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Sewer Diving: A Journey Inside Milwaukee's Deep Water Tunnel

Find out how divers clean out the buildup in a sewage overflow tunnel

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INTO THE HOLE:

Divers had to descend more than 300 feet (90 meters) in this crane-lowered basket before diving down an additional 30 feet (nine meters) to do their muck-clearing. "Like most jobs, the water is black and a little cold," Spoerl says.....[ More ]

DIVER LIFELINE:

This "umbilical cord" contains hoses that provide air, radio and video feed back to the surface, along with hot water to warm the diver.....[ More ]

COLD COMFORT:

Divers must wear contamination suits to prevent contact with sewage and prepare for cold temperatures. "We have to wear multiple layers of clothing under the suits," says Jeff Spoerl of Veolia, another diver.....[ More ]

HIGH-PRESSURE JOB:

Every three years or so, a deeper cleaning is necessary, so specially-trained divers clear out built-up siltlike material that includes leaves, stones and shredded plastics. "We use high pressure fire hoses to loosen material that has settled to the bottom of the pipe and push it back into the flow so the pipe is clear," explains Ed Stowitts, a diver with Veolia ES Special Services who helped with the cleaning.....[ More ]

DREDGE WORK:

This crane system--including a "clammer" attachment for removing debris--dredges up the logs and other detritus caught by sieves in the deep water tunnel.....[ More ]

HISTORICALLY HYGIENIC:

The Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility dates back to the 1920s and now transforms solid sewage into dried fertilizer--as well as offers a gateway to the deep water tunnel.....[ More ]

PUMPED UP:

Three pumps can move as much as 130 million gallons (492 million liters) a day out of the deep tunnel and into wastewater treatment plants using 4,000-horsepower motors that consume roughly three megawatts of power.....[ More ]

TUNNEL OF SLUDGE:

In order to cut down on sewer outflows into Lake Michigan, a 26-mile- (42-kilometer-) long deep tunnel was built to hold excess wastewater.....[ More ]

DEEP SEWER:

This drop shaft leads more than 300 feet (90 meters) belowground to the deep water tunnel that can hold more than 500 million gallons (1.9 billion liters) of sewage and other wastewater.....[ More ]

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