Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pipe down

I had to get up early this morning to use the bathroom. Was it Nature calling? No, it was the City of Denver.
The sewer line was shut down at 8 a.m. and will not be reopened for 10-12 hours.

It's funny; you think about water, gas and electricity as essential services, but if those are shut off for a day you can usually cope just fine. You can buy bottled water, cook on the grill and avoid opening the freezer.

(I'm talking ordinary homeowners here; if you're in an iron lung, you might want to have backup power.)

But no sewer? Now that's a real pain in the ass. You can bathe, but can't drain the tub. Brush your teeth, but spit outside. Most important, if it's yellow, let it mellow. But if it's brown, you're shit out of luck.

So I was up early.

It could be worse. Thanks to modern technology, a new sewer pipe doesn't require digging up the whole alley and shutting down service for a week. It can be done in a day using molded resin.

As this worker explained it to me, they feed a resin-impregnated tube through the old clay sewer line and inflate it with water, which is then heated (you can see the steam venting here). The resin-tube hardens against the walls of the old pipe, creating a new liner.

Once it's hardened, a remote camera and drill are put through the pipe. The line will be dimpled where private sewer lines come into the main. They then cut through those spots to restore access.
It's pretty stinky, like opening a giant tube of epoxy.

"Don't you get high on all these fumes?" I asked.

"Nah, we don't even smell it anymore."

I'm glad it's a speedy process. Otherwise, things would start smelling a lot worse around here.


  1. wow..thats an interesting process and when I first saw the diagram I thought we were going to get an anatomy lesson.....

  2. I can just see you out there quizzing the guy. You have a career in journalism waiting in the wings if you don't already! LOL. Beside, your writing is loads better than a lot of stuff I read in the papers.

  3. No anatomy lessons, db; some things don't belong on a blog. (Though I did post about my shoulder a while back.)

    Thanks, dani! I try to keep it interesting.