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Milwaukee Goes 100 Yards Deep to Clean Sewers

Posted at: 11/30/2012 5:30 PM
Updated at: 11/30/2012 5:43 PM

MILWAUKEE (AP) Almost a football field below ground, Milwaukee officials are hoping they headed off a problem: a clogged sewer system.

"A big tunnel like this, it's amazing the stuff you find down there, or how it got in there," said Rick Rozycki, Division Manager for Veolia Environmental Services.

Milwaukee officials finished building the deep tunnel in 1994 and have added to it, but this is the first time they cleaned out the floating debris.

"It's better to get it out before it does start presenting a problem rather than let it accumulate year after year after year," said Scott Royer, President and General Manager for Veolia Water.

They used cranes to lower a special pontoon boat, a work boat and a safety boat every day. Then workers would ride through a mile of dark sewer to get to the accumulated garbage. And they always wore air monitors.

They ended up removing 100 cubic yards of garbage over about two weeks - a lot less than expected. It was equal to about four of these bins.

"Most of the stuff that we found are just plastic bottles and just floating plastic material," Royer said.  "We did find things like soccer balls, basketball balls, a bowlingball."

While they spotted lots of garbage, they didn't spot what most people expect.

"I was the only one who ever saw a rat. Second rat in 15 years i seen in a sewer," Rozycki said.

With officials forcing air into the tunnel and the cool fall weather it didn't smell too bad, or look too bad, for that matter.

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