First one was fun and I think a lot of people learned some awful and fun stuff about what goes on under their feet.

I'm an underground infastructure robotics technician and professional confined space work technician and this is my second ama, please don't dox me this time.

I'm also socially a brick wall so I'm sorry in advance if I let the it jokes float over my head, again.


Ask me anything.

Comments: 475 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

Aidoboy178 karma

What do you think of flushable toilet wipes?

Pipewrecker428 karma

They do hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to our sewer system every single year.

I personally think they should be illegal to manufacture.

probably_tryna_sleep139 karma

As a former plumber who has had to explain to people hundreds of times that "I'm aware they say flushable, but still don't flush them" after pulling back a sewer cable with a pile of wipes tangled up in it... I agree 100% with you

Pipewrecker137 karma

And after I pull your sewer snake out of their lateral into the mainline also still wadded with ragging, I shed a tear for you who had to cut the snake off and leave it dangling.

Snowstandards143 karma

How much money have you made by cashing in the gold and other sewer debris? What was your greatest and worst finds?

Pipewrecker258 karma

I have actually been stashing most of my gold, I did pawn some stuff off last Christmas and walked away with over 500 buckaroos.

Best thing found, teeth, one gold capped one with a cavity and some dentures.

Worst found, cut up bones, hopefully from animals.

galactaghost66 karma

Don't you have to report those to the police to make sure they aren't human?

Pipewrecker176 karma

What could the police possibly do with a bone fragment that could have come from miles upstream from where we sucked it and then mixed with other debris from all over the east coast.

If anyone in LE wants to message me and talk about it I'm open.

ThisSavageWay130 karma

Make a necklace dedicated to human depravity out of it.

Pipewrecker138 karma

Already ahead of ya buddy. ;)

galactaghost69 karma

Possibly solve a crime with it.

Pipewrecker73 karma

That's fair. Hopefully someone will message me and will be able to play guess a bone.

BadgerVadger69 karma

Disclaimer: not LE or a professional in this field BUT just graduated with an anthropology degree focusing on forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology and you would be fucking amazed at how good we are (and thus the professionals even more) at guess-a-bone from a minute tiny fragment of a whole bone, as well as determining anything like species, age, origin, gender, etc. based on just a fragment. If they had reasonable suspicion that something might be coming through based on the area I wouldn't be surprised if they could start making some associations with particular crimes. That being said you're dealing with sewer refuse from an indeterminably large area, I don't think it's a stretch to say the vast majority is just animal bits. To call in every chunk of bone-like material would be a massive waste of resources. My last forensic professor also actively works for local LE and she said more often than not when someone calls in a report of remains they turn out to be animal, or just straight up rocks that look vaguely skeleton-like.

Pipewrecker76 karma

If you feel curious enough, I'll mail you some.

So long as I don't end up in some stupid interrogation situation about some bones that ended up in a pipe 50+ years ago.

chimpdoctor101 karma

What is the greatest/most valuable thing you have found and how long have you been doing this?

Pipewrecker178 karma

Most valuable would be some diamond rings, most valuable to me would be all the wierd stuff.

I'm in my 3rdish year of underground infastructure rehabilitation.

chimpdoctor30 karma

You have me on tenterhooks. Please elaborate.


Do you sift through stuff on the clock, or do you take it home to sift through?

Pipewrecker243 karma

I do all my sifting off the clock. At work.

My wife would murder me if I brought raw sewer debris home.

Lenny_Here130 karma

Does your wife wear any of the sewer jewelry? (aka sewerly)

Pipewrecker150 karma

For sure, she likes it when I bring home a big pile of jewelry to pick what she likes.

inohsinhsin77 karma

I’m guessing she’s aware of where they come from? Otherwise you’d seem like a serial killer..

Pipewrecker229 karma

She knows. She's a god damn saint for washing my clothes.

EbilCrayons51 karma

Does she have a separate washing machine just for your work clothes?

Pipewrecker117 karma

No, but I hose my clothes off if they are really coated in sewer mystery before they get washes.

HandRailSuicide181 karma

Why do people forget about the mole people who live in our precious sewers?

Pipewrecker146 karma

I accidentally did a genocide on the mole people with a 200 horsepower hydraulic root saw. Sorry?

Public_Enemy_No272 karma

"professional confined space work technician" In the Navy, we had techs that would enter a confined space and certify that it was gas free. Similar to what you do?

Pipewrecker112 karma

No thankfully technology has gifted us portable gas meters, I lower the meter into the hole on a rope, if it dosent scream at me, I'm good to make entry.

a_monomaniac21 karma

What happens when the meter alerts you to gas being present? How do you make the space safe to then go into?

