Drain Maintenance Crew

Third image from left: drainage crew staff member, Tony Schubert on the job.

Whitehorse News - November 2020

Whitehorse City Council maintains a stormwater network that consists of over 40,000 pits and 900 kilometres of pipes.

The stormwater network is for rainfall runoff and is distinct from the sewerage system.

Our five strong Drain Maintenance Crew, with the support of contractors, respond to about 250 requests each month. Unblocking and repairing damaged pits or pipes accounts for most of the day-to-day requests. The crew also regularly inspects the stormwater network to help avoid potential flooding.

Intense summer rains that can cause localised flash flooding and fallen leaves blocking the stormwater network make summer and autumn the busiest seasons for the crew.

Most of the team have backgrounds in construction. To be part of the crew you need broad skills. You need to have great problem solving skills, work well in a team and know how to use specialist technical equipment. It takes time to gain the specific expertise needed. All our staff receive comprehensive on-the-job training to learn how to operate specialist trucks and equipment.

The team use a high-pressure jet hose and a cutter to cut away tree roots protruding into pipes and flush away blockages. Trucks use tank water so private water supplies aren’t needed to clear blockages. Another truck equipped with a specialist vacuum sucks out and removes debris from the network.

Managing risk is a big part of the role. The team work near traffic, in trenches and excavate in areas that also contain other underground infrastructure like water, sewer, power, gas and telecommunications.

Every maintenance request has its own set of unique challenges. Specialist CCTV cameras that can go inside the pipe are used by the team to determine what’s causing an issue, and then they have to plan how best to safely access and clear a blockage or complete repairs.

As an essential service, the crew have continued working during COVID-19 restrictions, with appropriate precautions. They often need to access drainage easements in private property. In 2020, they’ve noticed a lot more of our residents have been home. While in that past they may have left calling cards and had to come back to complete the work – during the pandemic getting access to private property has been much easier.

We’re thrilled to report we receive great community feedback about the team’s efficiency, as well as their polite and helpful manner.

Report a stormwater issue via Snap, Send Solve, online form or chat, email customer.service@whitehorse.vic.gov.au or phone Council’s Customer Service Team on 9262 6333.