Known as a prime set for the hit HBO series “The Sopranos,” North Bergen, N.J., is located in Hudson County just miles from New York City’s Lincoln Tunnel.

With extremely hilly terrain (second only to San Francisco) and dense population of approximately 60,000 within about 5.6 sq miles, North Bergen presents numerous challenges for the township’s four-person sewer maintenance team. The steep inclines cause water flow to be heavier, subjecting inspection equipment to greater drag. With infrastructure dating back to the 1920s, the township’s clay and PVC pipelines get very slippery, with entry points limited and as deep as 20 ft underground.

Today, North Bergen has saved taxpayers more than $80,000 per year by bringing video inspection in-house.
In past decades, video inspection was outsourced by the township. According to North Bergen Public Works superintendent James Wiley, “Video equipment used to be more difficult to operate and maintain in the past, which is how many contractors started their businesses. But today, as long as you have a crew that is available, most anyone can do it if they are properly trained.”

North Bergen’s Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for the continuous maintenance of the township’s sewer system. This includes identifying backups caused by back pitches, sags and cracks. Working 40-hour weeks, the crew is on call 24 hours a day with a worker always available for emergencies. North Bergen’s DPW, which has its own sewer crew, wanted to do it itself. The public works department requisitioned a 2006 GMC Workhorse inspection truck retrofitted by Envirosight, with a compact ROVVER crawler, QuickView video inspection camera and Wincan V7 software.

At 12 in. in length, the ROVVER 125 is the only steerable crawler on the market that can inspect pipes from 8 to 80 in. in diameter and is perfect for navigating the township’s 8- to 24-in. diameter pipes. With North Bergen’s slippery pipe surfaces,the crawler’s steerable six-wheel drive can quickly be outfitted with various wheels (including abrasive ones) for any combination of pipe size, material and condition. Because it maintains an aggressive grip, the crawler works well in steep pipelines and performs in high flows.

Steerability comes into play with protruding pipe flanges. They cannot be rolled over, so the only alternative is to steer around them or discontinue the inspection entirely. Effective steering typically requires a short wheelbase, because longer wheelbases on larger crawlers demand a turning radius unavailable in many pipelines. The lightweight crawlers also cause less stress on the cable for longer life and the water-tight chassis means submersion is no problem.

The township also purchased a zoom inspection camera, which has saved hours per day in pipe assessment with better illumination at night. Since the inspection is performed at street level, there’s no need for confined space entry by the crew.

“Most of our work is done at night for safety, due to lighter traffic,” said Greg Longo, who has worked for North Bergen Public Works for 19 years. “While other cameras took about 40 minutes to set up, QuickView is operational in minutes.” Video can be taken of entire pipelines and manholes at night and archived on Wincan V7 software, with many jobs completed in as little as a half hour. With the new in-house equipment, inspections can be performed on an as-needed basis, with more efficient allocation of resources. And, the new software has taken the crew into the digital age.

“It’s all set for Boswell McClave Engineering, the township engineer, to review by morning,” said Longo. The archived footage can be sorted by location, type or severity. Disk and VHS copies of the inspections can be duplicated for viewing by other employees or agencies. This quick turnaround enables several inspections to be made weekly. They have never had a problem with the equipment and keep it spotless.

“Our biggest problem lately was coming face to face with some wildlife in the easements,” says Longo.
North Bergen Public Works expects a return on investment in just a few years. The crew has reduced traffic tie-ups and, most importantly, proven that they can handle inspections and any emergency themselves. With improved response times and praise from residents and town officials, the North Bergen Department of Public Works completes more work, efficiently and at lower cost to taxpayers. The crew is on call and the equipment minimizes delays in making inspections and repairs. It also helps the township comply with various New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) regulations and standard practices recommended by other agencies. The public works team just upgraded their video inspection equipment by adding a new tilt/pan zoom camera for the crawler, giving it even more flexibility and latitude.

“We were aiming toward self-sufficiency for the cost savings, better performance and the ability to respond quickly and efficiently in emergency situations,” said Commissioner Frank J. Gargiulo. “With the new crawler, inspection truck and commitment from our staff, the township residents and officials couldn’t be happier.”

Richard Linder is president of Envirosight LLC, which is headquartered in Randolph, N.J.

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