I&I Issues Solutions Header

Today’s I/I Infrastructure Challenges

As we discussed in the previous post in this series, the increasing failure of America’s aging infrastructure has forced municipalities of all sizes to deal with the problem. The challenge is to do so as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. In this post, we review a sampling of the ways our cities and towns are addressing the most visible and pressing element of this issue: inflow and infiltration (I/I).

As wastewater collection systems deteriorate, I/I pours in, overwhelming collection systems. Sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) have become a huge issue. So much so, that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized that many cities need help dealing with this scourge.

Helpful I/I Resources

The Agency has created a Wastewater Collection System Toolbox. It is intended to guide municipalities to better inspect, maintain and replace their collection system components and help avoid overflows. A large part of this maintenance involves finding and eliminating sources of I/I.

Within the elements of this toolbox, the EPA:

  • encourages the use of newer technology such as GIS and other location-based information systems to survey, assess and track system condition
  • advocates thorough planning to manage ongoing maintenance work and improvement of system capacity (CMOM)
  • supports communication with end users of the infrastructure, about ways they can contribute to a healthy system

As part of a U.S. EPA initiative, “Water Infrastructure Outreach,” several new tools are posted here for downloading to help manage infrastructure renewal, including:

How Some Municipalities Are Handling I/I

Many municipalities in California have posted their Sewer System Management Plans online, which could serve as a starting place for others who don’t have the resources to reinvent the wheel. You can find them by using the search string “Sewer System Management Plans.”

Speaking of what municipalities are already doing, let’s look at some concrete strategies they’re using to deal with I/I:

Baltimore, Maryland entered a modified consent decree in October of 2017. The MCD requires the city to do some additional rehabilitation on top of that it performed under the initial consent decree of 2002. It has initiated a two-phase, four part program to address these requirements:

  • Expedited Reimbursement Program – This is for sewage backups caused by wet weather. The program offers up to $2,500 per dwelling unit, per event, for reasonable, documented clean-up and disinfection costs.
  • SSO Notifications – The city maintains a database of ongoing sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) reports. These are collected on a monthly basis and reported quarterly to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).
  • Clean Drain Campaign – This initiative from the city’s Department of Public Works raises the awareness of Baltimore residents about proper disposal practices for cooking fats, oils, grease, wet wipes, and other household waste. This is intended to reduce clogs in public sewer mains
  • Headworks Project – Keys to the project are a well to receive incoming sewage, and a series of very powerful pumps that will improve sewage flow. Essentially, it will act as a giant sump pump. This project at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant will cost about $430 million, and go into operation by the end of 2020. Construction will continue into 2021. Ultimately, it will eliminate more than 80 percent of the volume of sewage overflowing the city’s aged sanitary sewer system, and keep the streams, harbor, and Chesapeake Bay cleaner.

The city also holds annual public meetings to update all stakeholders on the project’s progress.

Portions of Chattanooga, Tennessee’s wastewater infrastructure system are reaching the end of their useful life. This is causing failures in the wastewater system, mostly during heavy rain events when wastewater system capacity is overwhelmed by a high volume of stormwater. This, many times, results in sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs).

The city has embarked on a multi-phase, multi-year project that includes major upgrades and revisions to several sections of the wastewater system. These include:

  • pipe rehabilitation
  • pump station improvements
  • upgrades to the Moccasin Bend Wastewater treatment plant
  • comprehensive operational audits

How We Can Help

If your municipality is currently facing similar challenges, TrioVision wants to help. We are proud to offer some of the most technologically advanced, hardest-working CCTV inspection equipment available for the televising and recording of underground structures. Call or click today to get in touch with one of our sales specialists who can get you what you need to keep your systems flowing below ground, where they belong.

Detecting I&I Issues Header

I/I: Finding the Culprit

Previously, we explored the causes of inflow & infiltration (I/I) in sanitary sewer pipes, and the significant negative impact it has on those collection systems. This time, we take a look at how we arrived at this point, and how sources of I/I can be detected.

