New technology helping city prevent sewage spills

by: Jeff Smith Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - High-pitched squeals are helping city crews win the battle against a public health issue they fight everyday: residential sewage spills.

“I don’t want it in my water. I don’t want it in the stream. I don’t want it affecting my neighbors,” said Mike Grave.

Repairs can cost tens of thousands of dollars and shut down streets for days.

Many homeowners have had raw sewage back up into their houses.

“All on my bottom floor where we had to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to clean it up,” said Katherine Alexander.

The utilities department invested in a new technology this summer that uses sound to gauge if pipes are clogged. 

It’s called the SL Rat, but workers simply call it the sound-to-ground machine.

“It has made our jobs great,” said manhole inspector Robert Lasco. “It has made our jobs better and easier.”

The city has two machines at the cost of $20,000 apiece.

“It’s a public health issue, and we have to take care of it immediately,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities representative Cam Coley.

According to city statistics, there were 280 sewage spills this fiscal year, which is a big decrease from last year’s 335 spills.

The technology is not cheap, but city officials say it’s an investment that helps them predict where back-ups are likely to happen, and then do preventative maintenance.

CMUD told Channel 9 crews use the sound-to-ground machines on about 100 different sewer pipes all day all over the city.