Monday, March 18, 2013

Grit and Pipes

I like to hear about communities moving forward and trying new technologies.  More specialized technology is available in many fields of interest.  A newsletter of WERF (Water Environment Research Foundation came recently and highlights some new technologies.  One item listed was on predicting the remaining economic life of wastewater pipes.  We know the city streets need repairs at time and even that our cars won't last forever.  The miles of pipes within a municipality are another set of materials that has a limited life span. 

Over the bridge in Duluth, more water pipes have broken including near the Radisson Hotel and lead to people have to relocate to another hotel.  What could happen if our wastewater pipes broke?  Some pipes do have some cracks and tree roots are forever trying to do what roots do and spread out.  Some roots find their way into pipes.  What comes to a Wastewater Treatment Plant inevitably includes grit from within the land surrounding the pipes.  The removal of grit is one part of the treatment process at the Treatment Plant.  As for stormwater pipes debris can come from the pipes themselves and what enters the storm drains.  Unlike the pipes coming to the treatment plant that remove the grit, the contents from most of the stormwater pipes go untreated into a river or stream. Any organic matter coming through the drain and entering a stream can reduce the oxygen available to the life in the stream.  At this time of year a pulse of salt (road salt) will likely be entering the drains and travel out to the rivers altering the water quality.  The sand on the road can also enter and travel through the pipes.  Simple sand in a rocky bottom stream is not good for the aquatic life depending on the rocky bottom stream.  The distance the stormwater travels in the pipes and the mixing with contents of other pipes can add a loaded discharge to a stream.  We need to help keep the water as clean as possible so that the rivers aren't polluted from a sediment load.

I'll also use this section to add a verse that about 70 of us (mostly 5th graders) sang at the Mariner Mall last Friday at the Water Fair.   I have since tweaked it a bit.   It goes to the melody Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

I love Lakes and Streams
Their health depends on us
Let's all help to keep them clean
For years and years to come.

The pipes are part of the plan to keep water off the street.  We need to be part of the plan to limit what goes in the drains.  The City of Superior also has an Illicit Discharge Hotline.  Please call it if you ever notice something irregular coming out of a stormwater pipe or see a spill or something going into a pipe. The number is 715-394-2761.    We also have a form at and search for illicit discharge.

-Written by Wendy Grethen

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