Pipe Inspection

Halting Infiltration in CA City Calls for Right Equipment and Team

Groundwater infiltration is a challenge facing many municipalities across the nation. A costly problem that can lead to increased flow, treatment costs and negative environmental impacts, groundwater infiltration refers to the slow seepage of groundwater into sewer pipelines through cracks, defects, faulty joints or porous materials. Infiltration is a persistent issue and can occur even when there is no rainfall or during dry periods. Injection grouting is one method of remedying this situation and extending the life of sewer pipelines.

In Sacramento, CA, they tackled the problem of infiltration head on by tasking H&R Plumbing and Drain Cleaning with the job of cleaning, inspecting and rehabbing over 14,000 ft of 6- to 10-in. mainline pipe. The project called for H&R to locate and address issues of infiltration, as well as roots separating many of the mainline joints.

Gaining proper access is an issue nearly every expert in underground infrastructure can relate to and this project was no exception. Sacramento is home to the second largest collection system in the state. What makes its system unique is that manholes are located in the residents’ backyards. H&R was the right contractor with the right skills and equipment to work with homeowners to efficiently, safely, and with minimal disruption get the project successfully completed.

H&R Plumbing and Drain Cleaning, based in El Sobrante, California has been in the underground infrastructure industry since 2009. Originally founded as a plumbing company, owner Horacio Franco pivoted to underground work in response to the recession. Now, nearly 90 percent of its business is focused on underground infrastructure projects.

Pipe Inspection

To get started back in 2009, the company purchased pipeline inspection equipment from Aries Industries. A few years ago, it upgraded its Aries equipment in order to fully outfit a dedicated inspection vehicle. H&R relies on a Vactor hydrojet truck to clean mainlines and has an Aries Industries grout truck, with Avanti International grout and Logiball packers to grout mainlines joints and lateral connections. They put all these vehicles to work to successfully complete cleaning, inspecting and grouting mainlines for the Sacramento project.

Overcoming Challenges

H&R owner, Horacio Franco and his crew faced more than one logistical challenge on this project. First, they had to contact and give notice to each resident where they would need to access a backyard manhole. Connecting with a resident sometimes proved an obstacle that called for near constant scheduling adjustments. The bigger hurdle was getting equipment to the manhole access points. Getting the cleaning and inspection (and grout, where needed) equipment from the vehicle parked on the street to the backyard manhole called for extra team members to guide cables around a resident’s property, without causing any damage both to the property and the cables.

“The Pathfinder System has 1,000 ft of cable which was helpful in bringing the camera and tractor from the street, over or under fences to wherever the access point was in the resident’s backyard and still having enough to complete the mainline inspection itself,” according to Franco.

Each yard presented a unique challenge, whether involving making their way around dogs, planters, pools and gardens. Given the extra time needed just to gain access, efficiency in the cleaning, inspecting and grouting tasks was critical.

“It was good to have the upgraded Pathfinder System because the Aries WiperCam camera lens can be cleaned in the pipe. Sometimes you get a spiderweb or debris that blocks the lens from recording. We don’t need to pull the tractor out to clean it off and keep recording. The newer Aries equipment also saves a lot of time because we can adjust the electric lift remotely to what we find in the pipe. It allows us to lower or lift the camera inside the pipe, which is huge advantage to keep it out of any water,” commented Franco.

Clean. Inspect. Grout. Repeat.

The project took approximately one and half months to complete. The crew developed a cadence of cleaning the pipe with the hydrojetter, followed by inspecting and recording the findings with the CCTV system, and lastly grouting joints and lateral connections. If the inspection showed debris or roots, the hydrojetter would be brought back to clear the mainline. The video captured by Aries CCTV system was used to report pipe conditions to the Sacramento Area Sewer District on a daily basis.

Pipe Inspection

A main part of this project was to grout any mainline joints or lateral connections that were causing groundwater infiltration. By the conclusion of the project, out of the over 14,000 ft of 6-, 8-, and 10-inch lines, Franco’s team grouted over 4,400 joints and over 200 lateral connections. That comes to approximately 10 to 20 lateral connections per day. For this part of the project, H&R Plumbing and Drain Cleaning relied on its Aries Industries grout truck, which was acquired over five years ago.

The truck holds Logiball packers, pumps, large capacity tanks, grout and mixers, and 800 ft of 5-part Penta hose. The length of hose for this project was critical to provide for multiple run setups from the hard-to-reach entry points, reducing the number of setups/breakdowns. This was especially useful given the challenges of reaching manholes located in individual homes’ backyards. To repair the joints and lateral connections, Avanti International grout was pumped to the Logiball injection packers. For this project, each lateral called for between ½ to 5 gallons of AV-100 grout.

Pipe Inspection

The grout truck is also equipped with an additional inspection camera system to give the H&R crew eyes in the pipe as they grout. They also use the inspection equipment to evaluate the rehabbed joints once the grouting process has been completed.

With organization and the right equipment, H&R Plumbing and Drain Cleaning was able to navigate the hurdles of accessing manholes along with whatever they encountered in the mainlines of Sacramento. The efficient use of their cleaning, inspection, and grouting equipment increased their uptime in the field and helped them gain back some of the time lost in overcoming the logistic challenges this particular project entailed.