We’ve already discussed the fact that America’s crumbling infrastructure is a main cause of the presence of I/I. It’s just one of the reasons that municipalities have been eagerly waiting to see President Trump’s promised infrastructure revitalization plan. Until that is forthcoming, however, city managers, public works officials and water management agencies will need to continue battling the I/I demon as they have been. Before they can do that, they must first determine the presence of I/I in their systems; and when it’s found, where it’s coming from.

There are two major ways that I/I is discovered in municipal collection systems. One usually leads to the other.

Smaller municipalities usually discover the presence of major I/I sources while inspecting or repairing an area of their system that’s already ailing. There may be a cave-in or sinkhole, a blockage causing a backup, or even an SSO already in progress. At that point, crews are dispatched to locate the source of the problem. Often that source is I/I from a major influx point.

Larger cities and many utility agencies with adequate budget and personnel resources will try to get out ahead of such reactionary response. They conduct regularly scheduled, full evaluations of their sanitary collection elements with a Sewer System Evaluation Survey (SSES). This activity includes:

  • Flow monitoring
  • Physical survey: Smoke testing, dyed water testing
  • Pre-cleaning internal pipe CCTV inspection
  • Removal of Infiltration and Inflow sources
  • Post-cleaning internal CCTV inspection

A Main Contributor

A huge contributor to the renegade I/I flows in most municipalities is illicit connections to the city sewer system from residential properties. Most homeowner-generated I/I is found during the physical survey portion of the SSES. This includes roof drains tied into the service line, improperly connected sump pumps, and other illegal connections.

Many times, homeowners make such connections without knowing they’re breaking the law. Of course, there are others who are aware of the prohibition against tying in to city sewer without a permit. After all, the ability to save tens of thousands of dollars that would be spent in proper connection is powerful incentive. Nevertheless, when such illicit connections are found, the city usually issues an order to disconnect. The homeowner is given a limited period of time to correct the situation, or face stiff fines.

The Cost on the Ground

Municipalities across the country face increasing I/I issues with smaller budgets to attack them. Most are raising utility rates to help cover the burgeoning cost of repairing and replacing aging sanitary sewer lines most vulnerable to the deterioration that invites I/I.

Some municipalities have started a one-cent sales tax or greater on all purchases. This is earmarked to help pay for infrastructure rehabilitation projects. Based on news coverage over the past several years, it seems more cities are taking a similar tack in their efforts to tackle the I/I issue without bankrupting their coffers.

Here at TrioVision, we offer help for those efforts. Our AssetDMS is the most comprehensive PACP certified software package available to help you track, capture and analyze your I/I issues. This pro-level package provides the capability of assessing not just sewer main  lines, but also the health and I/I issues that may be originating from laterals and manholes.

In our fourth and last post in this series, we’ll survey the way several American cities are handling the I/I issue inside of larger infrastructure renewal programs.

Second in a series

The I/I Issue: What’s The Big Deal?

In our first post of this series, we defined inflow and infiltration, or I/I. In this post, we’ll explore the reasons it’s a huge problem in wastewater management.

The reason I/I presents huge challenges for municipalities stems from four basic issues:

  • Upstream – Pipeline Capacity: Conveyance system pipeline capacities being overwhelmed and causing sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) during significant rain events
  • Upstream – Overflow Costs: Imposition of fines, consent decrees, and loss of funding opportunities dues to frequent SSOs
  • Downstream – Treatment Capacity: Huge amounts of clear water overwhelming the treatment capacity of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and increasing pumping costs
  • Downstream – Treatment Costs: Dilution of sewage directly increasing costs of chlorination, ozonation, or ultraviolet disinfection

Let’s take a more detailed look at each of these problems.

Upstream Issues: Pipeline Capacity

As discussed in our previous post, I/I flows are referred to as “clear water.” This distinguishes it from sanitary sewage flows. This clear water gets treated right along with the sanitary flows, resulting in unnecessary costs for municipalities. The clear water also eats up valuable capacity inside a collection system. These systems are built and rated to accept only so much total flow. Most American cities’ collection systems are at least 75 years old. They were built to service far smaller populations than they must now accommodate. These systems are already working at maximum capacity.

