Upham's Corner Online

Getting Help - Cleaning out the Catch Basin

Posted: June 9, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Some of us are blessed with a catch basin opening in the street in front of our homes.  Especially if the street slopes, the catch basin opening acts like a sieve.  Trash washed down the street by heavy rains will flow into the catch basin through the curbcut and get trapped atop the catch basin opening.  Okay, so street debris (as much as we did not put it there) is just a normal part of home maintenance. 

However, after decades of debris washing into the opening, the catch basin will eventually fill up.  How do you know when it's a problem?  When the water rushing down the street during a rainstorm flows on top of the grate and past the curb cut opening to the catch basin as if it weren't there.  That's when it's time to call Boston Water & Sewer to request a cleanout.  617-989-7000. 

In a couple days a catch basin truck will arrive.  They will need full access to the street on both sides of the opening.  The cleanout truck will need to park to the outside of the opening but located where the boom (also known as the scooper) has access to enter the hole for the cleanout.

Boston Water & Sewer trucks are not gigantic but they are big enough to block the street to larger trucks such as oil delivery, especially if parked cars block the other side of the street.

In approximately 30 minutes, you will wonder how you could have waited so long to make the phone call.  Cleanout complete!

Note:  Cleanout occurred in front of 15 Monadnock St, Dorchester.

The Operations Department of Boston Water and Sewer sent out Chris Gleason, a seasoned professional, who knows how to operate the controls of the catch basin truck like he was playing a piano.  The first step is usually to obtain clear access to the catch basin opening, then to remove the grate, exposing the debris inside. 

And unlike the normal lay person who takes things apart then can't figure out how to reassemble, Chris first sprayed a corner of the grate blue so that he could reorient the grate properly at the close of the cleanout.

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Working the boom is dangerous especially for bystanders and even for Chris.  If he weren't properly trained, the boom could easily land where it shouldn't.  The boom is very heavy in its trajectory state and acts like a plunger, digging deep into the "catch basin muck"  when the controls allow it to drop. Once inside, the operator can open the scooping arms out, then down and close to pull out a full take of the "delicious" catch basin gold.

At the beginning of the cleanout, the scooper sat "high" because the opening was so full. As the cleanout progressed, most of the larger debris (which tends to float to the top) had been removed and what remained was more silt-like.

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The boom truck is the size of a normal dump truck but during the cleanout operation must sit to the outside of the catch basin.  Along with cars parked along the opposite side of the street, that makes for a narrow passing width.  No cars had problems but a Poland Springs truck had to back all the way down the street.

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It's not until the amount of accumulated muck inside the catch basin is high enough that the water no longer filters down into the storm drain fast enough during a heavy rain.  So you can wait a long time before you call for help.  However, the catch basin is there for a purpose, so if you see it not functioning properly, you should call Boston Water & Sewer right away.

Photos show the scooper up high at the beginning of the cleanout, lower in the opening as the cleanout progressed.  "So how do you know when you are done?"  Chris listens for the sound of the boom "hitting bottom."  That's when he knows that he's almost done.

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Notice the curb cut on the inside of the catch basin opening.  This is how most of the street debris enters the catch basin. 
Tme to call it a day.  Chris uses the boom to hook the grate and lower it back onto the catch basin opening, properly oriented. Good job, Chris.

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Just in time - heavy rain falls on the evening of the cleanout.  You can see the reflection in the water on the inside.  That contrasts with the "dry" look of the freshly cleaned out catch basin above.

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