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Somerville has a complex network of more than 180 miles of sewer and storm drainage pipes located beneath our streets–much of this network is more than 100 years old. These pipes must be regularly cleaned and inspected so we can identify areas in need of repair before any issues arise.

How Inspections Work

Unlike a burned-out lightbulb on a lamppost, it can be difficult to know where problems exist in our underground infrastructure. To remedy this, the City uses a process known as CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) inspection to inspect our sewer and drainage infrastructure. 

City contractors will first clean and clear debris from pipes. Cleaning restores full capacity flow within the pipe and also allows for a better view of the interior. An above-ground operator will then drive a wheel-mounted camera through the pipe to collect high-resolution video from inside the pipe.

Remote control car equipped with camera going into sewer pipe

What We Look For

Once the video has been processed, City engineering staff and contractors review to identify any deficiencies in the pipe. During this review, we are looking for evidence of defects that challenge a pipe’s structural integrity, such as large cracks, collapsing walls, missing bricks, etc. Structural issues such as these can impede flows, increasing the risk of sewer/drainage backups. 

During this review, we are also looking for any evidence that groundwater may be entering the pipe through fractures and reducing system capacity. 

Other potential issues we look to uncover through inspection are illicit connections. An example of such a connection is a property that has connected its sewer service to a pipe that is meant to convey stormwater.

Occasionally, we will find issues that must be fixed immediately (such as collapses) through emergency work. Less severe issues are added to annual sewer rehabilitation projects. 

Interior shot of pipe indicating need for repair

Progress Made

The City is committed to the annual cleaning and maintenance of our sewer and drain infrastructure and will continue these inspections over the coming years.

Throughout out 2020 and 2021, the City inspected approximately 180,000 linear feet of sanitary sewer around Winter Hill. In 2022, the City inspected approximately 170,000 linear feet of sanitary sewer primarily in the East Somerville and Winter Hill Neighborhoods.

For the 2023, the City plans to clean and inspect approximately 110,000 linear feet of sanitary sewer and 60,000 linear feet of storm drain in the green areas on the map below. This work is expected to begin in July 2023 in West Somerville. 

Map showing locations of sewer inspection in Somerville 2020-2023





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