Stories from the Sewer

Stories from the Sewer TREKK Design Group provides many different services such as transportation design, construction inspection, survey, asset management, and GIS.  Another large segment of our services falls within the corner that I work within: TREKK’s water and wastewater department. Over the years, a number of off the cuff stories have been shared about the sewer business. Here’s a compilation of a few memorable ones that individuals at TREKK have experienced.  Enjoy! _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ “Fun things happen to us all the time, man.  The stories, they come from all over the place.” -Robby Hartpence, Field Manager   Ballpark Village – Meet This Community St. Louis, Missouri is known for having a growing large sewer system.  TREKK has inspected some very large sewers in many different cities, but never one quite as inviting as in St. Louis, MO: “We did a sewer walk a few years ago downtown.  It was this real large underground tunnel, almost felt like a subway system or something.  We were taking some measurements and doing a general assessment of what all was down there, where the sewer was located, and came across a portion where the street was starting to cave-in.  Well, we also came across some kind of homeless village.  Sofas and tents all over the place, there were little huts burrowed in the walls with plywood, tarps, and all.  There were a couple hundred people – it was like a community down there.” -Ron Thomann, Project Manager   “That was a crazy experience.  Seeing all of those people come out of nowhere.  There were tents and tarps and they had a seating area...
What We Did at Daddy’s Work

What We Did at Daddy’s Work

On April 27, TREKK celebrated Take Your Child to Work Day. Thanks to our guest bloggers for sharing their experiences!   What we did at Daddy’s work. One day there lived two girls and one boy. One of the girls was named Emery, the other girl was named Johanna and the boy was daddy. First we went to look at the sewers and Alex went inside the building and put green dye in the toilet and flushed it also he turned on the sink. We looked at the smoke generator. Next we sole the drone. We went inside and Trent showed us around the offices and we saw the world’s biggest printer. Then we made candy bridges out of gum drops. It was fun. And when we were done with making our candy bridges, Trent showed us a real life bridge it awesome and it was also fun too.  — Emery Smith    Today was a great day because it was bring your child to work day and it was so fun. First me and my little sister were a little shy, but we saw people we knew and talked and we were not shy anymore. Second we looked around the offices, made name tags and ate donut holes.  Trent told us what we were going to do. Third Lucas took us outside and showed us the sewer and he opened it and Alex went inside the building and flushed the toilet and added green dye in the toilet and turned on the faucet and we looked inside the sewer and we saw the green dyed water! It was...
We eat our own cooking…

We eat our own cooking…

I recently finished reading a book titled “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder.” The book primarily covered the topic of risk, how risk is created, how to avoid excess risk, etc. With many years of dedicated study on the subject and experience working as a risk manager for a profitable hedge fund, the author could be described as one of the world’s foremost experts on the topic of risk. (Yes, a majority of the book is as boring and nerdy as you would expect it to be.) As I read through the book, the last chapter, titled “Fitting Ethics to a Profession,” struck a chord with me. The author pointed to the many flaws of modern professions and how the very nature of these professions doom the people the profession intended to protect. For example, the heads of banks took on an excess amount of risk causing the financial collapse of 2008. While the CEOs of these banks were able to jump ship without losing any more than a dime, the U.S. taxpayers, who were free from wrongdoing, were forced to bail out these banks at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. What attributes these professions to fail at such a large scale? Ultimately, it is due to the lack of accountability that these professions hold that allow them to err and be free of consequences on their side. In contrast, professions that take these consequences head on have what the author likes to refer to as “skin in the game.” Early Roman engineers were required to spend days beneath the bridges they designed following their construction....
IMPROVING LIVES.

IMPROVING LIVES.

When you hear a phrase like Improving Lives, what is the first thing that comes to mind? It might be lending a hand to a neighbor, helping out a friend in need, or treating people that you meet every day a little better. Here at TREKK Design Group, it means making the world better for everyone who is impacted by our project work. The idea that inspecting one manhole, smoke testing one sewer segment, cleaning and televising one sewer line, or conducting a survey for a new street design can Improve Lives can be difficult for some to wrap their head around. To me, this means that we are making the waterways of America cleaner and the streets we drive on safer. The basic daily functions of getting from point A to B safely in your vehicle, turning on the water faucet and getting clean water, or flushing your toilet and removing waste from your house are all things that people take for granted. These are also some key items that separate the United States from other countries that would love to have paved roads, clean water, and sanitation. Each day that any TREKK employee comes to work, they have the unique opportunity to improve the world, serve communities, and live out our purpose of Improving Lives. In the Wastewater Department, we have the ability to stop sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and combined sewer overflows (CSOs). An SSO is any un-permitted overflow of untreated sewage that discharges before it reaches the treatment facility. A CSO is any unpermitted overflow in a combined sewer system that reaches a waterway before...
My legacy

My legacy

It is so easy for us to look around at our community as we drive into work, take the kids to soccer practice or wherever we may be going in our daily lives and see things in community that we don’t like or that we complain about.  A pothole on Main Street that keeps growing, graffiti on an overpass, old abandoned buildings that need to be torn down or restored – the list could go on and on. Who hasn’t seen one of these eyesores and thought, “I wish someone would do something about that!” TREKK’s mission is to Improve Lives. When you think about that statement, you may say, “That’s a very admirable thing to try to accomplish, however, how do you ever really improve someone’s life?”   I thought long and hard about that statement. How can one person improve someone’s life? What are some ways I can impact people in my community? The ironic thing is, the people you see improving lives may not realize they are doing it. Case in point. I have a colleague who meets with citizens in my community every day as part of their job. The actions, words, sincere listening and positive attitude of this person are infectious to the people they meet each day.  In a few short minutes, this person improves people’s lives, improves their day, improves their attitude, improves their outlook on life. And yet, the person responsible doesn’t even realize they’re doing it because that’s just who they are on the inside. You can only imagine the challenge I felt inside myself to emulate this person. I’ve always...
Making a Difference

Making a Difference

Working at TREKK gives us the opportunity to improve lives in our client’s communities. And sometimes those communities happen to be the very ones we personally call home. I recently had the opportunity to help with some small pieces of an I&I cost analysis model, which included smoke observations in my hometown. Because I spent a majority of my life there, I took a sentimental moment to peer at the data we’ve input into the app our crews use for field data collection. I saw my step-grandfather’s house, and the house where my great-grandmother lived before she passed. Too many times my great-grandmother’s toilet would back up and the manhole out in the street would overflow.  Looking closer, I saw the concentration of smoke defects in that area. I couldn’t believe that after all these years, the area was finally being investigated. But it was a simple text message conversation with one of my TREKK colleagues that yielded an epiphany I may have never realized. After sharing with him my relationship to the client community, he reminded me that my tools are now being used to study an area that I played in as a child. I helped get the smoke testing app started and built a model to process acoustic sounding, manhole inspections and smoke testing in the app, which is being used weekly on sets of collected field data. I didn’t realize it at first, but I got to be involved in that effort indirectly. Never, ever, would have I seen that connection in my life had my colleague not said it. I work for the firm...