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A sanitary or wastewater sewer system is a city-wide network of pipes and manholes used to collect the wastewater from sinks, drains, and toilets discharged from homes and businesses. This system moves that wastewater to a treatment facility where pollutants are removed before the clean water is returned to area streams.
A sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) is when sewage or a mixture of sewage and rain/groundwater escapes from the collection system, typically at manholes, before reaching the treatment facility. Most SSOs happen during periods of heavy rainfall when groundwater or other sources of additional water seep into the collection system and combine with regular wastewater flow to temporarily exceed the capacity of the sanitary sewer system. In other words, there is too much liquid flowing into the pipes in a short amount of time. Some SSOs can occur during dry weather periods. These are most often caused by a blockage in the sewer system, such as roots, "flushable" wipes, accumulated grease, vandalism or other items improperly flushed down the toilets. Removal of the blockage by City crews will restore normal operations and stop the SSO.
During heavy rain events, City crews investigate areas of the sanitary sewer collection system known to be prone to overflowing. Crews identify if and where SSOs are occurring. During dry weather, most overflows are first noticed by a member of the public, who then call the city to report the overflow. SSOs can be reported by calling (417) 864-1923 anytime day or night.
If you see a warning sign posted, please stay clear of the immediate area and avoid contact with any nearby water in nearby creeks, standing in yards, or flowing along the street. When City crews respond to an SSO, they may post warning signs near the source and perimeter of a sewer overflow. Signs to help notify the public of the risk will be posted while the SSO is being monitored and until the area is fully cleaned. After the SSO has ended and clean-up has occurred, the signs will be removed.
Clean-up can take several forms, depending on the nature of the spill. Large capacity vacuum trucks can be deployed to remove pooled wastewater or to intercept flow of wastewater before it spreads. Often, a chemical element such as hydrated lime may be applied to the area to stop bacteria from growing.
Since wastewater contains some level of fecal matter, it will have bacteria that can be harmful to human health if ingested or absorbed through sustained contact. Risks can include gastrointestinal, diarrheal, and respiratory illnesses. The level of risk is dependent on many factors, including, but not limited to, the individual’s susceptibility to the bacteria, amount of ingestion or exposure, strength composition of the discharge (whether raw sewage or combined with a significant amount of ground or rainwater), length of time since SSO has ended, and the amount of clean-up that has occurred.
If you come in contact with wastewater discharging from the sanitary sewer system, it is recommended that you wash thoroughly with soap and/or an antibacterial agent as soon as practical. If you have swallowed or otherwise ingested some amount of discharged wastewater, it is recommended you contact your primary care physician for their guidance.
The City of Springfield is continually working to maximize the capacity of the existing sanitary sewer system. This includes routine maintenance of pipes and regular removal of accumulations of roots, grease and other debris, including “flushable” wipes and other trash which are flushed or poured down drains instead of being disposed of properly. City crews also inspect the system with cameras and other technology to identify blockages, breaks and other defects which need to be repaired. Finally, some sections of piping need to be replaced or upsized through construction projects. The City has committed to investing $300 million over a 15-year period to reduce or eliminate the number and severity of SSOs.
Be mindful of what you contribute to the sanitary sewer system. Dispose of fats, oils and grease through solid waste trash services. Don’t dispose of wipes through flushing, even if they are labeled as “flushable” as most of these wipes do not disintegrate and can collect and form blockages in the sewer system. Remember the 3P’s on toileting, only Pee, Poo, and Paper should be flushed! You should dispose of anything else through your household trash service.
If you see a manhole discharging fluid, it is likely an SSO event in progress. Please call the city sewer maintenance department 24/7 at (417) 864-1923 to report the event. The sooner it is reported, the sooner the event can be resolved.
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