ST. CLOUD -  This week for our "Behind the Scenes" series we went underground to check out the St. Cloud sewer system.

In St. Cloud, one doesn’t simply climb down into the sewer system. It’s a process that requires preparation, safety gear…and the tour comes complete with a smell that you just can’t describe.

The system we toured was a pump station near Riverside Park and the Mississippi River. The station is in charge of pumping water from the east side of St. Cloud under the River.

Tim Hewett, the Infrastructure Services Supervisor with St. Cloud says this one location alone takes wastewater from both East St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids.

"Roughly through here you'll see on average about a million gallons of wastewater," Hewett says.

Everyone has to go through a safety program before being lowered down into the system. A harness, helmet and gloves are all required to be worn for protection.

Crews also carry a meter to ensure that oxygen levels are safe when underground. The meter also measures any dangerous gasses that could be in the air.

Anyone going down needs to be lowered in using a crane connected to a harness, there are no ladders or steps to climb down into the sewer. Hewett says this is done to make sure everyone gets lowered in the safe and correct way.

"There's no steps, so your only option to enter the system is using the proper safety equipment," Hewett says.

Down in the sewer, water is pumped in and is directed through one of three channels.  If more wastewater enters the system, more channels are automatically opened to keep the flow moving. Certain materials and parts are used underground in order to avoid corrosion from the gasses the wastewater produces.

If any problems arise with any sewer systems in the area. The St. Cloud Public Services Department can monitor water levels from computers at their Central Maintenance Building.

Video story done with help from WJON's Josh Akkermann


Dan DeBaun, WJON News