City Staff Begin Residential and Commercial Inspections for ‘Cap the Cleanout’ Program
City staff has begun inspections for the ‘Cap the Cleanout’ Program, hoping to improve the health of our local sewer system. Each week staff members will be in a different neighborhood within the city, inspecting both residential and commercial sewer cleanouts to make sure that it has a cap on it and is properly maintained.
“To implement this program, we are taking our staff and putting them in the field and letting them walk neighborhoods similar to how our meter readers operate. They will be going to residences and commercial establishments, walking around the perimeter of the property looking for the sewer cleanout. We will do some light field repair work when possible and we will be doing follow-ups on those cleanouts weekly,” said Joseph Gangler, FOG Prevention Program Coordinator. “The whole program was put in place to prevent infiltration and inflow, keep some of the rainwater out of our system so it can function at peak capacity.”
The cleanout serves as an access point to the underground sewer system. Maintenance and utilities workers need access to the system to perform regular upkeep of the sewer, including sewer line cleaning, maintenance, and troubleshooting. Sewer cleanouts are eight inches in width and are usually made of plastic piping. They are located within three to five feet of a business or residence. Cleanouts typically have a removable cap to provide these workers with easy access, but it is equally important to keep these pipes sealed when they are not being worked on.
“Our staff always have on bright yellow, City of Valdosta vests and also have identification badges. If you see them in your yard, unlike the meter readers who typically stay on the easements, these team members will have to get up in the yard, closer to houses. It should be a quick process,” said Gangler.
The caps can be found on the vertical cleanout pipe connected to the underground sewer line, typically near the home and close to the property line. It is used to prevent rainwater, debris, and even small animals from getting into the sewer system. During rain events, an uncapped cleanout could cause stormwater to get into the system and be treated unnecessarily, putting stress on our wastewater treatment plant and collection system, ultimately driving up operating and treatment costs. Debris can also cause blockages and lead to backups in the home or city sewer lines.
The city is working to identify all inflow sources in our sewer system to help solve this problem. Working together, we can save valuable resources and provide needed protection to the city’s collection system. When around 1,400 cleanout caps were discovered to be missing or severely damaged, city officials wanted to take the first step in correcting this issue by purchasing and replacing all the caps. “As you can imagine, 1,400, eight-inch holes in the ground allows a lot of debris and water to get into the sewer system. The city took the first step and replaced all these cleanout caps. Now we are asking citizens to maintain the ones that are on their property or business,” said Utilities Director Daryl Muse.
Replacing your cleanout cap is simple. If you notice that the cap on your cleanout pipe is missing or damaged, first determine the type of cap needed. It will be either PVC or Brass. Then remove the damaged cap and screw the new cap on clockwise. Be sure to secure the cap by tightening it with pliers, pipe wrench, or channel locks.
If you have any questions about your sewer cleanout, you can call the City of Valdosta Utilities Department at 229-259-3592.