Wastewater workers for the city of Pacifica, Calif., are being hailed for their skill, persistence and going beyond the call of duty in rescuing a diamond engagement ring that was accidentally flushed down a toilet — and presumed lost forever.
The glistening ring was spotted with a video camera 1,000 feet from where it entered the sewage pipe. Pacifica Waste Water Collection workers were able to climb down a manhole and scoop the ring out of the muck.
The relieved couple, Lary Warren and Monika Belden-Sokoloski, had marked their February 2014 engagement by exchanging diamond rings. Warren’s ring featured 20 diamonds channel set in a wide gold band.
Having recently lost weight, Warren had noticed that his ill-fitted ring was spinning loosely on his finger. About a month ago, he was in the bathroom of his home, having just washed his hands, when the soapy ring flew off his finger and into the flushing toilet. In a second, it was gone.
“The ring was in the toilet and I was about to be in the toilet," Warren said, expecting to get an earful from his fiancée.
“I was very quiet," corrected Belden-Sokoloski.
Assuming that the ring had met its end, Warren decided to write off the loss to some bad luck. But, two weeks ago, after seeing a story on KTVU Channel 2 News about a ring that was recovered from a sewage pipe, he decided to contact Pacifica Waste Water Collection.
A full month had passed since the ring swished down the toilet, so there was no telling where in the sewage system the ring had traveled.
"It's like a needle in the haystack. We really didn't think we had a chance," sewage maintenance worker Eddie Pastrano told KTVU. Nevertheless, Pastrano’s supervisor, Brian Martinez Sr., thought the recovery effort was worth a try.
First, Martinez’ crew ran a small camera through the plumbing of Warren’s home. When that proved fruitless, the team snaked a larger camera through the main sewage pipe, but still they had no luck. On the third try, with the larger camera inching through pipe more than 1,000 feet from Warren’s home, workers finally saw a positive sign.
"It was gold. It was very shiny. We were able to see it quite well," maintenance worker and camera operator Mike Williams told KTVU. “All the stars and moons lined up and we had the right conditions.
Williams said the search was helped along by a recent run of wet weather. "It was really a fluke thing. Usually the sewer is pretty murky, but it just so happened we had all that rain come through, so it was clearer in the pipe."
"That was amazing,” said Belden-Sokoloski. “It's good to know people really care.”
Wastewater workers noted that the ring was found just a short distance from where the local sewage pipe drops into a larger pipe and crosses a highway. Had the ring traveled that far, it certainly would have been lost forever.