To get an idea of what the lateral rehab market looks like as we enter 2024, we queried contractors doing work in the United States and Canada.
As North America’s underground infrastructure ages and deteriorates, system owners look to ways they can get the most bang for their buck when it comes to repairs. Many times, that will lead them to trenchless rehabilitation methods.
Looking at the rehabilitation options, cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) is by far the leading trenchless option when looking at improving mainline sewers. When the system owners look to rehabilitate these runs, they also look to rehabilitate the associated manhole structures. The hope is that the two combined will considerably reduce inflow and infiltration (I/I).
The third cog in the constant effort to combat I/I is repairing the service laterals from the mainline to the home. Often, this is an area of repair that falls on the property owner; however, in recent years, many system owners have come up with innovative ways to cross that private vs. public divide.
To get an idea of what the lateral rehab market looks like as we enter 2024, we queried contractors doing work in the United States and Canada. While their customers and the regions they serve may be different, one common theme is that more and more people are choosing trenchless methods to repair laterals. And this is thanks in part to increased awareness of trenchless methods and improved rehabilitation technologies.
Private and Public Side Attention
“The lateral rehabilitation market is getting busier. This has taken years to inform the public about relining. Municipalities are recognizing the benefits of lining compared to traditional methods,” says Shawn Robinson, project manager and lead lining technician at Victoria Drains. Based in Victora, British Columbia, Victoria Drains provides an array of drainage services and solutions to clients in the residential, commercial, and municipal space across Vancouver Island.
“I can attribute this growth to education and exposure. Victoria [British Columbia] has recently started a new sewage treatment plant and along with this is a necessity to reduce I/I,” Robinson says.
However, Robinson says that in their region, relining is not where it could be, attributing, in part due to a lack of information available to the average homeowner. “CIPP lining is not a common household term that everyone knows or understands,” he says. “Compare it to someone saying, ‘I need someone to dig my yard to replace the pipe,’ where everyone in the conversation will have an opinion. Talk about pipe relining and you’ll get a lot of blank stares.”
Robinson notes that Victoria Drains has seen an increase in its trenchless lateral rehabilitation work both for municipal and private clients.
“New clients are very interested in CIPP once the process is explained to them. This can be attributed to the fact that open-cut excavation is so invasive and expensive,” he says, adding that regulatory requirements also come into play. “[In British Columbia] for open-cut replacement within root protection zones; arborists are involved, engineering for soil contamination, testing and disposal is a requirement. We have recently noted an increase in municipalities contracting Victoria Drains to reline laterals on private property for these reasons.”
On the opposite end of the continent Justin Dearborn, the owner of Northeast Sewer & Drain Service in Gorham, Maine, sees much of the same. His customers are looking for a less disruptive way to bring their private-side drainage systems up to snuff. Though he and his team have offered lateral rehab for many years, they recently upped their capabilities with the addition of a Bluelight LED curing system from HammerHead Trenchless.
“We mostly cover Maine and southern New Hampshire residential and commercial work,” Dearborn says. “I think the market is getting stronger because the infrastructure is getting older. You have to remember, where we are along the East Coast, it’s some of the oldest infrastructure in the country.”
Dearborn notes that Maine is still old school when it comes to sewer work with many going straight to open-cut and replacement. However, he sees the tide turning as people move to the region from places where pipe relining is more prevalent.
An area where lateral rehabilitation is seeing steady and consistent growth is on the sanitary system owner’s side. This is largely driven by the fact that system owners are well-versed in CIPP and other rehabilitation methods available for their vast infrastructure networks.
“The trenchless CIPP industry has been around for more than 50 years with millions of miles of pipe already rehabilitated in the United States alone. This is a proven technology that solves the myriad problems of aging sewers and will be around for decades to come,” says BLD Services vice president Jacob Trapani.“Over the last 13 years since BLD’s acquisition of Insituform’s lateral lining process, I have seen enormous growth in the market across the entire country. The market as I see it today is strong and thriving.”
He adds, “There is a growing industry of residential plumbers that are utilizing CIPP technology from inside the home. This provides a very cost-effective and simple solution to homeowners who either cannot afford to dig and replace their sewer lateral or do not want to damage expensive landscaping present in their yards. Residential CIPP is a great option that is gaining traction across North America.”
Based in Kenner, Louisiana, BLD Services manufactures and installs its proprietary Service Connection Seal plus Lateral (SCS+L) system. The CIPP lateral repair is installed from the mainline sewer. The bulk of BLD’s clients are in the Eastern portion of the United States.
Lateral Rehab Growth Factors
Growth on the municipal side often equates to growth on the residential side. So, to what does Trapani attribute the continued growth of lateral rehabilitation on the system owner’s side?
“I believe a combination of different factors has expanded the lateral rehabilitation market to where it is today. We all know that I/I is still an issue that most municipalities face on a daily basis due to the age of the sewer system, causing overflows, plant capacity concerns, EPA consent decrees, etc.,” he says. “Over the past 15 years or so, there has been a push toward educating industry stakeholders, engineers, and municipal staff on the benefits of lateral rehab to further reduce I/I in the system after performing mainline rehab. According to WERF’s 2006 ‘Methods for Cost-Effective Rehabilitation of Private Lateral Sewers,’ I/I was significantly reduced after lateral rehabilitation on previously renewed mainlines totaling an 84 percent decrease of ground water entering the system.”
Education backed by sound data is one component of the expansion of lateral rehabilitation, but technological advancements have also made lateral rehab more feasible.
New Tech and the Future
“CIPP lateral rehab provides a cost-effective solution to the dig/replace method. The entire process can be performed from the mainline without the need for clean-out installation, further saving municipal dollars,” says Trapani. “Where laterals 15 to 20 years ago were not lineable – that has changed today.”
This is true on the private side, as well. Dearborn, who started lining laterals 15 years, notes the marked improvement in materials and capabilities.
“It’s developed tenfold from when I started. I started 15 years ago, and the materials that were out were good for the time, but now we can handle 45s and 90s [degree bends] and the curing times and [other improvements] have saved us hundreds of man hours,” he says. “Time is money nowadays, and as far as the materials and the usability of the equipment now has saved us so much time. It’s unbelievable. We can do two jobs a day instead of one.”
Prior to the recent acquisition of the Bluelight system, Dearborn and his crew used what he says is a “very good system,” that required hot water curing from a different manufacturer. But they were constrained by a tight 45-minute window to complete a project once the resin came together.
“With this LED system, we have all the working time we want. It won’t start curing until that light turns on. So, we can put it in the hole, and we can check it out before we turn the lights on to make sure that everything is 100 percent perfect,” he says.
Trapani is optimistic that the future for lateral rehab is bright. “According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), there are more than 500,000 miles of private laterals in the United States alone, with an estimated 56 million new users to be connected to public sewer over the next 20 years,” he says.
“Considering the aging sewer systems and federal funding now being provided to municipalities by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, I anticipate the market to continue its exponential growth for years ahead. The private side lateral will be the next and up and coming growth opportunity.”