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Sewer worker round two!

Oct 10th 2017 by Pipewrecker • 43 Questions • 425 Points

First one was fun and I think a lot of people learned some awful and fun stuff about what goes on under their feet.

I'm an underground infastructure robotics technician and professional confined space work technician and this is my second ama, please don't dox me this time.

I'm also socially a brick wall so I'm sorry in advance if I let the it jokes float over my head, again.

Proof: https://imgur.com/YFawlV7

Ask me anything.

Q:

How much money have you made by cashing in the gold and other sewer debris? What was your greatest and worst finds?

A:

I have actually been stashing most of my gold, I did pawn some stuff off last Christmas and walked away with over 500 buckaroos.

Best thing found, teeth, one gold capped one with a cavity and some dentures.

Worst found, cut up bones, hopefully from animals.


Q:

Don't you have to report those to the police to make sure they aren't human?

A:

What could the police possibly do with a bone fragment that could have come from miles upstream from where we sucked it and then mixed with other debris from all over the east coast.

If anyone in LE wants to message me and talk about it I'm open.


Q:

Make a necklace dedicated to human depravity out of it.

A:

Already ahead of ya buddy. ;)


Q:

Possibly solve a crime with it.

A:

That's fair. Hopefully someone will message me and will be able to play guess a bone.


Q:

Disclaimer: not LE or a professional in this field BUT just graduated with an anthropology degree focusing on forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology and you would be fucking amazed at how good we are (and thus the professionals even more) at guess-a-bone from a minute tiny fragment of a whole bone, as well as determining anything like species, age, origin, gender, etc. based on just a fragment. If they had reasonable suspicion that something might be coming through based on the area I wouldn't be surprised if they could start making some associations with particular crimes. That being said you're dealing with sewer refuse from an indeterminably large area, I don't think it's a stretch to say the vast majority is just animal bits. To call in every chunk of bone-like material would be a massive waste of resources. My last forensic professor also actively works for local LE and she said more often than not when someone calls in a report of remains they turn out to be animal, or just straight up rocks that look vaguely skeleton-like.

A:

If you feel curious enough, I'll mail you some.

So long as I don't end up in some stupid interrogation situation about some bones that ended up in a pipe 50+ years ago.


Q:

What do you think of flushable toilet wipes?

A:

They do hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to our sewer system every single year.

I personally think they should be illegal to manufacture.


Q:

As a former plumber who has had to explain to people hundreds of times that "I'm aware they say flushable, but still don't flush them" after pulling back a sewer cable with a pile of wipes tangled up in it... I agree 100% with you

A:

And after I pull your sewer snake out of their lateral into the mainline also still wadded with ragging, I shed a tear for you who had to cut the snake off and leave it dangling.


Q:

What is the greatest/most valuable thing you have found and how long have you been doing this?

A:

Most valuable would be some diamond rings, most valuable to me would be all the wierd stuff.

I'm in my 3rdish year of underground infastructure rehabilitation.


Q:

Do you sift through stuff on the clock, or do you take it home to sift through?

A:

I do all my sifting off the clock. At work.

My wife would murder me if I brought raw sewer debris home.


Q:

Does your wife wear any of the sewer jewelry? (aka sewerly)

A:

For sure, she likes it when I bring home a big pile of jewelry to pick what she likes.


Q:

I’m guessing she’s aware of where they come from? Otherwise you’d seem like a serial killer..

A:

She knows. She's a god damn saint for washing my clothes.


Q:

Does she have a separate washing machine just for your work clothes?

A:

No, but I hose my clothes off if they are really coated in sewer mystery before they get washes.


Q:

Overall, how do you like your job?

A:

4/10 with rice.

It's not bad, I'd be doing much worse off in my life ambitions if I had stuck with my previous retail endeavors.


Q:

are they covered in shit ? lol

and do you have to like, share with others?

A:

I only share if someone helps. Otherwise they can sift through the shit on their own.

If I pull something valuable on site we split the pawn rewards.


Q:

How do you clean the shit off of the stuff you bring up?

A:

First with a toothbrush, then an ultrasonic cleaner, then polish if it looks neat.


Q:

You work for a city or something I'm assuming - what becomes of all the metal objects that are found, are they the property of the company/organization/city?

A:

They are mine to keep. I work for a private subcontractor.

The cities and municipalities pay to have the debris removed, and they pay by weight depending on the contract.

Normally all of this stuff I find would be sent to an incinerator to be treated.


Q:

What sort of precautions are necessary in the interests of hygiene/safety?

A:

Absolutely no grabbing anything with your hands. Gloves mean nothing with this stuff.

The debris I sift through has literally tens of thousands of razor blades and pins and syringe needles.

I use needle nose pliers to interact with anything in the debris pile.

Clothes get filthy, shower well. That's about it.


Q:

Do you use a metal detector of any type?

A:

Nope, there's so much broken down iron and old lead pipe gasket that even the most fancy detector would have a brain fart millimeters from gold.


Q:

Why do people forget about the mole people who live in our precious sewers?

A:

I accidentally did a genocide on the mole people with a 200 horsepower hydraulic root saw. Sorry?


Q:

Oooo!

What are some tips for people to make their lives and yours easier?

A:

Never flush grease or wet wipes.

Everything else isn't your fault.


Q:

Thank you for doing this ama :)

  1. What is the most valuable thing you have found?
  2. What is the most beautiful thing you have found?
A:

Diamond rings, beauty is always up for interpretation so I'd say my hundreds of marbles are the most beautiful sewer find.


Q:

What's the most valuable diamond ring you've found? Can you estimate based on size?

