I am an equipment coordinator/robotics technician with a private subcontractor that specializes in sewer pipe video inspection and heavy cleaning operations.

I have personally viewed over 200000 line feet of sewer pipe from virgina to new jersey and crawled over 3000 feet. I have also helped in the removal of over 400 tons of debris from the sewer so far in my career.

Ask me anything!!!

Proof: https://imgur.com/1rZr5im




sewer treasures. Gifts from long lost flushes. https://imgur.com/gallery/ILVJD

Comments: 4035 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

Orphan_Babies4437 karma

Have you seen some shit?

Pipewrecker5252 karma

Man I seen some shit.

diffluere2413 karma

How long would we last without sewage workers after an apocalyptic event? For example if Walking Dead was real...how long would it take the systems to stop working?

Pipewrecker3594 karma

About 48 hours in high population density areas.

Bardfinn1604 karma

Tell us about "flushable" wipes?

Pipewrecker2834 karma

No such thing they never decompose.

man_mayo1348 karma

How concerned are you about the infrastructure of some cities?

Pipewrecker2554 karma

Very concerned... we are hemorrhaging sewage into the water table in 95% of the pipes I view.

ponyhumper420545 karma

Could you (or anyone) expand on what that means specifically?

konstantinox1245 karma

I'm a Construction Inspector for a Municipality, we hire pipeline CCTV like who OP works for so we can evaluate sanitary lines. You don't pump sewage except in some cases, it's all gravity based flow - so it runs along the contours of the land, which is very often near waterways. When old infrastructure fails the sewage goes into the Earth and leeches into the ground eventually making it's way to the water table, or simply spills into said waterways.

There are currently quite a few federally mandated consent decree contracts associated with the clean water act wherein municipalities (like mine) are under a time limit to evaluate and repair (by cured-in-place-pipe, pipe bursting, point repairs) old pipes in environmentally sensitive areas. It's really expensive because a lot of the time these ESA's are deep in the woods where machines and workers can't get to, so municipalities must build temporary roads with all the erosion controls associated to reach the old infrastructure.

This is all really boring when I tell my Wife what I do, but I think it's interesting. When we're tearing out the woods to build these roads I feel like the villains in Fern Gully but we spend a lot to restore afterwards so it's an important job (or so I tell myself).

Pipewrecker583 karma

I agree with everything you say. :)

the_blind_gramber1241 karma

Do you ever find valuable items? Like if I'm the idiot who losses her engagement ring down the drain?

Pipewrecker2474 karma

All the time. I'll post some pics of my sewer treasure tonight. I have found probably 20 or so rings so far. The gold dosent really interest me though I find lots of really old historic coins and artifacts trapped in sediment those things are what I get excited about.

_poppies_200 karma

Do you get to keep these items?

Pipewrecker791 karma

I get to keep anything I find if I want it.

TherealDankMemelord1177 karma

Does the smell just not affect you at all anymore?

Pipewrecker3286 karma

It dosent. Just bothers my fiance now. But I no longer eat certain fast foods. Popeyes in particular smells 100% like downtown sewer grease.

2cookieparties315 karma

Out of curiosity, did you propose using one of your sewer rings?

Pipewrecker557 karma

Good question my fiance has tried them all on and only 2 so far are close enough to be shrunk to fit. Once we get married I'll fork out the cash and get one sized right for her.

rocco_xL_1163 karma

How often do you drop the "I lay pipe" line when people ask you what you do for a living?

Has to be a great ice breaker at social gatherings.

Pipewrecker1264 karma

I haven't dropped that one yet so I'll have to use that now ;)

100dabs1119 karma

What was something you saw/found in a sewer that made you reconsider your profession, even if only for a moment?

Pipewrecker1931 karma

Definitely would have to be bones... I have found cut up pieces of bones in the 36" pipe on key highway in baltimore. Still gives me chills. I can show pics when I get home from work in 8 hours.

vanity6_9539 karma

Did you suspect they were human bones and if so, did you report it to police?

Pipewrecker1325 karma

I suspected they were animal so I just put them In my pocket and kept on working.

Thementalrapist340 karma

Ever found an alligator?

Pipewrecker671 karma

Nope. Only critters so far have been bugs and the occasional rat.

zerogear51107 karma

Has anyone openly talked down to you or treated you differently because of sewer work?

Pipewrecker2483 karma

Mostly rich neighborhood homeowners look down on you. They complain the most and usually have a very condescending attitude for no reason.

In the ghetto everybody knows what's up and they let us work in peace for the most part.

pharbio946 karma

Except when they are convinced that your TV van is really an FBI surveillance and you are watching them through the sewage pipes.

Pipewrecker1551 karma

I have had this happen a few times now. It's always a good laugh when I show them the sewer pipe camera.

loofahlover1028 karma

should we be concerned about our sewage system? any chance it's going to go kaput someday?

