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We are building St. Petersburg. The Water Canal


Emergency and restoration works. So that St. Petersburg’s water remains clean. Alexander Leontyev’s crew is on shift five days a week in the central part pf the city, providing non-stop water supply. Technicians like them are vital to make the water flow from taps, to have fountains operating and to enable fire crews to save people. If a fire hydrant breaks in an emergency, then the water canal workers get the blame among others. Technicians’ work is about fixing or replacing the equipment.


Keys! Look how papa set everything up for himself, huh! Beauty!

Emergency and restoration works. So that St. Petersburg’s water remains clean. Alexander Leontyev’s crew is on shift five days a week in the central part pf the city, providing non-stop water supply. Technicians like them are vital to make the water flow from taps, to have fountains operating and to enable fire crews to save people. If a fire hydrant breaks in an emergency, then the water canal workers get the blame among others. Technicians’ work is about fixing or replacing the equipment. 

Lets hope the lid is shut tight. Perfect!

Fire departments send requests about such defects. Alexander Leontyev goes down the well to fix the problem

This is a very tight suit

Under the leg, under the leg – its stuck by the leg

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “First of all, because most of the wells are situated in the middle of the roads, over time exhaust fumes from cars accumulate down there. There’s a chance that a man going down there wont even have a moment to realize what’s wrong. With a lack of oxygen, a man simply falls unconscious and falls asleep”

Well, since our work is equated to work at heights, we have to put a safety belt on. Different things can happen down in the well. We cannot rely on gear too. If a gas analyzer detects some dangerous gas, if something happens – boys can always pull me out and provide aid. 

Viktor Nikolayevich, what are the readings  there?

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “It has certain disadvantages too, especially in a hot weather. It feels like in a sauna. For some it’s like a slimming factor too.


Feels like home

Vladimir Katsavets, head of central department at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “Central part of the city has thicker reinforcements. Lids, hydrants, a lot of pipe inputs. So, there may not be a lot of large pipes here, but the density is very high. A lot of wells”

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “Many passers-by crack jokes at us, using traditional expressions – like one with a bowl, seven with spoons. Most of our crew is up on the ground and while im working down in the well, people walk by and think that others are just standing above and watching me do it. But they are actually providing non-stop work, so that I can handle it in the well. Sometimes a job cannot be done unless its organized.

The assignment was completed with high quality, in short time. Residents didn’t experience water suspensions. Now fire departments can take the water to extinguish fires.

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “Technicians work with cutters, able to slice not only pipes, but asphalt too. Working with jackhammers, hydraulic screwdrivers and chainsaws operating with wood. A technician is a universal soldier of sorts”

Give me bolts. Don’t make it too tight, Ruslan.

The competition between technicians at Vodokanal’s emergency-restoration works. Change lids in a well…

Loosen the screws – it will go easier. 

Connect a pipe to the water network…

Sasha is not panicking, he’s used to this. But I do

And install reinforcements to the cauldron’s walls. The three main challenges.

According to safety regulations, we have to temporarily install such wooden structures – to ensure a technician’s safety while he’s dealing with an emergency. 

Alexander Leontyev and his crew did not display the best result among their colleagues, but there are no questions regarding their professionalism – their experience is massive. Leontyev has been working for “Vodokanal” for 10 years. 

Vladimir Katsavets, head of central department at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “Technicians of emergency-restoration works are first and foremost public figures, especial in central parts of the city. When they are working, they meet both residents and guests of the city, who see their work. That’s why it carries a lot of responsibility – water supplies depend on their professionalism and quality. It includes non-stop supplies and the water’s purity. 

Every day St. Petersburg consumes more than 1.5 million cubic meters of water. Vodokanal thoroughly monitors its quality. It begins with grabbing water from the Neva, which happens at 8 stations across the city. 11 years ago, a biomonitoring system was introduced. The first to check the water are crayfish. Safe  to say, they are Vodokanal’s employees too. Every single one of those 12 crayfish have a medical records book.   

For Neva’s water, crayfish are unrivaled bio-indicators. Such system is not used at any other facility in the world

Using heartbeat detectors, Vodokanal’s specialists are able to conduct real-time monitoring of Neva water’s toxicity. Crayfish react only to high levels of pollution. If heartbeat rate is too fast, then Vodokanal’s workers would stop grabbing water from Neva – in order to keep the city’s residents safe. But in 11 years of such data collection, there’s only been one instance when monitors showed signs of an ecological catastrophe. 

There was the one case when this eco system worked to our advantage. Thank God, it wasn’t connected with a terrorist attack, but with a human error. But the system showed us very quickly – in just one and a half minutes. That was after the usual chlorine water mixed with that from the river. The crayfish immediately reacted and showed to us that they were not feeling well. 

From this water station, Neva’s water gets into one of 9 pumping stations. That’s where it goes through multi-level purification, and then makes its way to our taps.

