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UER Forum > Rookie Forum > Big city storm drain risks? (Viewed 2649 times)
TheReaper42 


Location: Colorado
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Big city storm drain risks?
< on 2/24/2020 8:40 PM >
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Hey folks,

I recently found a map of the storm drains of a very large city in my state (roughly 600,000 pop). Multiple huge tunnels and RCBs, bigger than anything I have explored before. Access to many of the drains is along the river, which has a walking path that runs along it.

For those of you who explore drains in big cities, I have a few questions:

What is the best way to determine the legality of exploring drains in your area? UER encyclopedia says draining is "illegal in many areas", but a google search for [ "my state / my city" storm drain trespassing ] or [ "my state / my city" storm drain illegal ] yields news stories of criminals attempting to hide in drains and illegal dumping, but nothing about explorers.

This leads me to believe that nobody has been (reportedly) prosecuted for exploring, so either the police doesn't care, or let people off with warnings. Safe assumption?

Additionally, has anyone encountered homeless people in drains? I know that this city has a fairly large homeless population, and I would hate to barge in on someone's home. Or worst, encounter someone with nefarious purposes.

Are there any other dangers associated with draining in a heavily populated area that I need to look out for? (Aside from the usual storm drain hazards: no drains in rain, possible hazardous chemicals from illegal industrial dumping, etc)?

Thanks in advance




Dan Lee 


Location: N. Illlinois
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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 1 on 2/24/2020 9:41 PM >
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As for as legality goes, I'm willing to bet it would be safe to assume that it's treated the same as any other trespassing charge in your state. I mean, you can ask the city for permission if you're worried about it, but that's probably gonna be a fast 'no'. If you got caught they'd more than likely tell you just to go away, but who knows, you could probably get in trouble too.
As far as homeless people, I would think there's less of a chance encountering them in a damp, cold, wet pipe than in a regular abandonment. Everything you list though is just normal hazards that come with exploring in general. I doubt drain pipes pose any more threat than a regular abandonment (in regards to homeless, scrappers, etc). Of course the time you go too plays a big part. There's gonna be less of a chance of encountering others in there going at 1 pm in the afternoon vs. 1 am in the morning.
The biggest risk hand down is getting caught in a flash flood. Check your area, check the surrounding areas that are even 50-100 miles away from you. Did they get any big storms? Has it warmed up and snow may be melting and the runoff is coming your way? Is there any probability of even the slightest shower or increase in temperature, either in your area or in surrounding area while your gonna be exploring it? If the answer is yes or maybe to any, don't go. Winter is a bad time to do drains in states that have snow (assuming yours does).
Also, it's good to invest in a quality pair of non-slip boots.

TLDR: Don't worry about the homeless people as you probably won't encounter any, worry about the flash floods as they're the real killers.




blackhawk 

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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 2 on 2/24/2020 9:44 PM >
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It's part of the city infrastructure.
All types of utilities run near or even through there.
After 911 everything changed.
So... they really don't want you there.
To the government you represent a risk to the infrastructure, the workers and to yourself.

You're biggest risk is drowning or being overcome by H2S or low O2 levels.
Poor ventilation is a red flag for potential lethal consequences.
H2S is heavier than air so in lower areas it can pool if present.
It's an insidious poison. Never expose yourself if you know it is present.
It's a proven killer that has killed many who were trained to work with it.
It kills workers every year.
Once it starts to effect you, escape is very unlikely and even more so for a timely rescue.

You have no way to know their planned operations so you could end up finding out the hard way when they flood a section or in a freak water main break.

Local drainers familiar with the drains you wish to splore are your best resource as to doability and hazards.




Just when I thought I was out... they pulled me back in.
blackhawk 

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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 3 on 2/24/2020 9:44 PM >
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2x post, didn't double tap it, not sure what happened. Sorry



[last edit 2/24/2020 9:46 PM by blackhawk - edited 1 times]

Just when I thought I was out... they pulled me back in.
TheReaper42 


Location: Colorado
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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 4 on 2/24/2020 10:46 PM >
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Posted by Dan Lee
The biggest risk hand down is getting caught in a flash flood.

Assuming the weather is all clear, are there any risks of water being released into the drains by some man-made infrastructure?

Posted by blackhawk
You're biggest risk is drowning or being overcome by H2S or low O2 levels.
Poor ventilation is a red flag for potential lethal consequences.
H2S is heavier than air so in lower areas it can pool if present.
It's an insidious poison. Never expose yourself if you know it is present.
It's a proven killer that has killed many who were trained to work with it.
It kills workers every year.
Once it starts to effect you, escape is very unlikely and even more so for a timely rescue.

Are there reg flags that indicate poor airflow / build up of H2S? I know disturbing organic debris underwater is something to avoid. I would also assume that, like with mines, any airflow out of an outfall is a good sign.

Are there structures in the drains where H2S is prone to collect? Bottom of drop shafts? Is entering through an outfall safer than an infall, since you're already at the lowest point in the drain?