Pipewrecker2418 karma

It's kaput now... we're just bandaiding it until we all agree it's not cool to poison our water table with shit water and chemicals.

Amidatelion861 karma

So how does it feel to be working in better conditions and with better equipment than swimming athletes in the Olympics?

Pipewrecker1149 karma

I'd say I'm sorry... but I'm not. Money is the only reason we do stupid shit like rio.

MarcelVarallo797 karma

Finally I have a question that I really want answered in an AMA. What are your thoughts on this thing?

e.g. what is it? have you ever seen one? is it fake or real? etc.

Pipewrecker922 karma

That's real it looks to be some kind of organic deposit like a type of fungus. Those wouldn't be in the pipe if that lazy company would jet the pipe before trying to survey it. ;)

chudez744 karma

There was a TIL post awhile back about a city that asks everyone to flush simultaneously to clear all the pipes. Would that really work?

Pipewrecker2109 karma

Not at all. It would however cause millions of gallons of sewage to explode out of all constricted lines like some kind of horrific fountain.

Phone_account_aight737 karma

Fat bombs, ie a mass of cooking fat, baby wipes and other non solubles. Have you encountered any? How do you deal with it?

Pipewrecker1028 karma

We run a 2000 psi chain cutter through it and wash the problem downstream.

Average_Autist618 karma

Are you well paid? What are the hours like? Salary or hourly?

Pipewrecker1071 karma

I make about what a 4 year degree nets in engineering with a college drop out degree ;) hours are usually 45-65

AlvinsH0TJuicebox605 karma

What is something that a lot of people do, that they may not be aware is causing a lot of damage to sewer systems, and make your job harder?

Pipewrecker1040 karma

Washing grease down the drain is hands down the worst thing you can do to your local sewer line. Second would be wipes. Third would be random shit like syringes razor blades.

BearGuru511 karma

What, in your opinion, is the biggest downside to being a sewer worker? Also, what type of Internet porn is your favorite?

Pipewrecker1078 karma

Biggest downside would have to be there's not a lot of safety even though your local municipality would tell you otherwise... some things we do are a little too dangerous in my opinion.

Favorite porn... not sure I'm pretty diverse.

If I had to pick anything specific it would be those chicks with the quadcopter and the dildo on a string.

whohw444 karma

How bad does it stink down there? What do you do about it?
What is the condition of your work clothes after a shift?

Pipewrecker800 karma

There's 4 factors for smell... age of pipe, proximity to buildings, demographic, and diameter.

Larger pipes usually stink more due to grease. Lower income neighborhoods are the same story they cook with more grease so it stinks worse.

Old pipes tend to have hard deposits that will hold sediment in the pipe and when the jet nozzle shoots through it there will be hydrogen sulfide gas released that stuff stinks pretty bad.

So far as clothes it depends if there's a lot of manned entry or in the manhole work being performed. Mostly just a light shit smell and a lot of sweat.

sir_fancypants423 karma

Which Ninja Turtle is your favorite and why?

Pipewrecker1316 karma

Pratt street in baltimore city... a 20 foot long piece of hair weaves all knotted together. It was packed with syringes, razor blades, and gold chains.

Pipewrecker477 karma

All of them. I mean come on sewer turtles how could I pick favorites.

Good_Advice_Service400 karma

Is it true that everything floats down there?

Pipewrecker532 karma

Nope if it sinks in water it sinks in sewage and will build up at the joints of pipe sections.

PCparts4sale367 karma

What's the largest diameter pipe you've worked with?

Pipewrecker442 karma


lordtuts1439 karma

Did it give you flashbacks about your birth?

Pipewrecker579 karma

Lol nope.

GnomishProtozoa354 karma

Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle?

Pipewrecker773 karma


shelbs187352 karma

Fellow TV operator here. Sitting in my TV truck right now actually waiting for our vactor to fill up on water. Got our root cutter completely wedged on grounding rod in the line right now!

What interface / inspection software do you use? Pipetech? Granite?

Pipewrecker335 karma

We use pipelogix and wincan. Good luck with the root cutter. We will yank the reel reverse and snap the blade off and write it off if we're dealing with a potential dig.

jwilli79291 karma

How did you get started in this profession?

How much does it generally pay if thats not too personal for the interwebs?

Pipewrecker567 karma

I have a background in robotics work so when a friend offered me a job it all fell together. Not many people can competently rebuild complex robots and even fewer do it when shit is involved in the picture.

I started at 16 an hour and now I'm 20 an hour for general labor. I have specific hourly rates for robotic service I won't disclose ;)

KyfeHeartsword266 karma

Hey, thanks for doing this AMA.

Have you ever kept anything you've found in a sewer?

Pipewrecker409 karma

I'll show it all off tonight after work. I have hundreds of marbles lots of gold lots of rings and a bunch of trinkets.

neehao189 karma

OP please put it in your thread descrption so we can find it later on

Pipewrecker245 karma

10-4 I didn't think about that good point.

klondon7246 karma

When you were younger, did you think "I want to be a sewer worker when I grow up"? If not... was it a last job available or did you feel like it was something you felt like you could handle?