Many communities are likely to experience some SSOs. However, older communities located downstream from overloaded city sewer systems will experience them most, due to their lower elevation in the watershed. The sanitary sewer systems in these older communities carry nor just their own wastewater and I/I; they also receive flows from their upstream neighbors’ sewer systems. When they experience higher volume created by stormwater leaking in from rain events, they must either divert flows into holding tanks, if available. If not, they suffer SSOs.

Upstream Issues: Overflow Costs

These SSOs are a health hazard. They can create serious flooding events that cause unsanitary water to back up into buildings. They can also create a situation in which the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues a Consent Decree. This is an order for the city to fix the problem, at huge public cost. The city or agency may fail to meet federal or state guidelines for the integrity of its system. Excessive I/I can be an indicator of such failing systems. This situation can cause these municipalities to become ineligible for low-interest loans from grant or revolving fund opportunities. That makes this a significant and circular problem.

There are other costs associated with I/I overflows, including:

  • road and waterway cleanup
  • the potential for fines if the overflow problem is not corrected
  • litigation and potential liabilities for the responsible city or agency, resulting from sewer system backups into basements or households

Downstream Issues: Treatment Capacity

Clear water also takes up valuable capacity at WWTPs. According to Kirby Van Note, a water resources practice center leader at SEH (an engineering, architectural, environmental and planning company), a single leak from a joint in a manhole or pipe can generate 7,200 gallons of water daily. The cost of its treatment at the wastewater plant can translate into an annual cost of $6,500 for a city. Multiply this cost by the number of leaks across the sanitary sewer system, and you can imagine its hefty price tag for a municipality.

To accommodate massive flow influx from I/I, overwhelmed wastewater treatment plants must speed up their processes. As a result, poorly treated domestic and industrial wastewater is often discharged to the environment. Unremoved organics may be converted to disinfection byproducts through chemical disinfection prior to discharge, but not every plant has this capacity.

Downstream Issues: Treatment Costs

I/I costs water treatment facilities (and, indirectly, consumers) vast amounts of money in treatment operating expenses. All water entering a WWTP must be treated as wastewater. Dilution of sewage by clear water directly increases the cost of pumping the flows. Physical structures, including screens and pumps, must be enlarged to handle the peak flow. Primary clarifiers must also be enlarged to treat average flows, though primary treatment of peak flows may be accomplished in detention basins.

I/I also increases actual treatment costs. This includes chlorination, ozonation, or ultraviolet disinfection, depending on the type of treatment used by the plant.

What About Secondary Treatment?

Biological secondary treatment can only be effective while the concentration of soluble and colloidal pollutants remains high enough to sustain enough microorganisms to digest those pollutants. These pollutants are typically measured as biochemical oxygen demand, or BOD. Secondary treatment is expected to remove 85 percent of soluble and colloidal organic pollutants from sewage containing 200 mg/L BOD. But BOD removal by conventional biological secondary treatment becomes less effective with clear water dilution. It practically ceases when BOD concentrations entering the facility are diluted below about 20 mg/L.

In cases where this capacity overwhelm is happening, cities must often face difficult decisions. Do they invest dollars to reduce I/I, or limit new residential or economic development? New development can strain collection systems already operating at capacity. They sometimes even lead to the need for repairs. However, limiting residential or economic development opportunities stifles a city’s growth. It also sacrifices opportunities to capture tax revenue. Both can create a financial burden for the city.

You can easily see now why inflow and infiltration have become such enormous issues in any municipality’s wastewater management and public works operations and infrastructure budget. In our next post, we’ll take a look at how we arrived at this point, and how sources of I/I can be detected.

Series Post 1 header

The I/I Issue: The Basics of Inflow and Infiltration

Welcome to the first in our I/I series! Because it’s a huge problem in wastewater management, our industry talks a lot about I/I, or inflow and infiltration. But not everyone knows the exact definitions of these terms. So let’s take a closer look at exactly what these things are.

I/I Defined

Inflow and infiltration are terms defined against the definition of sanitary wastewater flows. Those flows consist of wastewater from sanitary fixtures inside houses, places of business, and other buildings. Sanitary fixtures include toilets, lavatories, sinks, bathtubs, and showers. We can think of these flows as created to be intentionally conveyed through wastewater collection systems consisting of underground pipes laid beneath streets and rights-of-way to a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP).

