverzagt, the Indiana operator who was killed in 2012 during a routine sewer blockage. Unverzagt wasn’t killed by an exploding pipe or other malfunction — his hose got loose while the system was pressurized as he was attempting to retrieve it from the pipe. A momentary lapse in a job he’d done a thousand times before and for more than 30 years in the industry. 

With no protective gear, he didn’t stand a chance against the high-pressure water, which lacerated his neck, killing him before help could arrive. 

 “That’s more of an isolated incident, but it’s worth reminding people,” Woodhead says. “That’s why you’ve got to know what you’re working in.” 

A few months after that incident, Cleaner published another Safety First article, highlighting a new line of protective clothing from TST Sweden AB. Though the medium-pressure gear hadn’t reached enough awareness at the time to help Unverzagt, today, operators and their employers have fewer and fewer excuses for ignoring proper safety. 

“The safety gear is essential when you’re running a machine. So many people don’t wear anything,” Woodhead says. “We’ve got to try and get it across to people, it is worth investing in the kit to protect yourself. Even if you’re the operator and maybe the boss doesn’t want to spend the money; it’s worth investing in it, just as a precaution.” 

US Jetting has made it their practice to supply a pair of protective gloves to customers with the purchase of a jetting system, and it has encouraged other manufacturers to do the same. 

Other products like semiautomatic jetting systems give even more options for mitigating risk to operators. 

“OSHA says if there is safety gear available, the employers are bound to supply it,” Woodhead says. “Rather than have government regulation, we’d rather be self-regulated and have people understand (the dangers).” 

Beyond planning for the worst, simple common sense and following standard operating procedure goes a long way to ensuring safety. That includes checking the equipment before each job, performing the necessary maintenance, and assessing each job site before beginning any work. 

“It doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to do the cursory checks,” Woodhead says. “Once you’ve gotten to your location, you’ve got to do your due diligence. … Just scope out the job for 15 or 20 minutes while your tank is filling up.” 

To get you started, Wright offers a few quick tips to keep in mind: 

“Use a skid that will not allow the nozzle to turn around in the pipe or mark the end of the hose a distance from the nozzle to help indicate the location of the nozzle within the pipe. Ensure the system is depressurized before conducting maintenance or repairs. Ensure the nozzle is well inside the pipe before bringing the system up to pressure,” Wright says. 

It’s easy to oversimplify pipe cleaning, but when the pressure is on, there’s a lot operators can do to prevent accidents — it’s just a matter of knowing how and promoting safety whenever possible. 

“It’s definitely important to have respect for the power and the force of high-pressure water streams,” Wright says.


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Many of our Municipal Property Plan members own and operate their own Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants. Operating these plants can present challenges in providing routine plant maintenance, meeting growing population needs, staying in compliance with regulatory requirements and upgrading their outdated structures and equipment. Many have provided these upgrades and many more will soon need to do so. These upgrades can certainly impact values and leave your municipality exposed. Backup generators, upgraded or added pumps, electric control panels and SCADA systems are exposed to lightning and power outages. Buildings, fencing and lighting are exposed to hail and high winds and vandalism. 

 OMAG initiated an appraisal project on these plants in 2016 by partnering with a professional appraisal service and will be providing appraisal reports to all members currently insuring these plants. This is a five-year project scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2020. These professional appraisals will be provided as a value-added service at no charge to members. Our purpose in performing these appraisals is to be certain that you are provided an accurate replacement value for these structures and equipment.

To be properly insured, all structures at these plants need to be scheduled (listed) and valued separately at replacement value. City Administration and Plant Managers need to review all structures at these plants each year regardless of whether your municipality has experienced an upgrade.   

OMAG is here to assist you in any way we can. Please contact Underwriting Director Chris Webb, or Member Services Director Dorie Spitler, and let us help you review your coverage.     



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What is Wastewater?

