CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Engineers are taking the next step in Charleston's storm water-sewer system mapping project, connecting plotted manholes and inlets on the city's surface with the system of pipes that run beneath.
The city's storm-sewer system hasn't been thoroughly mapped since the 1930s or updated since the 1970s, according to Tom Elkins, the city's stormwater manager. The city often finds this information is outdated, as maps don't include improvements or project-specific drawings exist only in individual files and on paper.
"Things do exist, but is it exact? No," Elkins said. "It became a picture in time until now."
This mapping wasn't a requirement until the Clean Water Act made it so in 2003, Elkins said.
"What we have is no longer accurate," said project manager Scott Howell, He works for Michael Baker Jr. Inc., -- a consulting firm contracted to process that information and develop a database using GIS technology.
Charleston subcontractor E.L. Robinson Engineering has been recording the characteristics of the subsurface system for the past six months, according to Howell. This information will be placed in a GIS database -- a computerized mapping information system that stores information.
"As we speak, the guys are out in the field right now ... popping the lids on these manholes and lifting the grates from these inlets, measuring, taking photographs, finding out size, condition and flow direction of pipes," Elkins said.
This mapping (a requirement of the Environmental Protect Agency and the Clean Water Act) began in 2011 to create an inventory for the city to use when dealing with variety of topics, such as storm water or sewerage system repairs and projects, construction and development.
Connecting the components of the city's storm-sewer system will help the city make better decisions more efficiently when it comes to changing or repairing the system, Elkins said.
As it stands now, the city is unable to simply look up a specific inlet -- an opening where water flows into the sewers -- or pipe and share information about it, whether it is with a repair crew or a business entity looking to locate in Charleston.
"We can't tell you what's out there," Elkins said. "We have to do a field investigation. Sometimes that takes weeks or longer."