London Sewer Network
Ever thought that Confined Space work was cool?
Well you were correct, of course it is. Confined Space work involves a wide range of situations; from searching for tunnels in prisons to cleaning the tanks of ferries; from the egg shaped, brick Victorian sewers to modern Super Sewers.
It involves 3-5 people on a single job: someone at the top of the drain, tank, or hole; at least one person down in the space and a third rescue person, as a backup for the person at the top. The jobs are often more complex and require more people in the spaces.
Sometimes the sewers don’t run smooth and some of Bazalgette’s sewer’s have had to be repaired with much less aesthetically pleasing pipework. We’ve been down surveying the one’s which has required this.
The Victorian structure will not have to take the full weight of London for much longer. The Tideway Super Sewer system will soon be in place and will take the load off the brick sewers.
Being in reflective mood this morning, as Megatron returns to work, we’re remembering Sir Joseph Bazalgette. He saved thousands of lives and created one of the seven wonders of the industrial world, the London sewer system.
One of the things that makes London extraordinary and Hydro Cleansing privileged to work here, is maintaining Bazalgette’s sewerage system. Championed by fellow engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Bazalgette was appointed chief engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, in 1856. He had the extraordinary foresight to allow for London’s population boom. It is the foundation upon which this 8.6 million populated metropolis runs smoothly and efficiently. The sewers are now operating at a level way beyond what they were intended for. Innovations are being developed and should be built this year to cope with London’s continuing growth, in the form of the super sewers.
We have history beside innovation, our Megatron has been repaired and upgraded. Remarkably, we have a bigger reel with up to 45000 psi! It’s back, bigger and better.
If you’re only going to do it once, do it well, and maintain it! Are your drains going to last?
“[The principle, in building a sewer system, was] of diverting the cause of the mischief to a locality where it can do no mischief. “
Joseph Bazelgette 1819 – 1891
Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, born 1819 in Enfield, is perhaps most known and recognised for the construction of London’s sewer network, in the 19th century, in response to the Great Stink of 1858 and the persistent outbreaks of cholera across the city.
The Thames, at the time, was actually a major health hazard to the population of London; an open sewer. The idea was to create a series of underground tunnels which would intercept and divert outflows along with the raw sewage that, at that point, flowed freely through the streets of London towards the Thames.
A number of pumping stations and sewage treatment works, across the capital, would also be built to channel, receive and then treat this waste. The whole network was first opened in 1865, although the project was not actually finished until almost a decade later.
Bazalgette’s vision allowed, to an extent, for the major unforeseen population increase, taking into consideration the amount of waste produced by households, giving each Londoner an allowance, determining the size of pipe needed, then doubling it.
He has famously been quoted as saying ‘we’re only going to do this once and there’s always the unforeseen’.
Known for his determination and attention to detail Bazalgette made sure he personally checked every connection to the sewage system, which is perhaps why he suffered bad health and illness soon after.
His famous engineering work can be seen throughout London today, as he didn’t spend his whole career underground:
- Albert Embankment
- Victoria Embankment
- Chelsea Embankment
- Maidstone Bridge
- Albert Bridge
- Putney Bridge
- Hammersmith Bridge
- The Woolwich Free Ferry
- Battersea Bridge
- Charing Cross Road
- Garrick Street
- Northumberland Avenue
- Shaftesbury Avenue
For more information about Bazalgette watch this dedicated episode from a recent BBC docudrama series…