We’ve all driven by those “wastewater treatment facilities” that are usually miles away from our city or town. You know the place even before you see it; many times in the summer you can tell where it is by following your nose. Have you ever wondered what happens at those facilities? Basically, dirty water is cleaned and returned to streams and lakes in the following methods. 

What Is Wastewater?
Many people confuse the terms wastewater and sewage. According to Wikipedia, wastewater is any water that has been corrupted by human waste, but can also include industrial pollutants, as well as surface, storm, or sewer runoff. Sewage is a specific type of wastewater from human waste.

How Is Wastewater Treated?
Municipal wastewater is treated in municipal wastewater treatment plants. Once treated, wastewater is released back into water systems. In some municipalities, storm drains run directly into moving waterways such as creeks and rivers. In other municipalities where there is a high level of chemical runoff or where the storm drains combine with sewage the wastewater is sent to sewage treatment plants.

Sewage treatment is simply the process of removing contaminants from wastewater so it can be safely released back into the environment. The solids that are removed from sewage, often referred to as sludge or slurry, often undergo further treatment before being burned or even used as fertilizer.

There are physical, chemical, and biological processes involved in wastewater treatment.

The Three Main Types of Municipal Wastewater Treatment

Physical Wastewater Treatment - Physical or mechanical treatment of municipal wastewater removes the heaviest solids from raw sewage and municipal runoff. The process includes screening, sedimentation and allowing solids to sink, and often removes as much as 50-60% of the solids.

Biological Wastewater Treatment - In this second phase, live microbes are added to consume the dissolved organic matter that escaped the physical treatment stage. Microbes consume the organic matter as food and then convert it to carbon dioxide gas, water, and other less harmful waste. Additionally, much of the remaining organic material recombines or binds together. So, an additional sedimentation and screening may occur. At this point, as much as 85% of the solid waste will be removed from the wastewater.

Chemical Wastewater Treatment - This is the final step that will ensure the removal of more than 99 percent of all the impurities from wastewater. Chlorine disinfection is the most common chemical treatment. Other processes attempt to remove levels of phosphorus and nitrogen. Additionally, carbon filtering may be used in this final stage before clean water is released back into the environment.

What About Septic Systems?
According to some estimates, as much as 20% of the United States is currently treating their own sewage using onsite septic systems. Septic systems take all the water flow out of the home including the human and household waste. The wastewater flows into a septic tank where solids sink to the bottom and oils float to the top. These solids and oils are then removed on a regular basis. The remaining water flows into a drain field where the remaining liquids dissipate into the surrounding soil.

The Importance of Good Quality Microbes in Your Treatment System and Lift Stations
There are words in our language which trigger instant, negative sensations in those that encounter them. Sometimes, these feelings are justified; other times, they are not. Words like ‘bacteria’ and ‘microbe’ fall into this latter category.

These words are often associated with disease, with decay, and with general ill-health and uncleanness, but we need bacteria and microbes to survive. Microbes help us to maintain healthy digestion, they support entire ecosystems, and they can be used to great effect in our cities and towns.

Lift stations, or pumping stations, perform vital functions in our municipalities, but they can become unpleasant and even dangerous if they are not properly maintained. Therefore, good quality microbes and bacteria are vital in a treatment system and lift stations. 

A Fresher, Cleaner Environment in the Local Community
The nature of a pumping station – and the nature of the materials such stations handle – can unfortunately render them somewhat unpleasant to the people who live and work in the surrounding area. While people understand the vital work that lift stations do in municipalities all over the world, it is still the responsibility of the public works department to safeguard the quality of life of people nearby. Using good quality bacteria can assist with this.

Bacteria and microbe products work to neutralize odors, securing a fresher and far cleaner environment for the nearby city or town. They can also be used to treat the wastewater of the lift station – usually the source of the unpleasant odor. Oil, grease, and other unclean substances are broken down by the application of bacteria, and can then be easily removed or drained from the site. A healthy balance of microbes is vital to operations of the treatment system and lift stations.

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