Sewage line blockages can be a real problem and will need to be sorted out quickly. What types of wastewater treatment can you use to overcome these blockages, and how can microbes be used in sewage treatment to prevent issues within the system? Let’s take a look in more detail.
The Danger of a Force Main Blockage
A force main is a very specific type of sewer line. All sewer systems require some kind of energy to move materials from one location to another. This may simply be gravitational energy, moving the sewage from a higher point to a lower one without additional power or force. Of course, this is not always possible, as the sewage won’t always be moving on a downward gradient. If this is the case, additional power will be required.
This is where the force main comes in. The force main utilizes motors to push the sewage through the system, enabling the transportation of materials across long flat sections and even uphill. While this certainly solves some of the issues associated with gravity-powered systems, it can lead to problems that are all its own.
If there is a blockage in the force main, the motor equipment has to work harder to drive the material through the system. A minor blockage may only require a small additional effort from the motor, but larger-scale blockages can cause significant strain on equipment. This can result in expensive damage to the motors, which may need to be replaced, increasing the cost of fixing the blockage.
Other Sewer Line Blockages
While force main blockages can quickly be particularly problematic, a blockage elsewhere in the system can cause issues too. If a pipe becomes blocked, the system is not working efficiently and may stop working altogether, leaving the sewage with nowhere to go. The material can quickly become backed up.
Even if there is no pump, and therefore no expensive mechanical damage, this can still be a significant problem. When sewage backs up, the best-case scenario is that it creates foul odors and an unpleasant environment for those on or near your facility. In the worst case, it creates a serious public health hazard and may corrode and damage infrastructure. Then there are regulatory standards to consider. Facilities of all kinds are legally responsible for preventing SSOs, or sanitary sewage overflows. There may be fines or other repercussions if these standards are not met.
The First Steps: Identifying the Location and the Cause
The first steps to overcoming blockages in the pipeline are:
- One: Identifying the location of the blockage.
- Two: Identifying the cause of the blockage.
This first step may be easier to achieve. In many cases, the location of the blockage will be apparent, as there may be a normal flow of material up to a certain point in the line and then a reduced flow after this point. Leaks and excessively high material levels may also help you identify where the blockage is occurring. This will need to be identified swiftly, though – over time, a blockage will begin to disrupt flow further up the system, as well as downstream.
In more complex systems, this may be more difficult. It may not be immediately obvious where the blockage is, and you may need to deploy more sophisticated technology to find it. This may include acoustic instrumentation that can quickly scan complicated sewage system networks, discovering precisely where the blockage has formed.
So what about the causes? These can be defined across three major categories.
Solid Deposits Within the Line
Sewer lines are designed to transport materials to a treatment facility or another location for processing. If they become overwhelmed – with high levels of solid material in large chunks, for example – the flow can quickly break down. These materials may cling together in a solid, static mass, capturing other solids and growing in size. On the other hand, the build-up of solids may move through the system slowly, abrading the walls of the sewer lines and causing damage.
Abrasion and Corrosion
Over time, the sewer line walls may corrode – particularly if there are industrial chemicals in the sewage that raise or lower the pH to an extreme level. This, coupled with the abrasion mentioned above, can make for uneven and irregular conditions within the sewer lines and pipes. Sewage needs to pass across a smooth plane if it is to be transported effectively, and abrasion and corrosion inhibit this.
From tree root intrusions to industrial mishaps and even seismic activity, many factors can cause a sewage line to collapse. If this occurs, the sewage flow might stop altogether, and hazardous materials may be released into the local water table.
Overcoming the Blockage
Once the location and cause of the blockage are identified, it needs to be removed.
Chemical Line Opening
The easiest way to overcome the problem is to use chemical line opening solutions, like Chemtech SP7. This formulation of enzymes and biological material uses microbes to enhance sewage treatment. Essentially, the formulation digests solid build-ups within the line, returning the system to regular flow.
Physical Line Opening
If chemical solutions do not work, you may need to resort to physical methods. Drain opening tools can loosen and remove blockages to improve the movement of materials through the system.
Repair and Replacement
In cases of severe abrasion, corrosion, or line collapse, you may need to physically access the pipe to repair or replace it. This may result in significant downtime for your facility, but it will be necessary if there is significant damage to the sewer system.
Preventing the Blocked Sewage Line
Prevention is always the best option for blocked force mains and sewer lines. It’s far more cost-effective to run a well-maintained sewer and wastewater treatment system than it is to repair damage retroactively.
Here are a few ways to prevent blockages.
Deploy Physical Drain Covers
The flow rate of your sewage system can change quickly, exacerbated by sudden storm conditions or by an increase in production volume at your facility. Deploying storm drain covers can prevent larger pieces of material from washing into the wastewater system and potentially joining your sewer lines. Grilles and covers can also be deployed at access points to the sewer line, making removing solid materials easy.
Use Spill Containment Solutions
If you are transporting materials that could cause a problem within your sewage lines, deploy spill containment solutions and stormwater safety products to defend against potential contamination. These solutions can help reduce suspended solids in wastewater within the system and prevent foreign bodies from entering the lines.
Pre-treat the Sewage to Remove Corrosive Chemicals
Adding products like our AMRB-5b solution to your sewage can help to maintain the correct pH balance and prevent corrosion. AMRB-5b is our Ammonia Reduction Blend – this type of wastewater treatment assists in preventing the build-up of corrosive alkalis within the system.
Discover More About Chemtech’s Range of Sewage Line Solutions
Here at Chemtech, we provide a range of different products designed to help you keep your force mains and sewage lines operating as they should. Browse our product listings, or reach out to our team to find out more.