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...

Misconceptions of the 100-year Flood

  The recent flooding of Indian Creek that led to the damage and closing of Coach’s Bar and Grill has brought much attention from local papers and news stations. Several local media outlets have presented the flood as a “100 year flood event.” But what makes a flood a “100 year flood”? Due to the nomenclature of the 100-year flood, many are often confused as to the likelihood of such an event happening, and, as a consequence, may under prepare or under insure with the illusion that a flood of this magnitude is a once-in-a-lifetime event. A 100-year flood event should statistically happen once every 100 years over a long time period, or have just a 1 percent chance of occurring within any given year. When people hear that a 100-year flood has occurred on a particular river, they may incorrectly assume that a flood of that magnitude should not happen again for roughly another 100 years. This is the same logical fallacy that would lead one to believe that flipping a coin and it coming up heads four times in a row is far more unlikely that flipping alternating heads and tails four times (statistically speaking, each are equally likely). Probabilities of this time scale should only be applied over long time horizons and cannot be accurately applied to short time periods. Therefore, back-to-back rare events may be more common than one would originally believe. In addition to misinterpreting the definition a 100-year flood, there are a few other issues that can lead to error in attempting to predict such an event. First, there is a common misconception...

Keeping the Flood Waters Away

The recent flash flooding of Indian Creek in South Kansas City resulted in major repercussions for homes and businesses near the creek. Storm watch rain gauges located near Holmes Road and 103rd Street in Kansas City  indicated an average of 4.69 inches of rain over a 24 hour period. The highest intensity of rainfall fell between 2AM and 5AM on July 27, 2017, totaling 3.8 inches in just that narrow three-hour window. Several of the restaurants and businesses that run the span of 103rd Street between State Line and Wornall roads were inundated with water. We at TREKK are saddened by the damages and losses to businesses along 103rd Street, including Coach’s Bar & Grill, which has been in business for more than 34 years. As a GIS specialist at TREKK, my focus is primarily on water and wastewater data collection and management. Events like this flood remind me why I, along with my team of amazing field personnel and fellow office staff members, work every day to help manage these problems. Why am I so passionate about this issue? Storm water is the leading cause of pollution to our communities. While this may seem like a significant problem only when the wet weather event is actively creating chaos, the damage will far out-live the receding waters. When flooding occurs, pollutants like the oil from vehicles, chemicals and solid deposits gather and get distributed into the waterways. These events are devastating to the aquatic life and animals that rely on these waterways. A wet weather event like this and even those with far less intensity can cause problems, such as sanitary sewer...
Delving Into Data Delivery

Delving Into Data Delivery

For our Springfield Office, 2017 is easily our biggest year for flow monitoring to date. Across seven projects, we have upwards of 70 meters in the ground and more than 20 rain gauges across southwest Missouri. TREKK’s field crews work diligently to interrogate and maintain our monitoring equipment and bring in large volumes of data. Our technicians, project managers, and clients are excited to see the data and the story that it tells. We are often so focused on the final product, however, that we forget the journey the data goes through to be presentable to our clients. During our first week of flow monitoring, I asked a coworker if I could help with some of the flow monitoring data. I was tasked with formatting data that would be imported into our analyzing software. We could easily spend two or three minutes formatting each file, and I realized we could save time and frustration by automating this process. This led me to start exploring Microsoft Excel macros and I was quickly able to reduce the formatting step to the click of a button. This first step grew into developing three new tools that automate, process and detect errors in the data that we collect. Upon reflection, I realized that our motto of IMPROVING LIVES has many different applications. By working together with my coworkers, we were able to refine our process and make the job easier by eliminating some of the tedious time spent formatting and processing data. This allows for our technicians to streamline data processing and deliver quality information quickly and accurately to our project managers and...
Let It Rain

Let It Rain

I left the office last night in a down pour. After facing drought conditions for much of the fall and winter, Missouri and Kansas were being treated to two weeks of nearly steady rainfall. Perfect flow monitoring weather. As I navigated the puddles on Manchester Road, my mind was anticipating the excitement of reviewing flow meter data in the morning. I told myself not to connect to the meters, but to wait for the midnight data. Our team has been focused on improving the entire process of selecting meter sites, completing installations, downloading and performing maintenance, and – most importantly – reviewing data and making adjustments. A number of thoughts raced through my head: How many structures surcharged and for how long? Did we lose data recording because of debris? Did we capture information that will help develop an accurate hydraulic model to ultimately prevent flooding and overflows? I should have had a camera in that location! How can anyone get this excited about a little water in a sewer? When I pulled into the parking lot, I sent a text to my co-worker, Brandon Freeman, asking if he was as excited as I was – and he was! Because for us at TREKK, collecting good data is more than just a job. We’re passionate about helping our communities solve their flooding challenges and keeping our waterways clean. It’s one of the many ways we’re IMPROVING LIVES. -Jeff Kaestner, Project...
How Much Money are Leaks Costing You?

How Much Money are Leaks Costing You?

In the Midwest, we sometimes forget how lucky we are to basically have an unlimited supply of fresh water. Just because we don’t have a water shortage doesn’t mean that leaky distribution systems don’t cost money. It is difficult – if not impossible – to quantify the amount of damage water leaks cause to other utilities and infrastructure, such as roadways, sewer lines, and natural gas lines. A system that keeps good records should know the cost of the chemicals it uses to treat the water and the electricity to pump the water. Pumping and treatment costs can run as low as $.20 per thousand gallons for a system that just uses electricity, to as high as $4 per thousand gallons for a system that purchases water from another system. Most, however, fall between $1 and $2 per thousand gallons. Because costs can vary so much, I use $1 per thousand gallons ($1/1,000) to estimate costs if no cost data is known. With this in mind, we can begin calculating how much a single leak would cost in a year.  A single 2 gallon per minute (GPM) leak is the size of a 1/8” diameter hole in a 60psi pipe. It will lose more than 1 million gallons of water in a year.  By comparison, a garden hose typically runs between 5 and 10 gallons per minute. If it costs $1/1,000 gallons to treat the water in the 2 GPM leak, that leak will cost $1,000 per year. Below is some real data from communities in Missouri, as reported to MDNR:   *Cost is estimated using $1/1000 gallons. Actual...