Digging for Gold

March 3, 2015

Featured

Maintenance Crews in Pacifica, Calif., find a gold engagement ring
 
Wastewater treatment maintenance workers for the city of Pacifica, Calif., retrieved a $1000 gold ring for resident Lary Warren, who had accidentally flushed it down the toilet. From left to right, Maintenance Worker Doug Trade, resident Lary Warren, Collection System Manager Brian Martinez, Maintenance Worker Mike Williams, and Maintenance Worker Eddy Pastrano. Photo courtesy of City of Pacifica, Calif.

Wastewater treatment maintenance workers for the city of Pacifica, Calif., retrieved a $1000 gold ring for resident Lary Warren, who had accidentally flushed it down the toilet. Warren (second from left) stands with workers who helped retrieve the ring including, from left, Maintenance Worker Doug Trade, Collection System Manager Brian Martinez, Maintenance Worker Mike Williams, and Maintenance Worker Eddy Pastrano. Photo courtesy of City of Pacifica, Calif.

The average person would be shocked to hear about the myriad of odd things found inside collection systems and water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). Some finds seem so far-fetched they enter the realm of urban legend, but the stories are true. Wastewater treatment operators have found everything from gold bars to bicycles to killer bees in their systems. In the case of the Main Street Water Reclamation Facility in Gainesville, Fla. operators even found a 2.9 m (9.5 ft) alligator in the clarifier.

In November 2014, maintenance workers for the city of Pacifica, Calif., made their own unique discovery in the city’s collection system: a $1000 engagement ring accidentally flushed down the toilet by resident Lary Warren. Warren contacted the city to ask for assistance in finding his ring after he saw a news story about another WRRF that had successfully found someone’s jewelry, according to a news article in the Pacifica Tribune.

Martinez said Warren was very happy to find the engagement ring and maintenance crews were able to do it with only 4 hours of searching. Photo courtesy of Martinez.

Martinez said Warren was very happy to find the engagement ring and maintenance crews were able to do it with only 4 hours of searching. Photo courtesy of Martinez.

Brian K. Martinez, collection system manager for the city, said his crew got the call that Warren had lost his ring one afternoon. The crew then began to examine the sewer line connected to Warren’s home using closed-circuit camera. Martinez said they did it for about 4 hours during 2 days until they finally spotted the ring.

Maintenance workers found the ring in the sewer main that serves the neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Martinez.

Maintenance workers found the ring in the sewer main that serves the neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Martinez.

“We found the ring in the sewer main that serves the neighborhood,” Martinez said. “It was about 1100 feet [335 m] downstream of his house connection. It had traveled about four blocks,” he said.

Martinez said they used a 12.8 mm (0.5 in.), 27,580 kPa (4000 lb/in.2) jetter to retrieve the ring. Even though the ring had traveled a great distance, it was still in “perfect condition,” he added.

Martinez said maintenance crews had to use closed-circuit television to locate the ring. Warren was there when they saw the ring on the monitors. Photo courtesy of Martinez.

Martinez said maintenance crews had to use closed-circuit television to locate the ring. Warren was there when they saw the ring on the monitors. Photo courtesy of Martinez.

Martinez said he was personally able to give the ring back to Warren. “He stopped by to check on how things were going on the second morning … and we had just brought it up on the monitor. He was amazed,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the operators have found a ring. “We’ve found nothing at the plant, but in the collection system, we have found other jewelry though usually broken up,” Martinez said. “Once we unplugged a lateral from a laundromat that spilled many coins into the manhole it was connected to.”

— LaShell Stratton-Childers, WEF Highlights

Lost and Found: Send Us Your Stories

Have you found something odd or unique in your collection systems or water resource recovery facility? Or, did you help a customer find something they lost? Tell us what you’ve found in your wastewater treatment systems. Contact Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights editor, at jfulcher@wef.org to share your story.

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