Sewerage – get me to the plant on time

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Sewerage – get me to the plant on time

Sewerage is the word used to describe the infrastructure required to get sewage from ingress to point of disposal. It is not unusual to hear of sewerage treatment and unfortunately this makes about as much sense as having an oven for dinner.

The history of sewers (this is the name given to the sewer conveying ducts) is fascinating although poorly documented. There is evidence of sewers in ancient Crete and Rome. The really exciting engineering sewerage projects began in London. Shortly after the big stink of 1858, the Municipal authorities put their heads together in an effort to engineer a viable “get rid of the smell” solution. After much politicking and a time lapse of several years, Joseph Bazelgette was commissioned to divert London’s sewage from the Thames. Unbelievably and before 1858, all manner of slops, waste water and emissions unmentionable were discharged to the Thames. Being a relatively mild mannered water-course, the Thames was in no great rush to flush the potent organic load. Bacteria, opportunistic by design, flocked to the waterways and feasted on the townsmen’s munificence.


With Victorian flair and the budget of an empire, Bazelgette constructed a sewerage system that is still in use today. There is majesty and aesthetic appeal in the structures that were assembled more than 150 years ago. Abbey Mills pump station is an example of elegant design with functional ambitions. Economies today rarely permit such extravagance in structural splendour.

Modern sewerage systems are designed for functionality. Design has to cater for existing needs, although future use is also an important criterion. Without sensible planning, a town engineer might have to authorize the ripping up of roads and pavement to accommodate increased waste flows.

Precast concrete pipes, weholite and PVC are the materials in use today. It is rare to find a modern sewerage system that is built of kiln cured brick. And even rarer to find a sewerage system that includes walkways and inspection chambers.