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Aberdeen wise to keep ahead of the curve on sewage treatment issues [Editorial]

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It's a matter no one gives a, well let's say hoot, about until there's a problem. When there is a problem with it, everyone affected will be angry enough to call city hall and give the poor soul who answers a blast of, let's just call it hot air.

The matter at hand is sewage disposal and treatment, and it appears Aberdeen is at the forefront of making sure no one gets any stink on them from being cavalier about modernization. The city council voted last week to spend up to $96,000 on equipment that will make possible sewer line replacement using a technique called pipe-bursting. Essentially a new sewerage pipe is fed through the old one, a process during which the old pipe is shattered to make way for the new one. It negates the need to dig trenches to uproot and replace the old pipe.

Not surprisingly, it is possible to find videos of the process on the Internet by running a search on "pipe-bursting technique," for those interested in the banality of boilerplate government work. It's hardly the kind of thing on which political careers are built, but it really should be. The business of government, when it comes down to it, consists largely of making sure things get done that make civilization possible, even as there is no profit motive for doing the work. Getting rid of sewage, from the earliest days of civilization, has been a key reason to have government (which is kind of fitting).

From a more modern perspective, Aberdeen and many other communities of similar age have struggled with issues relating to sewerage lines and sewage treatment because when the pipe infrastructure was first installed, storm water runoff and household sewage all were transported to the same places. In the 40 or so years that municipal sewage treatment has been taken seriously, rainwater infiltrating sewerage piping has been a major problem, flooding sewage treatment plants and causing untreated filth to spew into waterways and back up into basements.

The pipe-bursting technique is designed to replace the old lines and help prevent storm surges from upending the disposal system, making the treatment process more efficient and, more importantly, helping to prevent spills and basement backups.

Aberdeen is among the first communities on the East Coast to take advantage of the technology, but this isn't the first time the city has been a leader in wastewater treatment. Nearly 40 years ago, when many communities were reluctantly building new sewage treatment plants or substantially upgrading rudimentary old ones, Aberdeen built what was at the time called an Advanced Waste Water Treatment Plant, because it far exceeded minimum standards. A decade or so later, the city was a pioneer in installing biological nutrient reduction equipment in the plant, again keeping it ahead of the curve.

This latest advance, though arguably less of an advance in technology, has the potential to have a major effect because of its ability to prevent spills.

The foresighted purchase helps keep Aberdeen number one when it comes to dealing with number two.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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