Reaching the Manholes in Tampa, Fla.

The old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” certainly applies to the recent challenges faced by the manhole rehabilitation crew at Select Environmental Services Inc., based in Thonotosassa, Fla.

The company, a division of the Carylon Corp., Chicago, is a certified Raven Lining System applicator, and was recently awarded a $1 million contract by the City of Tampa, Fla. The contract included the rehabilitation of more than 270 manholes, surface preparation; elimination of inflow-infiltration (I&I), as well as rebuilding damaged benches.  

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Nothing unusual here, right? This scope of work is common in the industry.

The challenge of this project was this: not all of the manholes can be reached by land and the only way to get to them is by water. This approach has never been attempted before. In a true ‘can do’ attitude, Select Environmental Services (SES) welcomed the challenge and devised a way to rehabilitate the unreachable manholes.

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The City of Tampa was built beside a river; in this case, the Hillsborough River.

As the City expanded and grew, riverfront property became more valuable. Even though the City retains a 7-ft easement from the riverbank, multi-million dollar homes with water views and boat ramps sprang up in gated communities that eventually sealed off access to the manholes. By all accounts, several of these brick-lined manholes haven’t been opened in at least 30 years. That is a small handful when compared to the total number of manholes in the city. According to Anthony Kasper, director of the City of Tampa Wastewater Department, there are more than 35,000 manholes in the City’s system.

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No App for That

This project posed several challenges for the team. Up first was figuring out a way to transport the three-person crew of Ray Rosario, Jeff McGrath and Chad Cutting plus all of the equipment and hardware from a disassembled Raven rig truck to the targeted manholes on the shoreline. The solution was to locate and hire a barge and then re-assemble the Raven rig on to it.

The team enlisted the help of a barge owner Mark Speeler, of Treasure Island, Fla., to help design and oversee the building of what would become a floating rig. “Normally our small barges are used to help set pilings for docks and haul cranes for seawall construction. This is the first time we’ve done anything like this,” says Speeler. “These guys were great to work with but you couldn’t pay me enough to climb into a manhole with that awful smell.”

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The next step required the team to design a functional floor plan so all of the hardware, transformer, air compressor, water tank, mixing tanks for the Raven 405, fuel, hoses, nozzles, exhaust apparatus, power cords, and miscellaneous supplies get positioned and secured so the job could be completed once the site was reached.

The barge was always bobbing and turning due to the current ebb and flow of the tide. As a result, environmental safety was an issue that had to be addressed. In addition to the other supplies, a containment area was constructed onboard to prevent any spills of coating chemicals or cement into the water.
According to crew foreman Ray Rosario, “The barge had to be completely self-contained. Once you’re on the water, there’s no place to stop for supplies or tools. We had one shot to get it right.”

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Time and Tide

The second critical hurdle: How to offload supplies at the jobsite if there is no dock to tie up to?  The river’s shoreline is nothing but weeds, rocks, litter and river muck.

The SES team decided to handle this situation the old fashioned way.  Like pirates of yore, the team built a plank that extended to shore when they needed it. This meant they had to literally walk the plank everyday to offload and re-load their supplies. They knew this was risky so one condition was to make sure every crewmember could swim.  

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“When the tide was up,” says crewmember Jeff McGrath, “The plank didn’t work and we had to wade back to the barge with the equipment on our backs.  We always had an extra set of waders onboard”


In the end, the success of any complex project like this depends entirely on teamwork and prior planning.  One person who played a major part in the successful completion of the project was Fred E. Russell (Freddy), the senior engineering technician for the City of Tampa’s Contract Administration Department.
Russell’s 20-plus years of field experience and accumulated knowledge helped the team immensely. Rosario concurs.  “Freddy (Russell) has seen it all and done it all.  He was always onsite with us and offered suggestions and solutions that worked.  He saved time and money for our company and the City of Tampa.”
Select Environmental Services, Inc. also credits the following for their work, advice and effort in this project.
Fred E. Russell, Senior Engineering Technician, City of Tampa Contract Administration Department, Valerie Kendall, Raven Lining Systems, Broken Arrow, Okla., Cassidy Barrett, project engineer, City of Tampa, Wastewater Department.

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Bobb Courtman is sales manager for Select Environmental Services, Thonotosassa, Fla.

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