How the Sewer System Works
The sewer system - it's as unpleasant as it sounds, but serves an important function. Even though the sewer works way better today than in the past, it's not foolproof. Both residents, the city and businesses contribute to the health and longevity of a sewer in order for it to function properly.
Over 650 Miles of Pipes Connect in Abilene's Sewer System
Before we discuss how to maintain our sewer system, let's go over how it works. The water and sewer systems work similarly to our veins and arteries. Clean water comes from the water treatment plant through a pipe system. The pipes get smaller as they branch off to different areas of town and ultimately to individual homes and businesses. After the water is used, it is called wastewater.
The wastewater drains into a separate pipe system called the sanitary sewer. As the sewer collects more and more wastewater, the pipes get larger as they transport the wastewater to the wastewater treatment plant.
A sanitary sewer overflow occurs whenever a sewer pipe gets clogged and sewage backs up through the path of least resistance. That could be outside from a manhole or it could burst through a weak spot in the pipe. It could also be inside through a bathtub, sink, dishwasher, etc. What most people don't realize is that the sewer system doesn't just carry away waste from the toilet, it carries away anything that goes down any drain in our homes and businesses.
Sinks, floor drains, washing machines, dishwashers, showers - they all drain to the sanitary sewer. So if the sewer gets clogged, sewage could back up through any of these sources and create a huge mess.
Preventing Sewer Backups
In order to prevent sanitary sewer overflows, we need to do our part to take care of Abilene's sewer system by not putting things down the drain that should go in the trash. The number one cause of sanitary sewer overflows in Abilene is grease, which coats the inside of pipes just like it does in a vein or artery. When the pipe eventually gets clogged, the sanitary sewer overflow is the equivalent of a heart attack.
Leftover grease and cooking oil should be cooled, poured or scraped into a disposable container and put in the trash, as well as greasy foods, not the garbage disposal. Just like your doctor cannot run the little balloon through every single one of your veins and arteries to unclog them, our sewer department cannot clean out every single pipe underneath our city. There are more than 650 miles of sewer pipe in Abilene! We have to do our part to maintain our sewer system!