At Sam Leong Road in Little India, which is lined with eateries, someone had notified PUB (Public Utilities Board), the national water agency, that they could not flush a toilet.
Upon opening a manhole by a PUB team, unsightly sludge was exposed: cockroaches of different sizes crawled out haphazardly, accompanied by a pungent smell of sewage, according to Channel NewsAsia.
On 29 October, the PUB team, which turned up in 20 minutes of being alerted, first opened the 110kg heavy duty manhole cover used on roads. Equipped with a spiral nozzle, thin metal rods and their strength, they started to locate the source of blockage.
For two hours, the team removed what was clogging the length of pipe underground.
It was a strenuous process – the men inserted the spiral nozzle into the manhole, fitted to it rod after rod to extend its reach, pushing the nozzle deeper into the sewer pipe and waited for the nozzle to hit the clot which was then shattered through a circular motion.
When the blockage seemed to have been cleared after a good one hour, the team used a net to dig up the debris. Although it is far from nearing the size of the “monster fatberg” seen recently in London, the pipe did have its fair share of gunk – broken hardened grease and fats combined with other items such as cigarette packs and paper towels, and one or two condoms, serving as an entertainment for the exhausted team.
However, water still could not flush through. The water level in the manhole on the other end, about 100m away, had barely subsided, a sign that the clot may have not been fully cleared.
The entire process of digging by rods repeated. Mr Azmi Talib, PUB assistant engineer
was eventually able to inform the complainant that the choke had been cleared, and that it is safe to flush the toilet.
For stubborn blockages, manual rodding as in this case is used. Usually, sewer blockages are cleaned with a high-pressure water jet that is fitted to a vehicle called a hydraulic mobile cleaner, PUB said. In areas with vehicular or parking restrictions, a mechanical rodding machine is used.
According to Channel NewsAsia, PUB typically attends to 36 sewer choke cases causing service disruptions per month.
Other than getting alerts from members of the public, islandwide sensors provide early warning when there is an overflow or blockage, PUB said.
Others may frown upon at a job dealing with sewage, but the task is more than fulfilling for Mr Subramaniam Pavaday, 57, who had spent his entire working career for 38 years, with PUB’s sewage department.
“We are doing good for them, and they are doing like that. We are cleaning your dirt, not mine,” he said, noting that it can get frustrating when residents put up resistance to his team’s work. He also added that there are days when he has had to wait a whole day or half a day before starting the maintenance work because he does not have permission to enter a house.