It’s a cold, gray morning in San Francisco. And while many people sleepily punch in the floor number for the elevator or climb up the stairs to make their way to their work stations, dedicated SFPUC field crews are already fast at work on the City’s streets or even under them.
SFPUC’s hard-working sewer service crews work every single day to protect public health and environment by taking care of the sewer system throughout the entire city of San Francisco. An area of seven miles by seven miles is not so small when there are 1,000 miles of sewer pipes.
SFPUC crew members Manny Carbajal and Froilan Tabangcura keep storm drains (also known as “catch basins”) cleared from blockages caused by leaves, trash and debris – anything thrown on the street.
A typical day for Carbajal and Tabangcura includes using vac-con trucks, high-powered sewer cleaning equipment, to clean catch basins in order to prevent ponding and hydroplaning, all while keeping the area and walkways safe for pedestrians.
“These vac-cons are high-powered equipment that pretty much just act as big vacuum cleaners, with water rinsing up the tubes,” said Tabangcura. “Prior to coming to the yard, we removed the debris from the water, so it doesn’t overwhelm our system, put back the water into the sewer system, and finished off the day by cleaning up our trucks.”
Because of the work sewer service crew members like Carbajal and Tabangcura perform every day, the City’s combined sewer system can function smoothly, especially during rainy days.
“Cleaning the catch basins is just one aspect of the job, from camera work, to maintaining the sewer system, to keeping the public safe,” said Carbajal. “There’s a whole list of things that we need to take care of and be on top of, and I enjoy that.”
With 25,000 storm drains throughout the City that need to be maintained and kept clean, SFPUC crews can always use the extra help. The SFPUC has an Adopt a Drain program for residents to adopt and keep storm drains free of leaves and debris.