While it is logical that municipalities focus on the repair of mainline sewer pipes to stop sanitary sewer overflows, the most effective asset management programs incorporate socially responsible, system-wide plans addressing all collection system components, including mainlines, manholes and laterals.

“Municipalities are traditionally only responsible for mainlines and lateral right of ways — generally from the curb or property line cleanout to the main,” said Joanne Hughes, managing director in the Americas for RS Technik. “While some cities spend significant dollars on the rehabilitation of mainlines, deteriorating lateral lines can create a serious imbalance in I/I control and repair. Specifically, as mainlines are repaired, groundwater that has infiltrated into the mainline is stopped. This, in turn, can cause a rise in the water table, making the unrepaired laterals the next point of least resistance for water to infiltrate the sewer.”

Lateral sewer lines are generally classified as private property, and therefore the responsibility of homeowners to maintain and repair. The problem is that many homeowners are seldom aware of the magnitude of the lateral’s negative condition, nor willing or capable to pay for its repair until it’s too late. Like most underground utilities, the problem is “out of sight, out of mind” until a major event occurs, such as sewage backing up and flooding into a home.  This lack of control can create huge headaches for cities attempting to manage the effective operation of their entire system.

Municipalities are taking this issue seriously. Some cities mandate lateral repairs by enforcing the rehabilitation of pipelines prior to closing on the sale of homes. Other municipalities assign tax dollars for the repair of lateral lines. Avalon, Calif. (on Catalina Island), for example, recently made such a financial commitment. In an effort to preserve fresh water, all wastewater in homes was flushed into the sewer laterals and Avalon’s mainlines using saltwater. After a video inspection of residential sewer laterals, it was discovered that the use of saltwater resulted in corrosion of the laterals. The inspection further revealed that a majority of the laterals were broken or cracked, causing wastewater from the homes in Avalon to enter the groundwater system.

“We made the decision to repair virtually every lateral,” said Keith Lefevre, capital improvements director for the City of Avalon. “In an attempt to not pick-and-choose and have one fail, we went down entire streets and did the entire Flats area of Avalon, which is located directly in front of Avalon Harbor. It was a hard decision to proceed with this project. The state cut off funding, but the City made the choice to move forward. Keeping the Bay clean is important to the City, and we have been working hard for a number of years to accomplish this.”

While cities are definitely moving in the right direction toward taking responsibility for lateral repairs, the problem is that many of their solutions are either short-term or provide staggered repairs that do not ensure an entire system is running consistently at top capacity. In other words, they lack control.
Avalon’s conscientious and socially responsible decision to repair each and every lateral was unique, as most cities do not require such an aggressive approach. In most cases, cities must repair and rehabilitate pipes on an “as needed” basis. A find-and-fix approach to these needs requires that resources be readily available so cities can respond quickly, proactively stopping deterioration and saving and extending the life of these valuable infrastructure assets.

The need to have CIPP technology ready at a moment’s notice led to the development of a unique, fully-equipped portable CIPP system by RS Technik. RS CityLiner is designed to renew circular and non-circular gravity flow pipelines up to 32 in. in diameter, incorporating computerized controls for quality assurance, while delivering consistently easy and sustainable solutions that are cost-effective. The MaxLiner system, which was used in the Avalon project, complements RS CityLiner with a solution for lateral lining applications.   

“The RS CityLiner system, including MaxLiner, is a logical solution for municipalities and contractors that are ready to take this next step in collection system management and maintenance because it is such an incredibly easy transition,” said Hughes. “The system includes everything needed to line pipes when needed, with higher performing non-toxic epoxy resins. At RS Technik, our focus is to configure systems that are safe for humans and the environment, non-intrusive, and easy to use while consistently delivering long-lasting solutions for water and sewer infrastructure.  

“The highly portable nature of our system allows cities to perform multiple installations in one day, and the system includes a vacuum for the on-board wet-out process, resin mixers, computerized controls and data logging for quality assurance and hands-on training. This complete quality system allows cities to pull up to the jobsite, open the door and go to work with the assurance they can address the need that day without delay.”

“By utilizing both the RS CityLiner and MaxLiner systems, we are a complete solution provider that can react quickly to the unexpected needs of municipalities and other customers,” said Mark Metcalfe, vice president of operations, Professional Pipe Services. “Both systems are incredibly uncomplicated and straight-forward, and the support is always there for us. If we are in the middle of a project and encounter unique, unexpected conditions, the folks at RS Technik and MaxLiner always respond quickly.

“One of the most important benefits of these systems, though,” Metcalfe continued, “is that we can address problems that are identified only after the work begins. For example, if we are hired to do 18-in. mainlines, and then identify issues with 3-in. laterals that need to be addressed, assuming approval is granted, we have everything we need on-board to correct the problem that same day. Also, we frequently get to a job only to discover that the length of the liner is different than originally believed. Thanks to the mobile wet-out capabilities for both products, and to the fact that we stock the materials on the mobile units, the problem is resolved quickly.”

RS CityLiner has been used successfully in Europe for 10 years, and is now available in the United States through RS Lining Systems, part of the Dow Formulated Systems/RS Technik Group Global Alliance. This alliance was recently formed to demonstrate Dow’s commitment to the protection of high-value infrastructure assets, such as underground utility pipelines, whose failure carries major social, economic or environmental impact. By utilizing a trenchless solution, cities achieve objectives with regard to asset management while keeping in mind social and economic impact by minimizing disruption to businesses, homeowners and the environment.

Although the issue of laterals remains foggy with the legalities of ownership looming over their repair, most industry professionals agree that the cost of infiltration from this single system component will ultimately bring about changes, forcing this responsibility onto municipalities. Further, it is clear that in order to be successful, municipalities need to continue to proactively identify new and better ways to manage the complete repair and maintenance of aging and deteriorating systems, including mainlines, manholes and laterals.

“We have recently seen an increase in municipalities adding system assessment and rehabilitation technologies in-house,” said Hughes. “We believe this proactive approach to asset management is yet another necessary component needed to balance the ability of our nation to repair and maintain aging collection systems, while offering cities the control and ability they need to respond quickly and efficiently.”

Sheila Thomas is president of New Phase Marketing, which is based in Reston, Va.

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