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KC Water Uses Underground Cameras to See Inside Sewer Lines

Posted on June 24, 2016

(Kansas City, Mo.) – This robotic camera goes where no human can – inside the miles of sewer pipe buried underneath Kansas City’s streets and sidewalks.

KC Water maintains 2,800 miles of sewer main. Laid end to end, that’s roughly the distance from New York City to Los Angeles.

“We run a remote television camera from manhole to manhole, making a video of the sewer main. We use that data to assess the condition of that particular sewer main segment. It helps us prioritize the repairs that are needed to our sanitary sewer collection system,” says Andy Shively, KC Water Engineering Officer.

The work is called CCTV, for Closed Circuit Television.

Shively explains what it means for customers. “Every time a customer flushes a toilet we most certainly want everything to go away. By doing a condition assessment and making the repairs in an appropriate priority we help ensure the reliability of the pipes so that the wastewater goes away when you want it to go away.”

The camera crawls through the underground pipe without workers having to dig up any yards or streets. It inspects the line to pinpoint locations that need repaired, replaced, or rehabbed.

Operating it is kind of like playing a video game. A console with a joystick lets the operator get a 360 degree view. He’s looking for cracks, incoming water, or blockages.

“One of the things that’s huge in old neighborhoods is roots. Roots can microscopically infiltrate joints and through service taps and cause a sewer backup if they engulf the pipe in its entirety,” says Senior Engineering Technician Amir Kenner.

This work happens every day to quality control our cleaning work and to identify defects needing repair. It’s building an elaborate resource for KC Water to see the sewer pipes of Kansas City.

“One day we hope to be able to take a virtual tour of the sanitary sewer collection system from a monitor,” says Shively.

For more information, please contact Brooke Givens, Media Relations Coordinator, at or 816.513.0284.


KC Water maintains and operates water treatment and distribution systems, stormwater management systems, and wastewater collection and treatment systems for residential and business customers in Kansas City and for wholesale customers in the Kansas City area. KC Water is primarily funded by fees charged to customers based on their use or impacts on the three utility systems.

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