New reality show navigates sewer infrastructure with commercial divers

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In the series premiere, one of the divers shows off his $3,000 rubber suit fitted with a 30-lb helmet to keep him safe from noxious chemicals flowing in all directions. Photo credit: Discovery Channel

A new series from Discovery Channel takes viewers on a journey through sewer systems in several major U.S. cities as they tackle clogs and broken pipes.

Highlighting the challenges of the dirty job, as well as the age of the deteriorating infrastructure, “Sewer Divers” goes to great lengths to show how workers keep clean water running and toilets flushing.

While the show looks to stay south of the border, Canada has utilized sewer divers before. According to a video made by Metro Vancouver, some sewer repairs that would have taken days to complete can be made in just hours using divers.

In the series premiere of Sewer Divers, one of the divers shows off his $3,000 rubber suit fitted with a 30-lb helmet to keep him safe from noxious chemicals flowing in all directions.

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The first episode  looks inside the Emergency Sewer Division of Mount Vernon, NY, which tries to drain over a foot of sewer water piling up into a resident’s basement.

In the last part of the series’ premiere, the Northeast Ohio Sewer District team attempts to clean a massive pile of hardened sludge dubbed the “Mega Clog” from the floor of the sewers.

Rick Simon, who owns a commercial diving company in Connecticut, is featured in the pilot episode. He says about one quarter of his workload is devoted to repairing sewer systems.

The episode also features New Jersey-based commercial diver Don Gann, aka “Dirty Water Don.” He says he has had numerous close calls during his work in sewers.

“I’ve been pinned, I’ve had things fall on top of me where I couldn’t get out on my own [and] another diver had to come in to get me,” he told the New York Post. “I’ve been buried digging a hole for an underwater cable. The hole collapsed on top of me, so every time you took a breath, the mud constricts you more,” he explained.

Gann goes on to describe the hazards of disease and contamination from entering sewage-filled pipes, not to mention the broken glass and hypodermic needles.

According to the Commercial Diving Academy, sewer diver jobs typically pay over ​$58,000​ per year, once adequate HazMat training has been completed.

In upcoming episodes, the divers will search for a clog in a Connecticut treatment plant’s outflow pipe, and try to fix a huge sewer break threatening people’s basements in Mount Vernon.

The series premiered January 1 at 9 p.m. on Discovery Channel.

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