Using Software to Analyze FOG Issues in Tallahassee, Fla.

It is no easy task to keep wastewater management running smoothly all year round. Anthony L. Moore and Clayton Hatcher, of Tallahassee, Fla., know the challenges of maintaining existing sewage pipelines as well as overseeing newly built sewers all too well.

Anthony Moore is the maintenance construction chief and Clayton Hatcher is the supervisor of maintenance and inspections for Tallahassee Underground Utilities. The two are responsible for the pipeline inspection for the City of Tallahassee. The capital of the Sunshine State has a population of approximately 177,000 and about 102 sq miles of land. The city also has 1,000 miles of underground sanitary pipelines and approximately 20,000 manholes that need to be inspected within nine to 10 years.

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The city inspection trucks work around the clock utilizing POSM Pro software to record the CCTV pipeline inspections, as well as to calculate the GPS points of manholes, lines and defects. POSM Server GIS Edition is used in its office for storing, sharing and summarizing all of the continually expanding data from inspections including: pipeline information, video, pictures, GPS and inspectors’ observations. When structural or maintenance issues are pinpointed by POSM, work orders are automatically generated to address the issues at hand. Upon proper identification, repair crews quickly follow up to provide the needed services. Any part of the sanitary system that exhibits exfiltration, infiltration, damage, serious maintenance issues or a failed line is immediately flagged for repair.

Extreme structural defects are turned into the city’s engineering department for replacement. If a pipeline has more than 40 percent of roots, it is cleared out and relined. They also work with the road surfacing groups by plotting deficiencies and repairing any damaged infrastructure ahead of road construction and resurfacing crews. On top of staying ahead of maintenance issues and inspecting Tallahassee’s entire wastewater infrastructure, the Underground Utilities crew is continually locating taps and gathering important information with all new construction. By logging all the pipeline inspection information into the POSM Server, Tallahassee Underground Utilities is able to more effectively utilize staff and save money. The city can rate and focus on problem areas and keep track of the dynamic conditions of the infrastructure and prioritize effectively the best places to repair, maintain and inspect.

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Tallahassee implements what it calls the FROG program — it is similar to what other municipalities refer to as the FOG program. City officials felt it was important to include roots to the public awareness program because of the number of trees in the Tallahassee area. Tallahassee Underground Utilities takes the FROG program seriously. There are seven active zones in the city that are continually inspected and monitored for structural and maintenance defects. If inspection crews notice large amounts of grease or roots in or coming out of a residential or commercial service line they put a tag on the door. The tag informs the property owner/manager about the problem and why it is imperative to address the problem. If a zone, such as one with lots of restaurants, has a proportionally higher amount of grease or other defects, additional literature about the FROG program is mailed to the area. Local television broadcasts educational programming about the FROG program to further build public awareness.

By reducing the buildup of fats, roots, oils and grease, sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) can also be reduced. Reducing SSOs helps prevent costly cleanups, environmental hazards and damage. Fats, oils and grease do not mix with water and in turn they adhere to underground pipes. Over time the build up can cause blockages. Roots also contribute to SSOs by entering the pipes through cracks. Roots can expand and cause blockages within the pipe, as well as lead to grease and sewage build up. By taking a proactive approach to its FROG program, city officials not only save money but are protecting the environment from unnecessary pollution through reduced SSOs.

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Tallahassee has taken extra steps that some other municipalities have not to ensure that there is never an induction of sewage into water bodies. If their wastewater treatment facilities get overloaded, they can temporarily store sewage in large holding ponds until they catch up with the workload. Raw sewage never gets dumped into local water bodies.

The environmental costs of not keeping a well maintained sewer is immense. Sanitary sewer overflows create or exacerbate environmental impacts, which impact land and water quality. Water bodies that support fish, drinking water and recreational swimmers can become heavily affected with harmful bacteria and dangerous microbial organisms. In 2008, the EPA estimated that about 40,000 SSO events occur in the United States each year. Periodic CSO and SSO discharges can impact the health of the local population. Pathogens and toxics can be absorbed into ground water and nearby water bodies. From there it is possible for drinking water to be impacted. Peoples’ health can be affected when they ingest contaminated water, fish, or shellfish. Swimmers, boaters and others recreating in water bodies are put at risk. Overflows can also backup into homes and businesses, directly exposing people to dangerous, raw sewage.

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Avoiding environmental disasters is of paramount importance. Contaminating the environment with sewage overflows is illegal, dangerous and angers citizens. Tallahassee’s Underground Utilities’ hard work has proven that vigilant inspections using POSM Software allows for quick repair of sewage infrastructure problems. That, combined with an effective FROG program, is the winning ticket for saving their citizens not only money but their overall health.

Citizens of Tallahassee can enjoy the hot summer sun of Florida and activities such as boating, swimming, eating fresh fish and shellfish without having to worry about the health impact from water contamination. They can also save a lot of their tax money due to the hard work from Tallahassee Underground Utilities.

Gene Clifford Katter is with brand development and Noland Katter is with business development at  POSM Soft LLC.