Louisiana Laterals: How a Dig-and-Replace Contractor Invested in CIPP and Experienced Business Growth

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For so many years, traditional dig-and-replace was the primary sound practice for upgrading a sewer collection system. Since the introduction of cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) in the early 1970s, the trenchless market has continued to evolve through countless new products and significant advancements in various pipe renovation technologies.

Today, the trenchless industry is seeing more and more examples of traditional open-cut contractors venturing into the field of trenchless technology. Mitchell Contracting Inc. presents one of those stories to be told that shows how investing in CIPP has led to enormous business growth for one Louisiana underground contractor.

In 2012, Mitch Pounds co-founded Mitchell Contracting with his wife, Holly Pounds, CPA, and together they proceeded to build a solid reputation as an accomplished dig-and-replace excavation contractor. After four years under their direction, Mitchell Contracting was servicing 20 to 30 municipal customers annually in the area surrounding the company’s headquarters in Covington, Lousiana. With 35 full-time employees, the Mitchell construction business focused on traditional excavation and pipeline construction including directional drilling and auger boring.

However, recognizing the declining state of Louisiana’s aging infrastructure, Pounds set out to expand his company’s services by investing in CIPP and becoming a skilled sewer renovation contractor with a primary focus lateral rehabilitation. In 2016, Mitchell Contracting entered an agreement with LMK Technologies for a proprietary CIPP process designed specifically to renew sewer lateral pipes and seal the main/lateral connection using a pre-molded, engineered gasket.

RELATED: LMK Technologies Continues to Innovate in the Trenchless Rehabilitation of Main-to-Lateral Connections

Embracing that opportunity is paying dividends for his company. Today, the Mitchell Contracting business offers open cut remedies when necessary and utilizes CIPP applications whenever possible. “Our customers know when they call on us that we have a solution for them one way or another,” said Mitch Pounds.

The trigger for investing in the CIPP market was when Pounds learned Shreveport was about to embark on a massive sewer renovation project that would include CIPP renovation and sealing of 5,000 service lateral connections in its first phase. The Mitchell crew underwent rigorous technical training at the LMK Training Center in Ottawa, Illinois. The training began with a tour of the liner manufacturing facilities; understanding how the liner assemblies are engineered and constructed was the initial objective. The crew was then led through a week-long classroom and shop training session, which included how to measure the pipe for custom tailored liners, resin saturation, liner loading, robotic positioning, inverting the liner, proper cure/cool down and removal of the launching equipment. At the end of the week, the crew took a written exam documenting the skillset of each technician and the ability to perform the process as a team in the field. Since then, Pound’s lining superintendent, Wayne Jackson, has guided and led the crew through many successful CIPP installations.

Shreveport Goes Trenchless

Shreveport, located in northwest Louisiana not far from the Texas state line, is the third largest city in the state with a population of just more than 200,000. Like many cities throughout the United States, Shreveport is under a consent decree and is mandated to upgrade their sewer collection system to remediate the inflow/infiltration problems that cause sewer overflows. Shreveport responded with a plan to dig-and-replace a large quantity of their collection system. The City budgeted close to $350 million to perform this work and to meet the consent requirements.

Shreveport thought it was possible to get the job done within its budget and timeline. However, after Phase I, it quickly realized the project costs would double. On top of the large budget increase, the City’s consent decree deadline would not be met. This situation caused the City to research and consider trenchless CIPP pipe renovation processes. LMK and Mitchell Contracting worked together to educate Shreveport on the many benefits of CIPP and how to seal the City’s collection system using engineered pre-molded gaskets.
After completing a cost comparison analysis between traditional dig-and-replace methods and trenchless CIPP, the City decided to incorporate the use of CIPP to meet its consent decree objectives including budget and timeline. Mitchell Contracting was the responsive low bidder, winning the first project as the general contractor, which included lateral CIPP connection lining, mainline CIPP and conventional dig-and-replace repairs.

RELATED: Rehabbing Double Stack Sewer Service Connections with CIPP

The CIPP alternative has saved the project budget. Shreveport’s trenchless consultant, Kerry Coker, says each cured-in-place lateral being installed by Mitchell Contracting is approximately $110 per foot (total construction cost), compared to a traditional dig-and-replace cost of approximately $350 per foot (total construction cost).

pre-molded, engineered gasket

In 2016, Mitchell Contracting entered an agreement with LMK Technologies for a proprietary CIPP process designed specifically to renew sewer lateral pipes and seal the main/lateral connection using a pre-molded, engineered gasket.

“This never would have been able to happen without LMK Technologies’ cured-in-place lateral solutions,” Pounds explained. “Everyone is interested in it because it’s three times as cheap and five times faster. We are a dig-and-replace contractor and that’s all we’ve ever done, but we went to this because we can now offer such a benefit to our customers.”

The entire project is estimated to take 12 years and is spread out over five phases with each phase entailing approximately 1 million ft of gravity sewer pipe. Phase 1, in the Cedar Grove neighborhood, which is southwest of downtown Shreveport, began in summer 2017. Pounds’ crews are on track to complete the first phase in December of this year. Each lateral lining crew successfully installs five to six CIPP connection liners a day. And besides Shreveport benefitting from the CIPP lateral lining, Mitchell Contracting is significantly growing its business and its value, all due to the company’s hard work and their investment in CIPP.

The design process for Phase II is under way but construction won’t begin until early 2018. The second phase will be almost exclusively trenchless CIPP renewal, Pounds added, noting that the only time contractors will have to lay new pipe is when pipe conditions are not suitable for CIPP. Pounds is optimistic that Mitchell’s success in Shreveport bodes well for the company’s future. He credits that to investing in a high quality CIPP product that meets the industry standard for connection lining, ASTM F2561.

“It’s a product that is good for the industry. When you can find a product that takes less time, costs less money, and provides a better end result, people will take notice, and they will continue to make the change to CIPP,” said LMK Technologies technical consultant Jason Mathey.

Larry Kiest Jr. is founder and president of LMK Technologies.

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