A:

Nope but I'll go take a pic and we can let everyone else guess.

Edit here's my two rings with the best looking diamonds. At least I think they're diamonds... I'm not a jeweler.

https://imgur.com/a/9LwBq


Q:

What's the creepiest it's ever gotten down there?

A:

I was crawling 36" pipe with a visible hinge fracture and the top of the pipe dropped an inch while I put my arms on the bottom.

That was an immediate gtfo situation.


Q:

How do you sift through mountains of sewage? I imagine you find far more junk than jewelry. Just a medium mesh sieve held under the flow or what?

A:

1/2" orafice mesh zip tied to the bottom of a bucket gets most of the big jewelry.

My go to sifting tool for fine debris is actually a spatula I also found in the sewer.


Q:

What is the proportion of costume jewelry to real jewelry that you find? What has been the biggest let down you thought was authentic only to find it was $1.99 from Claires?

A:

It's all about where it comes from.

Some poorer areas are filled with mostly fake junk. Some rich areas have even more fake junk.

The common denominator is that the older it is the odds of it being real are better.


Q:

What sort of things do you find down there and how do you achieve this?

A:

Anything that fits down your drain to the main line I find it or pieces of it. Also anything shitty companies leave behind during repairs.

It's usually recovered with a gigantic vacuum, if the manhole is too deep it's dug by hand and shovel and bucket roped topside.


Q:

What’s the average loot pull per sewer-sifting session?

A:

It depends on where the debris came from. It could be a ring per 5 tons of debris or lots of jewelry in a few hundred pounds.


Q:

Have you looked into selling the gold things you find to a precious metal refiner instead of a pawn shop?
The one time I've tried, getting paid per gram for the gold worked out as far more money than selling the ring.

A:

I have, I'm currently hoarding a pile of damaged gold and silver jewelry that will one day help my kids go to college.

My experience has been that pawn shops are absolutely stupid and have little to no clue what they are looking at. At least on the east coast.

Some offer way more and definitely lose money and some try to offer me cracker jack ring prices for 14k gold pieces.

Currently I'm just hodling all my jewelry as I'd rather slam my hand in a car door than deal with another pawn shop expert.


Q:

What is the wildlife/bugs down there like? Is there anything you have to be weary of?

A:

Black widow spiders love manholes in the easement that rarely get opened.

Other than those cute arachnids, just the occasional cave crickets.


Q:

Someone doxed you in your first AMA?

A:

Yup. At first I thought it was my coworker.

Unfortunately it was just some random Internet stranger with nothing better to do with their time.

I work for really good people so it's not like I'm in any position of risk by doing this, my boss and his bosses know I know what I can and cannot disclose.


Q:

Have you ever encountered a fatberg? If so, how was it disposed of?

A:

Yes, and I take a non standard approach to grease blockages, I run a root saw right through them.

We will screen off the downstream manhole and suck out the grease so it can't make a new grease ball downstream.


Q:

Have you ever found something returnable? What was it and did you return it?

A:

No. :( I genuinely hope to one day return someone's lost family heirloom.


Q:

Did you "float" into this line of work or did you have to push for it?

A:

I was pushed by a good friend who knew I would be good at it.


Q:

You are more of an unearthed gem than your coat hanger.

A:

Aw thanks. I really appreciate it.


Q:

The best way to make friends at a construction site is breaking a sewer pipe. Have you personally caused accidental damage that turned into a really bad day for someone else?

A:

No, I make it a goal to use my time to solve problems and not create them.

I have collapsed pipe, several times, but it comes with the business. Sometimes it's inevitable.


Q:

What exactly are underground infrastructure robots? I imagine a bunch of Wall-e's turning traffic signals from red to green and one breaks and you go fix him. Also (if I may 2-part it) what kind of background/education do you need to get into such work?

A:

The robot is a tethered wheeled platform to carry a fancy cctv camera.

https://imgur.com/e1WTEQc

So far as prior experience or education, none needed you can work yourself up to this position.


Q:

Do you sift immediately or do you have to wait till you RTB for retasking?

A:

I usually sift when I haven't worked a long dirty day after work. Some of the debris I sifted today were sucked from the sewer weeks ago.


Q:

Do you have a dedicated washing machine/dryer for your clothes only or so you all share the same?

If you share one machine do you do a load dedicated to your clothes or do you mix?

What setting do you use on your machine? What laundry detergent do you use? Do you bleach your clothes? If so, what brand?

A:

If my clothes appear to be in that awful of state I throw them in the trash.

Normal shit grease comes off great with a pressure washer.

The standard clothes washing procedures finish them off and you can't tell the difference.


Q:

What's your worst experience in the sewer?

A:

Spending 7 hours out of a 12 hour day in a manhole shoveling gravel.


Q:

Have you ever found any engravings on a piece of jewellery and have you ever made an attempt to find anyone who lost it because of an engraving?

A:

I have found engraved pieces and I have absolutely put in all of my effort to try and find the owner. No takers yet.

The problem is, some of this debris we pull out of pipes can be over 90 years old.

It all goes in the same hopper too, so I can't say where a piece of jewelry came from.

Our trucks suck shit in over 6 states, and some lines are new with modern debris, some lines have literal American history compacted into the pipe.


Q:

Are you NASSCO certified?

A:

Yes sir.


Q:

What happened on your worst day of work?

A:

Probably getting sprayed in the face with def fluid.


Q:

What is the biggest animal/insect/whatever you've encountered?

A:

A 2" diameter spider on the underside of a manhole cover. He was chill and stayed there the whole time and I closed him back up the way I found him.