Is it be a big enough hazard that one should carry an O2/H2S meter? The ones I've found seem expensive, but I suppose it would be better than dying in some tunnel underground.

Posted by blackhawk
Local drainers familiar with the drains you wish to splore are your best resource as to doability and hazards.

What is the best way to find local drainers? I've searched around the web for "city name + storm drain exploration" and haven't found any videos. Maybe asking in the regional forums? Seems like there isn't too much draining on this site.

Sorry for the barrage of questions, and thanks again for the info. I really appreciate it.




Explorer Zero 


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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 5 on 2/24/2020 11:00 PM >
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Remember just about everybody is downstream from something.

Don't be downstream of homeless people's , err uh, homes, next read this. Plan your route accordingly and try to avoid piles of human feces at all costs!

https://www.bloomb...n-from-human-waste

What a shitty situation!




Aran 


Location: Bozeman, MT
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Huh. I guess covid made me a trendsetter.

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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 6 on 2/25/2020 3:03 AM >
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Draining is a huge part of urbex- in some cities, it's the predominant form of exploration in fact They tend to be more secretive on here because drains are easier for city governments to seal, and they're more likely to do it too. It's also easier to do drains without getting caught, as the only time you're likely to be seen is when entering or leaving. The rest of the time you don't have to worry about where you shine your flashlight or how loud you are.

I agree with everything Dan said above aside from winter being a bad time. In many cases it's actually a better time because precipitation is frozen on the surface rather than entering the drain. While the water will be cold, it's often less so than you'd expect. Once you get deeper than 15 to 20 feet or so below ground, the air temperature stabilizes to around 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round. I've explored drains in subzero temperatures and even slipped and fell in the (ankle high) water without more than mild discomfort- the hardest part was walking from the manhole cover back to the car afterwards.

Toxic gas is unlikely to be an issue in most storm drains outside of stormcepters, but it's a much more common hazard in sanitary and mixed use systems. A far more likely hazard is falling- I've seen storm drains in some large cities that abruptly end in a 100 foot drop shaft into a deeper system, and getting lost in a branching system full of identical concrete pipes is always a hazard. You can't always pop a manhole cover because first off it's dangerous to pop one if you don't know what's above it, and second off because many deeper systems have manholes dozens of feet deep without a built in ladder.




"Sorry, I didn't know I'm not supposed to be here," he said, knowing full well he wasn't supposed to be there.

MercuryVapor 


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Camping in a coal tower.

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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 7 on 3/29/2020 7:01 AM >
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What is a stormcepter?




If your uncle Jack were stuck on a roof. And he asked for your help. Would you help your uncle Jack off?
Explorer Zero 


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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 8 on 3/29/2020 9:10 AM >
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Posted by MercuryVapor
What is a stormcepter?


Its where all the hobo feces collects after a rain storm.

Just don't go.




MercuryVapor 


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Camping in a coal tower.

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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 9 on 3/29/2020 9:49 AM >
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Posted by Explorer Zero


Its where all the hobo feces collects after a rain storm.

Just don't go.


interesting.

yeah I've been contemplating delving into a drain more seriously over the summer. I live in a mid sized city with a decent bit of abandoned factories, retired infrastructure and such so maybe I can actually find something of interest in the networks. I've only been in a drain twice.


one in my area is known as "Ur mums butthole" and leads into the water treatment facilities fences.

and the other one drains into a local river. I didn't go much farther than 200 feet in before I backtracked out of there. I left because my friend was outside and I realized that he might have thought i died or something if i didn't emerge soon.






[last edit 3/29/2020 10:08 AM by MercuryVapor - edited 2 times]

If your uncle Jack were stuck on a roof. And he asked for your help. Would you help your uncle Jack off?
FreeLee 


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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 10 on 3/29/2020 7:47 PM >
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My daughter and I did some drains in Raleigh. We did hit some cool branches that went under buildings, some so narrow you had to crawl.

We had a flashlight die on us, we had a backup fortunately.

Someone on the outside needs to know roughly where we were and a time to check in, cell service was intermittent underground.

Fantastic weather, don't do storm drains if even a shower is forecast.

Sidewalk chalk to mark the walls so we did not get lost, super easy to get turned around!

Don't go alone!

They are drains, its nasty in some spots, expect some parts of it to be, well kinda gross and potentially dangerous. Wear or have protective gear, gloves, knee pads, particulate mask.

We had a good time.

1.




B




Natchraz 


Location: Otherworld
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“-Never- got caught.” -blackhawk 2016

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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 11 on 4/4/2020 6:01 AM >
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Posted by TheReaper42

Are there reg flags that indicate poor airflow / build up of H2S? I know disturbing organic debris underwater is something to avoid. I would also assume that, like with mines, any airflow out of an outfall is a good sign.

Are there structures in the drains where H2S is prone to collect? Bottom of drop shafts? Is entering through an outfall safer than an infall, since you're already at the lowest point in the drain?
appreciate it.


Depending on how old your city's infrastructure is, you might want to be cautious for illegal sewer pipelines leading into a storm drain's flow of water.

