Life Underground at LTU

Not Just a Pipe Dream

Something residents may not realize is that there is an intricate system of wastewater mains underneath the streets you drive on, the homes you live in, and sidewalks you walk on. Just because you cannot see it does not mean we can forget it. Lincoln Transportation and Utilities (LTU) has a team of Wastewater System Utility Equipment Operators who continuously inspect and perform needed maintenance on these mains to sustain this important infrastructure vital to our city. If the team discovers an issue, they then play Sherlock Holmes to determine what property is involved and who the responsible owner is for notification. The City is responsible for the mains and property owners are responsible for their lateral line from the main to the home or business.

LWWS Team, left to right: Brandon Meister, Darby Cain, Kris Williams, Dave Ohmberger LWWS Team, left to right: Brandon Meister, Darby Cain, Kris Williams, Dave Ohmberger

After You Flush

This large and vital infrastructure system includes:

  • Over 1,145 miles of pipe. That distance would equal about 17 hours of driving.
  • Over 20,000 manholes. Laid side by side, these manholes would extend from Superior Street to beyond Saltillo Road.
  • These pipes range from 6 to 96 inches in diameter. So, from the size of a large grapefruit up to 8 feet tall.

Images showing computer displays with video feed of wastewater mains in the control room and a Lincoln Wastewater System team member at the desk of the control room

What Happens Underground

This ‘undercover’ team utilizes a closed-circuit television (CCTV) to inspect all new and existing wastewater mains and manholes within the city. Some of these wastewater lines date back to the late 1880’s, so this work is essential. This proactive approach serves to detect and address any structural defects or material build-up in these lines before they become major problems. Other collection team members can then perform necessary repairs and remove some blockages to improve the function of this system. Inspection of each line within this underground maze occurs approximately every 8 to 10 years.

CCTV camera CCTV camera and mount CCTV camera
CCTV cameras

But wait, that is not all……

From the Surface and Beyond

This crew’s work also includes thoroughly inspecting every manhole. These guys inspect about 15 manholes a day, from the top lid and rim all the way to the bottom of the entire manhole structure. These guys literally do tons of work removing and reinstalling these 75-pound cast iron manhole lids every day! They get their work and their workout done in one fell swoop.

City of Lincoln sewer manhole on the street

More Than the Eye Can See

A new 3D wireless manhole scanning camera is currently being secured to provide the best technology in the industry right here in Lincoln, Nebraska. This camera assists in the inspection of over 20,000 manholes and provides inspection capabilities year-round. The camera system can identify things such as cracks in pipes, grease buildup and tree roots, which serve as a precaution to further problems.

“What we can see and detect with CCTV” -- four camera views showing a sewer main cavity, grease buildup, cracked pipe and roots

This team also assists other divisions with their inspection equipment, such as Solid Waste and Watershed Management, to identify potential issues they cannot see.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

This crew is a valuable asset to Lincoln. They are multi-talented.

Lincoln Wastewater System team on the job

  • They inspect all new and existing wastewater mains.
  • They inspect all manholes.
  • They assist other collection crew members with their maintenance and repair activities.
  • They assist other divisions with their inspecting expertise, and
  • They also assist with Winter Operations to aid in the efficient removal of snow off Lincoln streets.

Meet The Dream Team

This small four-member crew take great pride in their work. They generally work in two-man crews, but some big projects call for the entire team. They enjoy what they do and their contribution to the safe and continued unobstructed flow for our residents. This crew, who have made their pipe dream a reality, includes Brandon Meister, Kris Williams, Darby Cain, and Dave Ohmberger.

Brandon Meister

Photo of Brandon Meister

  • Celebrated one year with LTU.
  • Previously was an equipment operator for Seward County.
  • Looks forward to utilizing this new equipment that very few get to experience.
  • Enjoys the camaraderie of working with this team.
  • Draws upon the knowledge of his teammates.
  • Says this career has been an incredible opportunity.

When Brandon is not working, he enjoys time with his family and the outdoors. His, maybe not so hidden, talent is that he also plays lead guitar for a local band at many venues here in Lincoln. Brandon’s talents really are a combination of safety and enjoyment for our community

Kris Williams

Photo of Kris Williams

  • Kris has been with LTU for four years.
  • Previously worked primarily in the construction field.
  • Enjoys talking to the public and explaining what they do and why it is important.
  • Appreciates his teammates and knows that he can count on them to help get the job done.

Kris is one of our proud military veterans. Thank you, Kris, for your service! When not working or serving, Kris enjoys family time and the culinary arts, a passion he shares with his spouse.

Darby Cain

Photo of Darby Cain

  • Darby has been with LTU for eight years.
  • Worked for Maintenance Operations at the Baldwin Street shop prior to joining Wastewater Collection.
  • Considers his position with the Wastewater division and operating the CCTV truck very rewarding.
  • Believes they continue to gain valuable experience as they work in new developments, old neighborhoods, and on Capital Improvement Projects throughout Lincoln.
  • Applauds his great teammates for staying up to date on the equipment and the work they all accomplish together.

When Darby is off-the-clock, he loves spending time with his family and is an avid golfer and hunter.

Dave Ohmberger

Photo of Dave Ohmberger

  • Dave has served the City of Lincoln for 18 years.
  • Worked for 17 years on the jetting side prior to joining the CCTV crew.
  • Grateful for the stability of his career.
  • Values the friendships he has gained working with his teammates.
  • Has great respect for the city and appreciates the opportunities he has been able to experience as an employee.

When Dave is not working or spending time with his family, he loves the great outdoors. His outdoor hobbies include hunting as well as working with and raising horses.

Living The Dream

As you can see, this crew is living the dream! These guys work together and play together, a special bond that they get to share every day!

Proud of This Dream Team

“The technology of CCTV inspection is constantly changing with new and improved methods and equipment. I feel these four teammates are a solid group up to the challenges of the ever-changing wastewater industry, as well as the expectations of their daily tasks. I am extremely confident in Darby, Dave, Kris, and Brandon’s abilities and admire their drive and commitment to goals and accomplishments. I am also proud of the effort these four gentlemen put forth in their work and the excellent service they provide to the citizens of Lincoln. I look forward to working with each of these teammates in the future,” said James Dean, Lincoln Wastewater System Utility Supervisor.

The Dream Team
Photo of Kris Williams, Darby Cain, Dave Ohmberger, Brandon Meister and James Dean (Supervisor) (left to right) Top Row: Kris Williams, Darby Cain. Bottom Row: Dave Ohmberger, Brandon Meister, James Dean (Supervisor)