The Perils of Inflow and Infiltration Underground Wastewater Pipes

The Perils of Inflow and Infiltration Underground Wastewater Pipes

Underground wastewater pipes are a crucial component of any city's infrastructure, tasked with transporting sewage and stormwater away from residential and commercial areas to treatment facilities.

These systems are susceptible to damage and degradation due to environmental changes and other factors. Inflow and infiltration (I/I) can compromise the integrity of your wastewater infrastructure – and pose environmental, health, and economic risks.

An illustration of infiltration and inflow in wastewater pipes.
Illustration courtesy of Envirosight.

Understanding Inflow and Infiltration

Inflow refers to the direct entry of stormwater into the sewer system through improper connections, such as downspouts, sump pumps, or catch basins. Infiltration, on the other hand, is the seepage of groundwater into the sewer system through cracks, joints, or defects in the pipes. Both processes result in an increased volume of water in the system, which can lead to various issues.

Consequences of Inflow and Infiltration

Capacity Overload: Excess water from inflow and infiltration can overwhelm the capacity of the sewer system, leading to sewage backups and overflows. These kinds of backups not only pose a health hazard, they also damage property and the environment.

Treatment Challenges: Wastewater treatment facilities are designed to handle a specific volume of water. The additional flow from inflow and infiltration can dilute the sewage, making treatment less effective and more costly.

Infrastructure Damage: The increased pressure and flow from excess water can exacerbate the wear and tear on pipes, leading to more frequent breaks, leaks, and collapses. This accelerates the aging of the infrastructure and increases maintenance and repair costs.

Environmental Pollution: Sewage overflows resulting from capacity overload can lead to the discharge of untreated or partially treated wastewater into rivers, lakes, and oceans. This contaminates water bodies, harms aquatic life, and poses risks to public health.

Economic Burden: The financial implications of inflow and infiltration are significant. Municipalities must allocate substantial resources to address the resulting issues, including emergency responses, infrastructure repairs, and upgrades to treatment facilities.

Strategies to Mitigate Inflow and Infiltration

To combat the dangers of inflow and infiltration, municipalities and utility companies employ various strategies:

Inspection and Monitoring: Regular inspection of sewer lines using CCTV cameras helps identify areas of concern, such as cracks, root intrusion, and illegal connections.

Rehabilitation and Repair: Once identified, defects in the sewer system should be promptly repaired. Techniques such as pipe lining, grouting, and replacement are commonly used to restore the integrity of the pipes.

Public Awareness and Enforcement: Educating the public about the importance of proper sewer connections and the consequences of inflow and infiltration is crucial. Municipalities should also enforce regulations to prevent illegal connections and ensure compliance.

Green Infrastructure: Implementing green infrastructure solutions, such as permeable pavements, green roofs, and rain gardens, can help reduce stormwater runoff and lessen the burden on the sewer system.

Capacity Management: Upgrading the sewer system to increase its capacity and resilience can help accommodate the additional flow from inflow and infiltration, reducing the risk of overflows and backups.

Inflow and infiltration in underground wastewater pipes pose a multifaceted challenge that demands proactive management and continuous effort. The consequences of neglecting these issues are far-reaching, affecting public health, the environment, and the economy. By implementing effective strategies to mitigate inflow and infiltration, municipalities can safeguard their infrastructure, protect their communities, and ensure the long-term sustainability of their wastewater management systems.

A GPRS Project Manager prepares a sewer scope inspection rover.
GPRS’ video pipe inspection services utilize industry-leading, remote-controlled sewer inspection rovers as well as push-fed cameras to evaluate the integrity of your wastewater infrastructure.

How GPRS Can Help You Mitigate Inflow and Infiltration

The best way to mitigate I/I is to hire a professional sewer inspection company to evaluate and map your wastewater infrastructure.

GPRS’ video pipe inspection services utilize industry-leading, remote-controlled sewer scope rovers as well as push-fed camera scopes to locate defects such as I/I, cross bores, clogs, and more within your pipes, limiting project delays and budget overruns and keeping your infrastructure working for you.

Our rovers and push-fed scopes are equipped with sondes: instrument probes that emit a signal detectable with an electromagnetic (EM) locator so that we can map your infrastructure at the same time we’re evaluating it for defects.

Our NASSCO-certified Project Managers (PMs) are highly trained professionals, equipped with not only state-of-the-art equipment but industry-leading training that allows them to conduct all forms of sewer inspections, including sewer lateral inspections.

NASSCO is the National Association of Sewer Service Companies. This non-profit entity provides training, technical resources, and industry advocacy to increase awareness and provide viable solutions for aging underground infrastructure.

GPRS’ PMs go through NASSCO’s Pipeline Assessment Certification Program (PACP), Lateral Assessment Certification Program (LACP), and Manhole Assessment Certification Program (MACP) to learn how to consistently and accurately assess the condition of pipelines, laterals, and manholes.

When you hire GPRS to perform a sewer scope inspection, you receive a comprehensive package of information that includes detailed descriptions of any pipe defects found, and video footage and screenshots of those problems. The defects are ranked by severity and geolocated, so you know what needs to be addressed first and exactly where you need to dig to repair the problem.

From sewer lines to skyscrapers, GPRS Intelligently Visualizes The Built World® to keep you on time, on budget, and safe.

What can we help you visualize? Click below to schedule a service or request a quote today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the environmental impacts of inflow and infiltration?

Environmental impacts include the contamination of water bodies with untreated sewage, which can harm aquatic life and degrade water quality. It can also lead to increased energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the treatment of excess wastewater.

How does inflow and infiltration affect the cost of wastewater management?

I/I increases the cost of wastewater management by requiring additional treatment capacity, more frequent maintenance, and potential infrastructure upgrades to handle the increased flow. This can lead to higher utility bills for consumers.

What are some long-term solutions for managing inflow and infiltration?

Long-term solutions include rehabilitating or replacing aging sewer pipes, implementing green infrastructure to absorb stormwater, and enforcing regulations to prevent illegal connections to the sewer system.