Pipewrecker56 karma

There's a few ways, they all depend on the situation and the manhole itself.

My personal favorite is to have a jet truck upstream fire his nozzle up at full pressure and suck the dirty air out of the line segment.

The by the book method is to use forced air by electric fan blow down tube or an actual gas powered blower on the upstream manhole.

balsaaaq66 karma

Do you realize you may quite possibly have the worlds largest collection of previously swallowed marbles?

Pipewrecker33 karma

No, but now I'm even more excited about all my marbles. :)

TerminatorCobra8964 karma

Overall, how do you like your job?

Pipewrecker222 karma

4/10 with rice.

It's not bad, I'd be doing much worse off in my life ambitions if I had stuck with my previous retail endeavors.

barnowlboogie50 karma

Best joke you got?

Pipewrecker273 karma

I still can't afford a house.

pm-me-ur-dank-maymay47 karma

are they covered in shit ? lol

and do you have to like, share with others?

Pipewrecker90 karma

I only share if someone helps. Otherwise they can sift through the shit on their own.

If I pull something valuable on site we split the pawn rewards.

DamnSkeeters25 karma

How do you clean the shit off of the stuff you bring up?

Pipewrecker69 karma

First with a toothbrush, then an ultrasonic cleaner, then polish if it looks neat.

Chose_a_usersname9 karma

How do you know if there is going g to be something worth while in a pile of stuff? I have video inspected miles of sewer and only found a gold ring once.

Pipewrecker20 karma

It's all about finding a line segment that won't self clean during a sso or significant rain event.

If a surcharge or flood won't move the debris there's a really good chance everything heavy from that entire row of houses is hung up in silt or compacted grease.

You want to find the sticky black sand. If you don't see the black goo mystery sand don't even bother looking.

HeathsKid45 karma

What sort of precautions are necessary in the interests of hygiene/safety?

Pipewrecker151 karma

Absolutely no grabbing anything with your hands. Gloves mean nothing with this stuff.

The debris I sift through has literally tens of thousands of razor blades and pins and syringe needles.

I use needle nose pliers to interact with anything in the debris pile.

Clothes get filthy, shower well. That's about it.

shylowheniwasyoung26 karma

Do you use a metal detector of any type?

Pipewrecker110 karma

Nope, there's so much broken down iron and old lead pipe gasket that even the most fancy detector would have a brain fart millimeters from gold.

ThisSavageWay45 karma


What are some tips for people to make their lives and yours easier?

Pipewrecker122 karma

Never flush grease or wet wipes.

Everything else isn't your fault.

EvenBetterCool43 karma

You work for a city or something I'm assuming - what becomes of all the metal objects that are found, are they the property of the company/organization/city?

Pipewrecker88 karma

They are mine to keep. I work for a private subcontractor.

The cities and municipalities pay to have the debris removed, and they pay by weight depending on the contract.

Normally all of this stuff I find would be sent to an incinerator to be treated.

Burnout0736 karma

What's the creepiest it's ever gotten down there?

Pipewrecker101 karma

I was crawling 36" pipe with a visible hinge fracture and the top of the pipe dropped an inch while I put my arms on the bottom.

That was an immediate gtfo situation.

BadgerDancer36 karma

Did you "float" into this line of work or did you have to push for it?

Pipewrecker42 karma

I was pushed by a good friend who knew I would be good at it.

BadgerDancer47 karma

You are more of an unearthed gem than your coat hanger.

Pipewrecker44 karma

Aw thanks. I really appreciate it.

DaMemeWithADream34 karma

What is the weirdest thing you have found within a sewer?

Pipewrecker91 karma

A traffic cone is up there.

Durhamnorthumberland27 karma

How do you sift through mountains of sewage? I imagine you find far more junk than jewelry. Just a medium mesh sieve held under the flow or what?

Pipewrecker124 karma

1/2" orafice mesh zip tied to the bottom of a bucket gets most of the big jewelry.

My go to sifting tool for fine debris is actually a spatula I also found in the sewer.

paintbing27 karma

What is the proportion of costume jewelry to real jewelry that you find? What has been the biggest let down you thought was authentic only to find it was $1.99 from Claires?

Pipewrecker69 karma

It's all about where it comes from.

Some poorer areas are filled with mostly fake junk. Some rich areas have even more fake junk.

The common denominator is that the older it is the odds of it being real are better.

