Special Report: Fresno's Aging Sewer System

Fresno has more than 1,500 miles of sewer lines it's a system as vital as electricity, food, and water.KMPH FOX 26 News reporter Erik Rosales investigates and uncovered the things the City of Fresno does to keep its aging sewers flowing and in repair.225 square miles, more than a half million people, and an estimated 64 million gallons of water flows into Fresno's sewer system every day.Arturo Alvarez, wastewater maintenance supervisor said, "We have lines that date back to 1898, so when we here putting lines back in the 1800's nobody really knows what we are going to have today. We have larger vehicles on the road which causes off-sets and as time goes on materials improve."Modern materials have improved greatly over the old clay pipes that caused lots of problems. Today, much stronger and longer lasting PVC pipes are installed. Pipes that prevent tree roots from penetrating.In 2006, the state put tougher rules in place forcing cities like Fresno to revamp how they take care of their sewer systems.Keeping the pipes clear is more high tech now too. Crews no longer need to guess if they're clearing debris by feel. With the help of fiber optics and and WIFI, they can now see the roots in the lines and break up grease clogs faster.Crews also have access to computerized maps in their trucks. "We have also a sophisticated computer model that allows us to put the system capacities in at any time. What happens if we add a new industry or business? It will determine what kind of capacity it will have," said Fresno's assistant director of public utilities, Stephen Hogg.Wastewater supervisors say one of the best improvements in technology, these fiberglass liners. After it's dipped into a solution, the liner can be placed inside an existing sewer line. So repairs can be completed without tearing up city streets, and the new liners last for decades.So how is this all being paid for? Hogg says, "The construction is paid for either by developers or impact connection fees. The maintenance is all paid for through the user fees."Every time you pay your bill, you're helping to keep the system clear. Records show since 2011 Fresno hasn't had any major sewer overflows that have reached surface water or drainage channels.Workers say grease and roots are major causes for blockages. Those so-called disposable wipes are clogging drains at a record pace and that costs some cities millions to clear each year. "There's been a big difference in the last 5 years, especially with the flushables. They are everywhere right now, with the disinfecting wipes and what not," said Alvarez.City workers say the more foods, fats, oils and greases people put down the drain or through the garbage disposal, the more impact they will have in clogging the system. *Always scrape food residue from plates before washing. *Never put coffee grounds, eggshells, or kitty litter down the drain or toilet.*Always collect excess fats and oils in a jar, and throw that jar away in your gray city garbage can.