The NASA Goddard Flight Center, located in a Maryland suburb just outside of Washington, D.C., is home to the U.S.’ largest organization of combined scientists and engineers dedicated to expanding humanity’s knowledge of the universe.
“NASA chose our company based on two things. First, our product met the specification and second, our track record,” said U.S. Sewer and Drain Inc. president Jeremy Bowman.
The project involved a 50-year-old pipe, which had longitudinal cracks spanning 10 to 20 ft, root infiltration at the joints and missing sections the size of a baseball. Upon receiving the bid for the project, valued at $350,000, U.S. Sewer and Drain underwent a thorough investigation headed by NASA.
“We had meetings with engineers associated with NASA for months, and I submitted a 100-page report on the materials,” said Tim Hawkins, vice president of Global Pipeline Systems, which supplied all of the lining materials. “There were advanced math calculations on that sheet that even I didn’t understand, but I’m sure the engineers at NASA did.”
“They wanted a liner that would last indefinitely and were very specific about the epoxy resins that would be used. They seemed very familiar with the products,” Bowman said.
U.S. Sewer and Drain had to follow similar procedures. The company’s employees were subject to a personal background check. The company also worked with Global Pipeline Systems to supply NASA with the information they required.
“They were especially concerned with an odor from the resin and keeping safe working conditions within the facility, which wasn’t a problem,” Bowman said. “Global [Pipeline Systems] was great with providing all the data NASA needed.”
Yet, the meticulous data investigation and background checks were only the beginning of the security procedures in this high profile contract. Despite the fact that half of the pipe was under the 24-in. concrete floor of the flight center, the facility could not be shut down; as a result, workers could only work between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“The time restraints were a big issue with this project. By the time we would get the equipment set up, it would almost be time to break it all down,” Bowman explained. “What would have taken only a couple days, took us over a week.”
Starting on Sept. 18, 2005, the job only took 72 hours to complete, but those hours were spread over seven-hour days. To maximize productivity, two crews worked consecutively. One crew began installing upstream, while the other crew began installing downstream. The crews used a combination air-inversion and water curing process featuring Global Pipeline’s air inverter with the optional, battery-operated lighting system that illuminated the entire drum, which allowed the operator to see into the inversion chamber, Bowman said.
Because the time restraints didn’t allow for a standard four- to six-hour curing resin, Global Pipeline supplied a two-hour, quick-drying, 100 percent solid epoxy resin with a working time of 30 minutes. While this type of resin is normally required for project locations that cannot be closed for extended periods of time, according to Hawkins, Bowman said that U.S. Sewer and Drain will use the quick drying resin as the standard resin in future projects due to the quick and efficient application of the resin.
“I think we were the first to do this type of work for NASA,” Bowman speculated. “They were amazed with our speed.”
The process was partially slowed by the constant safety checks required by NASA. Testing was done before, during and after every step in the rehabilitation. Safety personnel kept logs and escorts were present at all times due to the high security restrictions on the NASA premises. Bowman explained that, in actuality, the constant safety checks sped up the process and served to increase productivity and efficiency.
“Doing this type of work for so many years, you know when it is safe to jump into a manhole and when it isn’t,” said Bowman. “But our company learned a lot from NASA’s attention to protocol. Thanks to careful planning, the project went off without a hitch.”
Along with the high profile project comes the high profile experience. U.S. Sewer and Drain has showed through this project that they are able to cater to those owners who are image conscious and need a company that can get the job done under specific conditions. Getting the job done quickly also adds an extra boost in confidence, according to Bowman.
“Having the world’s best engineers looking over our shoulders and then approving of our technology just goes to show that we can provide a great, quality product,” said Hawkins. “It says a lot about our service.”