As the problem of “flushable” wipes clogging sewer pipes and pumps gets worse – every sewer agency is on its own in developing a public outreach campaign to share with people exactly what they should and should not flush down the toilet.
Clogged sewer lines were becoming a challenge for City of Santa Rosa crews, so their Environmental Compliance and Communication Teams came up with a catchy public outreach campaign called “Sewerman – Defender of the Pipes!” The campaign was rolled out in December 2016 and includes videos, social media outreach and a cool-looking cartoon strip.
The Sewerman video will immediately get your attention with its funny and memorable message. Which hopefully helps people remember to only flush the 3Ps – pee, poo and (toilet) paper. And that’s all.
We thought the campaign was so awesome, we wanted to learn more about this mysterious “Sewerman.” We reached out to Elise Howard, a Communications Coordinator at the City of Santa Rosa to tell us about the campaign.
Q1. Who thought up the superhero Sewerman and why?
Sewerman came to life in an internal brainstorming session with Santa Rosa Water’s Environmental Compliance and Communication teams.
His story started with the creation of the Sewerman video in-house and evolved into a comprehensive campaign with the help of a local firm, Ranch 7 Creative.
Special thanks to Sewerman and our Santa Rosa Water Team (Thomas Hare, Heather Johnson, Nicole Dorotinsky, Renae Gundy, Claire Meyers and Elise Howard) for creating this amazing video. Who knew it would be so easy to find a brown and yellow spandex superhero suit online?
(Renae, Heather and Thomas are CWEA members)
Q2. Do you have any cost or time estimates associated with the flushable wipes problems?
Currently we do not have any quantitative data associated with the cost of wipes. That said Santa Rosa Water team does experience blockages in sewer pipes and pump stations and these not-so-flushable items end up at our treatment plant and increase cleaning and maintenance costs.
Q3. Who plays Sewerman? Or if his identity must remain a secret, what does Sewerman like to do in his downtime?
It is critical that Sewerman’s identity remain a secret, but I do happen to know that he loves playing the Ukelele in his downtime and modifying lyrics to popular songs to spread his message.
He also enjoys dancing and puns, and juggles a tiny bit, but not very well.
Q4. How did you get funding to develop the campaign, does the State Water Board help with public outreach dollars for what to flush outreach campaigns?
The campaign is primarily fueled by Sewerman’s superhuman effort to educate the community about fighting THE CLOG.
Santa Rosa Water is supporting his cause by funding a multi-media campaign featuring Sewerman in paid advertising on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), radio (local stations and Pandora), Before the Movie ads, and local print publications. Sewerman is also featured on our website at srcity.org/sewerman.
Q5. So what is Sewerman going to tackle next? Microbeads? Synthetic fibers? Silver nanoparticles? Pesticides? Dental amalgam? Wow we have so many things to tackle!
For now, Sewerman is very busy battling his nemesis, THE CLOG by swooping in to stop a not-so-flushable wipe from being flushed, warning citizens of the dangers of putting grease, oils, and other food products down the kitchen sink, and encouraging citizens to “Just Say No!” to flushing medications.!”
Q6. One last question inquiring sewer minds may want to know – any plans for Sewerwoman to join the wipes fighting team? And if we got Sewerman together with LA’s Grease Avenger, JWC’s Muffin Monster and the Texas Water Coalition’s Patty Potty – could we form our own Wastewater Justice League?
Sewerman is a big fan of teamwork and loves the idea of a Wastewater Justice League! He’s kicked around the idea of adding Water Woman as a partner and would be over the moon if he ever got the chance to meet his personal favorite, Patty Potty.
Learn more about Sewerman at www.srcity.org/sewerman