Shift in the shaft

Shift in the shaft

Has the dirtiest job in the county of kitzingen? Willi knotgen has to laugh at the question. Since 1990 he has been employed by the city, since 1995 he has been on the canal trolley. No one else knew the kitzingen underworld as well as he did. Dirt and stink are part of the job. But on the whole, willi knotgen and his colleague matthias hinnerkopf get through their daily work cleanly.

Kitzingen, alte burgstrabe: willi knotgen parks the canal car just before the traffic circle. Warning lights on, pylons set up. Below us lies one of the city’s roughest and most important traffic jam ponds. Matthias hinnerkopf lifts the manhole cover from its anchorage. The view goes about five meters into the depths. A black hole. Willi knotgen slips into a protective suit, pulls on the black chest strap, grabs a powerful flashlight and lets his colleague secure him with a carabiner. "A bit like a mountain climber," he says and laughs. He’s already disappeared into the hole. A little later and much more clumsily, the editor follows suit – and is astonished.

38 underground reservoirs

The ruckhaltebecken below the gustav-adolph-kreisel appears like a subterranean cavern. This is where the sewers from the city center converge. This is where the water collects if there is ever a heavy rainfall. "Up there are the sliders," says knotgen, shining his light into a corner. They close automatically when necessary so that excess wastewater is not washed onto the road. There are 38 retention basins in kitzingen. Without them, the canals would quickly overflow during heavy rains.

There are two metal pipes at the bottom of the tank, each about five meters long. "Vortex jets," explains knotgen. To clean the twenty by ten meter long and five meter high basin, they are activated. The water then spins like a vortex, picking up the dirt from the ground and directing it into the canal. From there it flows to the clarification plant. Willi knotgen shines a light at the pump and his gaze darkens. "That’s our main problem," he says. Tattered remnants of inserts and bindings stick to the pipes and conduits. "People just spool down to the toilet."

The kitzingen canal network is 150 kilometers long. There are around 5000 nests. Willi knotgen and matthias hinnerkopf have held every single one of them in their hands. Cover on, then first a visual check: is the crampon okay?? The wall still looks good? Then the hose is lowered into the ground. A good rewind.

Modern technology in the canal truck

The sewer truck, which four years ago was one of the most modern in europe, holds eleven thousand liters of water. The manufacturer had asked willi knotgen for tips from the field. What technology does a modern sewer truck need?? What tools facilitate the work? The dettelbacher was happy to deliver. He has been driving the prototype for four years – and is more than satisfied. Everything can be controlled at the touch of a button, and the information is fed into the PC while still on site. Every little thing is documented: water consumption, resistance in the sewer, even a possible rat infestation. "This information helps us to keep the sewer network up to date efficiently," explains head of the building yard, georg gunther.

Willi knotgen hangs his steering device around his neck. Several levers can be moved there. And so he stands on the old burgstrabe and maneuvers the water hose from the roof of the sewer truck to exactly where the next manhole cover is located. In front of the car, behind the car, or even to the side if necessary. Matthias hinnerkopf then first sprays off the coarsest of dirt. "We used to get soaked on the job," he recalls. Thanks to the new technology, they now remain largely dry and clean.

Knotgen and hinnerkopf clean 1000 to 1500 meters of sewer per day. Depending on the degree of contamination, the hose sometimes moves faster and sometimes slower through the pipes. On the way back, it picks up the dirt from the ground thanks to small metal shovels. Sand and roll are the most common obstacles in the canal network. "Some of the pipes are more than 100 years old," says knotgen. It can happen that there are deposits in the surrounding area. But sand and roll are not all that the two get to see in their day-to-day work. The two men from the building yard have already found all possible things under the ground. Knife, fork, gold chains and keys. "No one has yet reeled blob money down to the toilet," says knotgen and laughs.

150 kilometers of sewer network

The work on the gustav adolph traffic circle is done. Willi knotgen and matthias hinnerkopf clear away the pylons and take a seat on their sewer truck again. On to the next station. The two are not bored. 150 kilometers of canal network need to be monitored and maintained at all times. Even after 25 years, willi knotgen is by no means fed up with the job. "It’s a clean job," he says, waving goodbye.

In our summer series, we report on people who work in special jobs. Tomorrow we will be in the central sterilization department of the kitzinger land clinic, the cleanest workplace in the region.