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KC Water Vac Trucks Clean Up What Others Leave Behind

Posted on October 28, 2016

(Kansas City, Mo.) – If you’ve thrown something out the car window, raked debris into the street or let your trash blow, the employees who operate KC Water’s vac trucks have probably pulled it from a catch basin.

“We find some of everything from skateboards to carpets, car parts, trees, branches, leaves. You name it. We’ve found it in there,” said Larry Willoughby, KC Water Senior Operator.

Each morning, KC Water sends out a fleet of trucks to vacuum debris from storm drain inlets. There are more than 55,000 inlets and catch basins all over Kansas City. Our goal is to clean 15,000 a year. Over the past five years, we’ve averaged over 17,000 a year. Those inlets lead to either a body of water or a wastewater treatment plant.

Keeping them clean keeps debris out of streams and rivers, reduces the amount of waste going into the wastewater treatment system, and helps prevent street flooding.

“Our objective is to keep them clear, keep the lines open. Sometimes we have those heavy rains where we have an overflow or say for instance one might just be stopped up,” said Willoughby.

A catch basin typically get filled with trash and leaves. To clean it out, the crew maneuvers an oversized vacuum hose into the hole and turns it on. It sucks up everything.

Despite a city ordinance that prohibits homeowners from sweeping leaves and grass clippings into the street, this time of year causes the biggest problems.

Willoughby explains why. “It seems convenient to blow our leaves in the street but you can create a hazard for yourself because those leaves are going to go somewhere. If it rains heavy, they’re going in the drains. If we can’t get to your drain or we passed that particular section of the map we’re working on then you can create a serious problem.”

Not everything is trash, though. Crews have been called to get phones, keys, and wallets out of catch basins.

Before you rake, throw, or sweep something into the street, please think about where it will ultimately go.

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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