Pipewrecker449 karma

When I was a kid I wanted to design robotics and now I have crossed the second to last stepping stone to making it happen. I had no idea I would be doing what I do now.

Pyronic_Chaos221 karma

How common are poop-related jokes on the job? i.e. are 'shit head' and 'shit for brains' common insults for when someone fucks up?

Pipewrecker411 karma

Completely uncommon. Everybody's seen it or heard it.

Pepper_dude206 karma

Besides rats have you found anything else living in sewers?

Pipewrecker326 karma

Lots of bugs.

tryingtojustbe202 karma

What does the typical work day look like for you?

Pipewrecker393 karma

Show up at office annotate 5 crews robots and their condition. Make adjustments to equipment per the task for the day. Cut and weld sewer cutter chain for pipe diameter assignment. Go out and help field manager supervise the most difficult jobs for the day.

Sometimes I need to be the one to shovel rocks out of a manhole or cut roots with a chainsaw. When certain crews are too slow or aren't able to work in confined spaces with fast rate of death gasses I'm first in line to get the job done.

End of day is review equipment and condition. Take damaged equipment out of service, find a replacement, identify damaged components and order new parts.

Ninel56160 karma

Do mutant lizards live there? On a serious note, do you see your future in this job, or is it temporary?

Pipewrecker235 karma

I don't plan on leaving the industry anytime soon.

clsbabe144 karma

Have you seen many fatbergs?

Pipewrecker198 karma

Not quite on that scale but yes I have seen and removed hundreds and hundreds of pounds of grease In all its forms. :/

joeshamoe20114 karma

Do you have any ideas on how to get a rock out of a main sewer line?

My former neighbor's kids dropped some landscaping rocks down our cleanout. We managed to get all but one out. I was quoted $11,000 to dig up our driveway, remove the rock and replace the section of pipe. I'm hoping there's an alternative.

I attached some a video clip of the rock in the pipe. It's about 6 feet from where our sewer line meets the county line but won't go any farther. (https://gfycat.com/SerpentineSmallBernesemountaindog)

Pipewrecker407 karma

Please message me directly I'll help ya get that bastard out.

TheOneExile114 karma

How do you think the use of newer cameras (automated, 180/360-degree) or the advent of programs to automatically code video will affect your business? Personally I think the automated cameras are currently too unreliable but the idea of 180-degree fly throughs with automatic coding of defect seems very likely.

Pipewrecker359 karma

I'm one of the few ibak certified repair techs on the east coast and I'm not a fan of anything with more than a pan tilt zoom system. The panoramic camera system is 400 thousand tax payer dollars, needs 200k worth of computers to interpret the images, and it's so fragile it cannot be handled by general labor type people. Overall it's a pretty cool piece of technology but absolutely worthless in real world applications.

gpohbcpp93 karma

Not expecting you to solve my sewer problem in an AMA; I have people working on it anyway. But would you take a look at my /r/plumbing post and just give your two cents about the blood?

Pipewrecker124 karma

Sure I'll go check it out.

12stringPlayer75 karma

Is Ed Norton still the patron saint of sewer workers?

Pipewrecker90 karma

I'll get back to you on that.

whowantscake64 karma

Alligators. New York. True?

Pipewrecker223 karma

Not true. Would die of low oxygen in less than an hour.

teh_mexirican51 karma

You've mentioned how we're just putting a bandaid over the problems our infrastructure faces. What are some actions the average shmuck can do to help improve this situation, aside from not flushing wipes and pouring grease down the drain?What kind of action should local governments be taking to help this problem?

Pipewrecker107 karma

Us shmucks can't do anything. The problem is we cannot accept the price tag of proper infastructure repair so the bare minimum is done and nobody is accountable down the road when poor decisions fail. Blame us all for not voicing our concerns. But even I didn't know how bad it was until I saw it first hand.

Rob_G22 karma

Is there tons of graffiti down there, like how the sewers are represented on TV and movies? Have you ever run into anyone spraypainting, or anyone down there who shouldn't have been down there?

Pipewrecker46 karma

Only large diameter combined systems can be accessed without opening a manhole. It's extremely rare to see graffiti in a sewer unless it came from another sewer worker.

dareeza1 karma

Set the record straight: how many alligators have you found down there?

Pipewrecker2 karma

None so far. :)

cockonmydick-6 karma

How often do you wish you paid attention in school?

Pipewrecker1 karma

I did great in school but college wasn't for me when I wasn't aloud to test out of classes I found myself contemplating life surrounded by people who were good at jumping through hoops. I burned up about 22k of my parents money in college and still feel bad about it. But my friends who did finish their 4 year degrees have debt and make half as much as I do so I'd say school isn't for everyone.