If this is the case, H2S among other nasty stuff is likely to be found down there. At this point you could consider yourself in a borderline sanitary sewer.

In addition, avoiding more enclosed, small areas in storm drains is recommended.





“In my restless dreams, I see that town…”
ty21 


Location: DFW Texas
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just your friendly neighborhood pine cone

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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 12 on 4/13/2020 2:55 PM >
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I was caught "draining" by the police when I was younger. They waited by our cars (because we were dumb and didn't park very far) in order to read us our rights when we got back. I was fairly certain we wouldn't be charged with trespassing as the drains are part of public property and had no statutes in our locality and was correct. The officers told us what we were doing was not illegal, they checked our hands for paint and our pockets for drugs and let us go free. Well, actually we did get a ticket... for parking next to a fire hydrant.

As for in Denver, I couldn't find any statutes stating it's illegal or constitutes trespass but if a "no trespassing" sign exists anywhere along the route then you could potentially be charged. Just food for thought.

EDIT: Homeless people in drains:
Never seen them in drains but I've heard about it. Homeless people don't typically have good flashlights so its unusual. I have had a very interesting conversation with a homeless man just outside of a tunnel in the middle of the city before. Just glad he was friendly.



[last edit 4/13/2020 2:56 PM by ty21 - edited 1 times]

Dee Ashley 


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Write something and wait expectantly.

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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 13 on 5/26/2020 9:35 PM >
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Posted by MercuryVapor
What is a stormcepter?


I know this post is a couple months old, but I just pulled up an old archive for another thread about Stormceptors, so I thought I’d drop it off here:

https://uer.ca/for...rrpage=1&pp#post11




I wandered till the stars went dim.
HornetWrath 


Location: San Antonio
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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 14 on 8/14/2020 8:44 AM >
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Maybe I'm missing something but. What part of a storm drain is exciting? Stagnant water, low oxygen, h2s, dead animals, just all around disgusting stuff. Where is the thrill? Might as well explore the sewers




I'm a lone explorer because I hate people.
plight 


Location: Bay Area, CA
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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 15 on 8/14/2020 9:37 PM >
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Posted by HornetWrath
Maybe I'm missing something but. What part of a storm drain is exciting? Stagnant water, low oxygen, h2s, dead animals, just all around disgusting stuff. Where is the thrill? Might as well explore the sewers


Everyone enjoys their own activities. Storm drains are an unknown, why do you explore abandoned buildings? Probably for similar reasons someone wants to explore a drain. Not everyone has the same risk tolerance as you would be the best answer.




HornetWrath 


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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 16 on 8/14/2020 9:40 PM >
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Posted by plight


Everyone enjoys their own activities. Storm drains are an unknown, why do you explore abandoned buildings? Probably for similar reasons someone wants to explore a drain. Not everyone has the same risk tolerance as you would be the best answer.


That was a very valid response. I didn't really stop to see the other end of the coin




I'm a lone explorer because I hate people.
musket boy 


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It smells like your grandpa and your feet stick to the floor

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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 17 on 8/15/2020 11:14 AM >
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Posted by TheReaper42
police doesn't care, or let people off with warnings. Safe assumption?

That was always my assumption, if you're honest and polite with them anyway, and aren't breaking any other laws.


Posted by TheReaper42
has anyone encountered homeless people in drains?

I only ever saw one homeless home in a drain and it wasn't really in the drain but more in an area above the drain below the first floor of a building, I've seen more homeless people around the outfalls of drains because they're usually in secluded areas. I have an idea of the river and walkway you're talking about and that's a pretty open area clear of hobos.
Las Vegas is an exception: https://www.inside...h-las-vegas-2019-9


Posted by TheReaper42
are there any risks of water being released into the drains by some man-made infrastructure?

Sometimes water can be released into drains from facilities or holding tanks or whatever but it usually only amounts to a trickle in the overall scheme of things. Make sure your drain isn't a penstock or a tailrace, look on google to see if its connected to a reservoir or a dam or something.


Posted by TheReaper42
illegal dumping

once I found an illegal sewer dump in a storm drain, think of a hole in the wall connected directly to a toilet, and someone actually flushed a turd while we were down there, luckily I wore rubber boots that day.


Posted by TheReaper42
no drains in rain

Don't go in drains when its raining or about to rain. Pipes can settle out of level and cause the water level to go up as you go further upstream, this isn't necessarily a problem but if the flow picks up along with the depth it might be a sign its raining up above and time to get out.


Posted by TheReaper42
Is it be a big enough hazard that one should carry an O2/H2S meter?

Not really, most of the drains I have been in had pretty good ventilation because of all the openings to the street and stuff.


Posted by TheReaper42
What is the best way to find local drainers?

Look for posts on this website about drains in your area and ask the posters to go with you or invite friends of yours who aren't on this website to go with you they might find it intriguing enough to try it.




uering
Explorer Zero 


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Re: Big city storm drain risks?
< Reply # 18 on 8/16/2020 11:59 PM >
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Posted by musket boy

That was always my assumption,





musket boy youre still here!





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