Felix Karmazinov, General Director of “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “Our main task is to provide water of appropriate quality to every resident – as much as one needs. To solve it, we have to ensure that the equipment, the people and technological processes - all correspond with the demands that an average person would demand from a clean water”

Vodokanal is also about St. Petersburg’s fountains. The system used to be different. The first fountain in the city appeared in 1705 – certainly, upon Peter the Great’s decree, and was put into the Letniy Garden. After which they started appearing at squares, parks and palaces. Owners of the land were responsible for maintenance. But for the last 20 years, the fountains have been overseen by Vodokanal. Moreover, in the mid-1990s, when most of those were handed over to the organization, St. Petersburg only had around 20 functioning fountains, and most of those were in a hazardous condition. Now the city has 50, and Vodokanal plans to renovate and launch another 33. 

Oleg Murtazin, head of water infrastructure department at Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga: “ Fountains are not swimming pools. Very complicated equipment is inside those – plugs, electromagnetic valves, underwater lights and underwater cables. And that’s why when people are swimming in them and stomp on those, they don’t understand that it harms the equipment. Only after we drain those, we can establish whether the harm was done”

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “Any worker at Vodokanal is responsible for water supplies, draining and maintaining fountains. And its pleasing to seewhen people come to them and feel comfortable – especially during a hot season in St. Petersburg”

Alexander Leontyev himself prefers outdoor recreation – at his own apiary. He’s been involved in beekeeping for many years.

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “You want easily intrude a bee’s home – like a bear trying to get some honey. It reacts very accurately to temperature change. And if you intrude in an inappropriate moment, it will let you know that you’re there in a wrong time”

In order to get into the hive, we’re using fumigators – those spark the self-preservation instinct with the bees. As soon as they feel the smoke, they start actively sucking in the honey – because smoke signals a fire for them. That’s how a beekeeper protects oneself – so that a bee cannot get under the mask and the face stays protected. Personally, I have been stung 15 times at once. Nothing major happened, and you barely feel anything after the first two bites.

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “There’s an expression – there’s no civilization without canalization. Vodokanal is about supplying and disposing of the water, all together. 

After use, the water gets into sewer system before making its way into the Gulf of Finland. Up until 1978, waste waters had not been cleaned in Leningrad. But then aeration stations and collectors were built.

Felix Karmazinov, General Director of “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “2 years ago we officially hit the mark of 98.5% of waste water cleaning. This is a very high figure, many world cities have not reached it. So, safe to say, we are leaders in this sphere.  

Three years ago, in the fall of 2013, Vodokanal launched the main sewer tunnel. The new major project – the Okhtinskiy collector, which is expected to be functional by 2020. Thanks to it, waste waters will make their way to the northern aeration station without polluting the Okhta river.

Felix Karmazinov, General Director of “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “The Okhtinskiy collector is the last major construction project, finalizing, if I may say so, the water purification system of St. Petersburg. Then we’ll be able to say that 99.9% of St. Petersburg’s waste waters are being cleaned. 

Vodokanal’s hotline, good morning, operator 9!

Vodokanal’s hotline, hello, operator 10!

Hotline, operator 11 – I’m at full attention!

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “We receive daily information about emergencies – straight from the residents. Many of our management, particularly in the Central District, are working directly with residents communions, maintenance services and road services. Direct line of communication between organizations servicing the Central District

Technician crews spend most of their days in the streets if the city. They get their assignments from the dispatch center. Alexander Leontyev and his crew members only return to the headquarters to recharge the additional equipment. 

Lets go there and check it out

There’s a car at the intersection

So what’s next?

Maybe a carpet or a line

Together with rainwater and send, it gradually seeps into the wells. 

Working down the well is impossible if it’s filled with water or liquid soil. All this is drained with a vacuum excavator, which is controlled by a small console. The time it would need to be cleaned again depends on the well’s location. If the asphalt is good, it would not be needed for a couple of years. If the road is a beat-up one, the wells get dirty sooner. 

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “Because we have poor soil in the city, there is a lot of damage to the asphalt every winter. That affects the pipes too – especially when a mixture of water and sand is on the move, because of subzero temperatures, and this effectively damages the pipes.

St. Petersburg is literally riddled with hundreds of rivers and canals – Neva or Karpovka, Okhta or Pryazhka, quick flow or slow. The turnover of water in the nature, the turnover of the water in a big city. All this is a proof that our life is about constant movement. The direction of it tomorrow – is something we must decide. We are building our city together, each one of us is building St. Petersburg

Alexander Leontyev, technician at “Vodokanal Sankt-Peterburga”: “Always do the job on 100% - because if we don’t, what will remain of our city? Things will start crumbling here and there and it will be ruins eventually. Is our work visible? Not to many residents – but its highly important”

Viktor Nikolayevich, don’t forget to remove the ladder

Who’s the good worker? I am!