New tool helping Hattiesburg clear pipe problems

New tool helping Hattiesburg clear pipe problems
Water and Sewer Director Alan Howe said the department recently purchased a new camera to send into sewer pipes. (Photo source: WDAM)

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The City of Hattiesburg has a new tool to help solve what could be a stinky problem.

Water and Sewer Director Alan Howe said the department recently purchased a new camera to send into sewer pipes, now an intricate part of every resident's call for a back-up or other problem.

"My two famous words is rapid response," said Howe. "Obviously, if you're backed up in your house, I wouldn't want that, you wouldn't either. We go, we go solve the problem."

Howe is not joking about a "rapid response." Since he took on his role as director in February, the department has been able to clear almost 1,000 open work orders. Howe said when he started, there were 1,103 open work orders. As of today, there are under 100.

"Without the camera, they really didn't know what the problem was," said Howe. "They were getting relief with the flush truck, but they didn't know what the actual problem was."

While the camera has helped, Howe said he found things like orders never being closed or multiple reports from one location. He said there were also instances where crews in the field were not reporting back to the department. Howe said a new procedure has been put in place, both in the office and in the field.

"First, we take the flush truck and flush the lines, we flush and give them relief," Howe said. "We put the camera in, we are looking for roots, intrusions, cracked pipe, concrete pipe that;s old, clay pipe that's cracked, anything that would be a problem between the right of way and our main line, in the street or wherever the main is located."

The camera cost about $6,600, an inexpensive tool that has been able to cut down on labor, maintenance materials and resident frustrations.

"It's saving us money absolutely, your payback on a camera like that is quickly," Howe said.

At one Hattiesburg home, the owner has having a back-up. With the camera, the city was able to determine the root of the problem was just that — roots from an oak tree in the front yard. While the tree is on the homeowner's property, he will have to move forward with removing it. However, Howe said that would not have been discovered with just flushing the pipes.

"One, it helps us on our side, helps us see if there's a problem between the right of way and the main. It also helps the customer know, if there's a problem on their side," said Howe.

The director said the camera also helps spot problems while already on a call, giving the department a chance to be proactive with future projects.

Just this week, the department also implemented door hangers. Howe said if crews respond to a report while the homeowner is not home, a hanger will be left with information discovered.

If you are experience an issue with your water or sewer service, Howe suggests calling the city's action line at 601-545-4500.