PotatoFrogAttack26 karma

Thank you for doing this ama :)

  1. What is the most valuable thing you have found?
  2. What is the most beautiful thing you have found?

Pipewrecker55 karma

Diamond rings, beauty is always up for interpretation so I'd say my hundreds of marbles are the most beautiful sewer find.

sh1tbr1cks15 karma

What's the most valuable diamond ring you've found? Can you estimate based on size?

Pipewrecker69 karma

Nope but I'll go take a pic and we can let everyone else guess.

Edit here's my two rings with the best looking diamonds. At least I think they're diamonds... I'm not a jeweler.

bigshac22 karma

What is the wildlife/bugs down there like? Is there anything you have to be weary of?

Pipewrecker39 karma

Black widow spiders love manholes in the easement that rarely get opened.

Other than those cute arachnids, just the occasional cave crickets.

ValyrianSteelYoGirl22 karma

What exactly are underground infrastructure robots? I imagine a bunch of Wall-e's turning traffic signals from red to green and one breaks and you go fix him. Also (if I may 2-part it) what kind of background/education do you need to get into such work?

Pipewrecker23 karma

The robot is a tethered wheeled platform to carry a fancy cctv camera.

So far as prior experience or education, none needed you can work yourself up to this position.

FinesserProfesser20 karma

What’s the average loot pull per sewer-sifting session?

Pipewrecker34 karma

It depends on where the debris came from. It could be a ring per 5 tons of debris or lots of jewelry in a few hundred pounds.

j93892019 karma

Someone doxed you in your first AMA?

Pipewrecker60 karma

Yup. At first I thought it was my coworker.

Unfortunately it was just some random Internet stranger with nothing better to do with their time.

I work for really good people so it's not like I'm in any position of risk by doing this, my boss and his bosses know I know what I can and cannot disclose.

hjjjjj22219 karma

What sort of things do you find down there and how do you achieve this?

Pipewrecker29 karma

Anything that fits down your drain to the main line I find it or pieces of it. Also anything shitty companies leave behind during repairs.

It's usually recovered with a gigantic vacuum, if the manhole is too deep it's dug by hand and shovel and bucket roped topside.

Buckminsterfullabeer16 karma

Have you looked into selling the gold things you find to a precious metal refiner instead of a pawn shop?
The one time I've tried, getting paid per gram for the gold worked out as far more money than selling the ring.

Pipewrecker68 karma

I have, I'm currently hoarding a pile of damaged gold and silver jewelry that will one day help my kids go to college.

My experience has been that pawn shops are absolutely stupid and have little to no clue what they are looking at. At least on the east coast.

Some offer way more and definitely lose money and some try to offer me cracker jack ring prices for 14k gold pieces.

Currently I'm just hodling all my jewelry as I'd rather slam my hand in a car door than deal with another pawn shop expert.

Empigee15 karma

Have you ever encountered a fatberg? If so, how was it disposed of?

Pipewrecker28 karma

Yes, and I take a non standard approach to grease blockages, I run a root saw right through them.

We will screen off the downstream manhole and suck out the grease so it can't make a new grease ball downstream.

inohsinhsin15 karma

Have you ever found something returnable? What was it and did you return it?

Pipewrecker39 karma

No. :( I genuinely hope to one day return someone's lost family heirloom.

Noozefer14 karma

The best way to make friends at a construction site is breaking a sewer pipe. Have you personally caused accidental damage that turned into a really bad day for someone else?

Pipewrecker26 karma

No, I make it a goal to use my time to solve problems and not create them.

I have collapsed pipe, several times, but it comes with the business. Sometimes it's inevitable.

Agentreddit10 karma

Do you have a dedicated washing machine/dryer for your clothes only or so you all share the same?

If you share one machine do you do a load dedicated to your clothes or do you mix?

What setting do you use on your machine? What laundry detergent do you use? Do you bleach your clothes? If so, what brand?

Pipewrecker14 karma

If my clothes appear to be in that awful of state I throw them in the trash.

Normal shit grease comes off great with a pressure washer.

The standard clothes washing procedures finish them off and you can't tell the difference.

mavenshade10 karma

Because your dealing with sewage, do you get sick more than other people?

Pipewrecker11 karma

I actually can't remember the last time I got sick. I also never use hand sanitizer, only dish soap and water.

HardcoreFlexa10 karma

What's it like to be down there for long periods of time? Also how bad is the smell and does it cling, are you used to it by now?

Pipewrecker55 karma

It's strange, like you have been in the pool too long but a different sensation.

The smell is dependent on what size pipe, how old it is and what's connected to it.

