Jin Banghong at work. [File photo]
One day in April, in Wuhan, Hubei Province, a 53-year-old man was standing in a septic tank with dirty water up to his waist, using a stick and a spoon to clean out drains clogged up with feces. It took the man more than two hours to dredge the drains. When he finished, he was dirty and stinky.
This was the daily work of Jin Banghong, a sewage cleaner in Wuhan's Hanyang District.
"It will be inconvenient if drains are clogged," Jin said. "I won't be relieved until the clogged drains are cleaned out."
Drains in downtown Wuhan are old and narrow, making high-tech cleaning devices useless. Jin's team offers dredging service 24 hours a day. When the weather is fine, they will receive about 10 calls a day. When it rains, they have to work on and on without any breaks.
Last June, a heavy rain hit Wuhan. In one community, there was a pool of water about 1 meter deep. Although Jin put on a diving suit, gas mask and safety helmet when he went down the drain, his eyes watered and he developed a rash on his skin afterwards.
"When there is heavy rain, he will do all the work by himself," said one of Jin's colleagues. "He is afraid that inexperienced young workers will encounter dangers down there."
Dredging drains needs both hard work and a clever mind. Jin pays great attention to his work methods. With more than 30 years of experience, he knows every drain in Hanyang and has invented more than 20 dredging tools.
Once, in 2007, authorities tried using a dredging robot but it went missing in the drains. Jin was called to help locate it. He studied the landscape and soon figured out where it probably was. He then took some bamboo sticks and retrieved the robot.
For local residents, Jin is more helpful than the robot because he has a map in his mind of all the drains in Hanyang that extend hundreds of kilometers, they say.
"It's common for people to neglect sewage treatment, but once the drains are clogged, life turns very inconvenient," Jin said. "If we spend more time studying draining techniques, we can help them get back to normal life faster."