Manhole Inspections: An Important Step in Holistic Sewer System Health

1834There are approximately 20 million manholes in the United States. Most of us drive or walk over them at least once each day. But when it comes to the inspection and maintenance of underground sewer systems, manholes have traditionally been the most overlooked component and potentially the weakest link.

The irony is that manholes are easy to enter and can be a major contributor to infiltration and inflow (I/I), and should be considered first since the inspection and repair of manholes can make an immediate impact in reducing I/I to the entire system.

“We need to start looking at this from a holistic approach,” shared Jason. “The entire system — including manholes and laterals — must be inspected and properly repaired to achieve highest efficiency and lowest cost,” says Jason Roy, operations manager of Mar-Tech Underground Services Ltd.

Roy is responsible for CCTV inspection, video quality control and safety at Mar-Tech, a company in British Columbia, Canada, that provides underground inspection and rehabilitation services. He also serves on NASSCO’s board of directors and currently trains MACP (Manhole Assessment Certification Program) and LACP (Lateral Assessment Certification Program). Formerly a PACP (Pipeline Assessment Certification Program) trainer, Roy has seen how PACP has become the standard for pipeline inspection and hopes to see MACP follow suit for manhole inspection.

“I believe MACP has gained much ground in the United States, but here in Canada what I have observed, at least locally, is that manhole inspections are now where pipeline inspections were a few years ago,” Roy says. “Cities are doing their own thing. Even though MACP has been around for a while, I don’t believe the awareness of the benefits it offers is high enough, so no real standards have yet been adopted when it comes to the inspection of manholes.
“For example, if our company did manhole inspections in three different localities, they would all have their own inspection forms. We always offer MACP, but cities typically want to use their own forms, something more simplified. Manholes are the first point of contact, the most accessible point of the entire sewer system, yet adoption of MACP, in my opinion, has been the most difficult. This dichotomy is prevalent. I am hoping to see this change so the inspection of manholes meets common standards across Canada, as they are beginning to do in the United States. ”

NASSCO recently released PACP Version 7.0, which includes updates to MACP. “I believe the recent MACP updates will make a huge difference in adoption of the program as a standard,” Roy says. “For example, pipe grading to identify manholes by severity of defect is not something that the other inspection programs and forms incorporate, or at least very few of them do. I predict this new version of MACP will turn the tide and the over-simplified inspection forms for manhole inspection will go away. My hope is that it becomes standardized by CSA, which will encourage municipalities and utilities to follow suit.”

Project Engineering Consultants Ltd. (PEC), a full-service civil engineering firm providing professional services in Arizona, Nevada and Utah, fully understands and embraces the benefits of MACP. With a sewer assessment and rehabilitation staff consisting of 18 certified PACP and MACP professionals and one NASSCO Trainer, PEC pioneered the use of PACP, MACP and LACP in the Southwest. Over the past 15 years, the firm has provided sewer condition assessment services with pipe length totaling easily more than 1,800 miles and has inspected more than 11,700 manholes.

“We first used PACP with the city of Phoenix, then other surrounding communities, then we reached up to Las Vegas and the standard just seemed to spread,” says Steve Mortensen, co-founder and chairman of the board of directors of PEC. “I now see MACP doing the same thing.”

PEC primarily uses Professional Pipe Services Inc. (Pro-Pipe) for underground assessment, including manhole inspections. “When we go down a manhole, Pro-Pipe is right there with us,” says Mortensen. “Pro-Pipe uses only MACP-certified personnel for manhole inspections, and they get the job done, no matter what. If we get footage of video that is not right, we call Pro-Pipe, and they go and do it again. They don’t come to us asking for more money because we have asked them to do a job and they do it, and they do it well.”

Pro-Pipe — whose vice president of operations Mark Metcalfe currently serves as president on NASSCO’s board of directors — is a division of Hoffman Southwest, a California corporation headquartered in Mission Viejo, Calif. With operational centers throughout the Southwest, Pro-Pipe provides comprehensive assessment, rehabilitation and cleaning services, including cross bore inspection, for the municipal, construction, engineering and natural gas industries.

For manhole inspections Pro-Pipe uses an IBAK Panoramo SI, which has the ability to scan the entire interior of a manhole within a 20 second period, capturing 100 percent of the entire manhole cavity for review in a virtual 3D reader. This can be utilized in flat-view for measuring inverts, defects, etc., and can be exported as a point cloud to Autocad. Visual data of the manhole inspection is transmitted digitally to a TV truck for live viewing by the operator, and the data can also be transferred to digital media for future use. IBAK Panoramo SI software provides 360 degree pan, zoom and tilt optical inspection of any section within the manhole for analysis. At completion of the inspection, Pro-Pipe provides the client with either Panoramo SI film files or data loaded onto an external hard drive.

“Pro-Pipe has been able to accomplish a number of things that others just can’t do,” continued Steve. “For example, we had a job in Las Vegas to do 45 miles of pipeline assessment, including a recommendation for the most appropriate rehabilitation technology, and only had six months to do it. We hired two companies, one of them being Pro-Pipe. One company started on the north end; the other on the south. We asked them to work toward each other and that’s how much of the project, in footage, they were going to get. Pro-Pipe did about 98 percent of the job, and they did it well.”

For more information on MACP standards, click here.
Sheila Joy is president of New Phase Marketing.
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