I would describe the average sewer smell like vinegar and a pizza hut fart.

It does linger.

biffy909 karma

This is a really neat job. My boyfriend father is really into metal detecting, any tips for doing this same type of thing on a much smaller scale?

Pipewrecker47 karma

Lower your expectations by about 1000%

What i find is concentrate, that took decades to accumulate.

What you find out in the woods is dispersed as wide as you can imagine.

If I used my treasure hunting methods for non sewer debris I would be satisfied finding ANYTHING.

I'd wager for every pound of sewer debris I turn over, a metal detecting hobbyist would need to cover a thousand acres to net similar results.

In no way shape or form am I trying to discredit metal detecting either, it's just so spread out to hit the targets.

I myself love me some magnet fishing, but I know that 99.9% of what I pull out is going to be some crap.

The whole point is to do it for fun and to never lose prospective of that. If he's already having fun there's nothing he needs to change unless he wants to.

mal_kare9 karma

Can i see your work boots, please?

Pipewrecker17 karma


Edit* here you go.

DuchessMe8 karma

What's the oldest or most historical item you've found? What the oldest treasure item that you've found?

Pipewrecker4 karma

I have found several of those 1900s pocket warmers that look like a lighter.

I think those might be my oldest pieces.

evohans8 karma

Is it really "wasting" water if it just goes back into the system after pouring it down the drain?

Pipewrecker50 karma

Yes. The energy needed to make that water you like clean, creates the situation where you can waste water.

Plus, think of some dude in a desert pulling mud water out of a well, that dude would probably do anything in his power to have the clean water you do to waste.

Now imagine there's hundreds of millions of those poor dudes, it may not be a well to get water, but there's too many damn people on earth who still have to suffer with dirty water.

jrm1198 karma

Is the mining done by some sort of shit sleuth box?

Pipewrecker27 karma

I'm the sleuth box. Mostly sifting with a spatula and a good eye.

roachbug1018 karma

What happened on your worst day of work?

Pipewrecker15 karma

Probably getting sprayed in the face with def fluid.

codblopsII8 karma

Do you sift immediately or do you have to wait till you RTB for retasking?

Pipewrecker13 karma

I usually sift when I haven't worked a long dirty day after work. Some of the debris I sifted today were sucked from the sewer weeks ago.

eastriverdriveII7 karma

do you see millions of roaches?

Pipewrecker23 karma

Actually out of the thousands of hours in this job, I have seen probably less than 100 roaches.

foxfire667 karma

If I wanted to sift through shit for soiled spoils, what entry level job should I be seeking? When working in a sewer are you typically alone? How much interaction with other people is necessary?

Pipewrecker10 karma

I interact with lots of people in various capacities every single day. It's definitely a job requirement.

If you wanted to get your feet wet, look for a company that does cctv work and start at the bottom. You can absolutely move up quick if you work hard and smart.

qwerty-confirmed7 karma


Pipewrecker24 karma

Spending 7 hours out of a 12 hour day in a manhole shoveling gravel.

cowboyecosse7 karma

Have you ever found any engravings on a piece of jewellery and have you ever made an attempt to find anyone who lost it because of an engraving?

Pipewrecker39 karma

I have found engraved pieces and I have absolutely put in all of my effort to try and find the owner. No takers yet.

The problem is, some of this debris we pull out of pipes can be over 90 years old.

It all goes in the same hopper too, so I can't say where a piece of jewelry came from.

Our trucks suck shit in over 6 states, and some lines are new with modern debris, some lines have literal American history compacted into the pipe.

MassivelyObeseDragon7 karma

What is the Largest object you have found?

Pipewrecker30 karma

Roots. I had this one manhole in the middle of damn nowhere, had a beautiful tree about 20' away.

Turns out that tree looked so damn good was because it was drinking sewage for a year or 20.

The roots had formed a solid mass blocking 75% of a 36" pipe and was over 20' long. They had broken through the brick wall of the manhole and followed the flow.

It took two days and two electric chainsaws and a truck to remove it.

HurkleDurkleton6 karma

Are you NASSCO certified?

Pipewrecker7 karma

Yes sir.

RegisteredTM3 karma

What kind of tractor do you use?

I use Rausch for the inspecting that I do.

Pipewrecker5 karma

Envirosight ibak insight.

R0binSage3 karma

What is the biggest animal/insect/whatever you've encountered?

Pipewrecker30 karma

A 2" diameter spider on the underside of a manhole cover. He was chill and stayed there the whole time and I closed him back up the way I found him.