Delaware Public Media

New Castle County touts sewer cleaning tech

Apr 10, 2018

New Castle County officials on Tuesday demonstrated technology used to detect issues in the county’s sewer system and prevent problems with fats, oils and grease poured down drains.

Officials cleaned a New Castle area sewer blockage near Penn Mart to show how the county prevents overflows and blockages from grease through routine checks.

They used a sewer cleaning truck and a cleaning nozzle to clean grease from the pipe walls. The cleaning nozzle connects to a high pressure water system and pushes against a wall to remove grease and officials watched a TV camera called a Closed Circuit Television to gauge that the pipe had been cleaned. 

“Once grease gets out to our line, it coagulates and turns that solid white, it builds up over time and if we don’t come through and clean it on a regular basis, it will back up all the businesses and gets pretty nasty,” said Dave Cox Jr., the operator for the county’s CCTV that can look into the pipes and detect grease on the sides.

The county says its cleaning technology helps the sewer system last longer and reduces costs by cleaning it before an overflow happens. Officials are trying to raise awareness how pouring fats, oils and grease down the drain affects the county’s wastewater treatment system as part of the annual Great Schools Clean Streams campaign.

“It’s such a preventable thing,” said Mike Harris who works in New Castle County’s Department of Special Services.

"The cost of doing proactive cleaning is much less than the cost of cleaning up an overflow."-Rob Roff

In 2005, New Castle County had 75 overflows. Since then, it has reduced sanitary sewer overflows by 67 percent, and recorded 26 overflows in 2017.

Officials attribute that decrease to the sewer technology that can detect problems before they worsen.

New Castle County has 25 sewer locations with advanced programs that inspect and clean fats, oils and grease from pipes. Rob Roff, the county’s Operation Services Manager, says it’s important to proactively control fats, oils and grease before problems get worse and more expensive.

“The cost of doing proactive cleaning is much less than the cost of cleaning up an overflow, which could run into well over $10,000 depending on where that overflow takes place,” Roff said.

Roff says the camera system pairs well with the county's Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool that uses acoustic technology to analyze areas for potential blockages. Officials can screen areas with the SL-RAT and study them further with the camera.

It costs about $1 per foot to clean the sewer pipes.