I/I, on the other hand, are considered unintentional flows; i.e., they find their way into these sanitary collection systems, but they don’t belong there. Inflow and Infiltration water is referred to as “clear water,” though it may be dirty, to distinguish it from normal sanitary sewage water in the collection system.

Overflowing manhole imageInflow: The Renegade Stream

Inflow is stormwater runoff that enters sanitary sewer systems at direct connection points in these systems. Many sources may contribute to inflow, including:

  • manhole covers
  • footing/foundation drains
  • roof drains or leaders
  • downspouts
  • window well drains
  • exterior basement stairwells
  • driveway drains
  • sump pumps
  • streams and other waterways
  • cross-connection to a stormwater system
  • yard drains where urban features prevent surface runoff, and storm drains are not conveniently accessible or identifiable

Typically, these sources are, at least, improperly or, at worst, illegally connected to sanitary sewer systems. This happens either through direct connections, or discharge into sinks or tubs that are directly connected to the sewer system. This type of improper connection allows water from sources other than sanitary fixtures and drains to enter sanitary sewers. In a proper scenario, this clear water should be entering the stormwater sewer system, or be allowed to soak into the ground. It should never enter the sanitary sewer system.

Improper connections may be made in residential homes, businesses or public buildings. This can happen because the person hooking up the connection is not a professional plumber and doesn’t know any better, or it can happen because that person is trying to avoid the expense of having to do it properly.

Either way, such connections can and do contribute a significant amount of water to sanitary sewer systems. Why is this a problem? Because 8-inch sewer pipes can adequately move the domestic wastewater flow from up to 200 homes, but only eight sump pumps operating at full capacity—or six homes with downspouts connected to the sanitary sewer pipe—will overload the capacity of the same eight-inch sewer pipes. A single sump pump can contribute over 7,000 gallons of water to sanitary sewer systems in 24 hours. This is the equivalent of the average daily flow from 26 homes.

Peak flows caused by inflow may generate a foul flush of accumulated biofilm (a collection of microorganisms on the water’s surface) and sanitary solids, scoured from the perimeter of oversized sewers during peak flow turbulence.

Infiltration: The Sneaky Flow

Infiltration is groundwater that enters sanitary sewer systems through defects in the sanitary sewer pipes. These defects may include:

  • Leaky manhole joints and pipe penetrations
  • Defective mainline pipe joints
  • Defective or leaking house lateral connections to the mainline
  • Cracked or collapsed pipe or manholes
  • Damaged and broken sewer cleanouts

Old cracked brick pipe with tree roots intruding

These defects may be caused by:

  • age-related deterioration
  • loose joints from ground shifting, hydraulic or seismic loads
  • poor design or installation
  • maintenance errors or neglect
  • damage from differential ground movement, heavy vehicular traffic on roadways overhead, or careless construction practices in nearby trenches
  • tree or plant root penetration

These cracks or leaks provide a ready entryway for groundwater wherever sanitary sewer systems lie below water tables, or where soil above the pipes becomes saturated. Sewer pipes are often installed beneath creeks or streams, because these locations are naturally the lowest point in the area. It’s more expensive to install pipe systems beneath roadways, which would be the next easiest location.

Because of their close proximity to such waterways, these sewer pipes are especially susceptible to infiltration when they crack or break. It is not unheard of for them to drain entire streams into sanitary sewer systems.

A Lurking Menace

The average designed service life of most sewer pipes is about 20-50 years, depending on the type of material used in their manufacture. However, repairing and replacing them is an arduous and expensive process, leading many municipalities to kick that job down the road. As a result, America’s sanitary sewer system pipes, along with the lateral pipes attached to households and businesses, have often gone much longer without inspection or repair. As a result, they are likely to be cracked or damaged, inviting infiltration during the next rain event.

In our next post, we’ll examine why inflow and infiltration are a serious problem for American towns and cities.

Happy Holidays

Ending our year on a high note

Happy Holidays

As always at this time of the season, we look back over our year to take stock of where we are and how we’ve done. It’s a time to acknowledge the challenges, rejoice in our successes, and recount our blessings.

Blessings

Our biggest blessing is always your patronage and support, your belief in us and in our products. Without you, there would be no us. We don’t forget that.

It’s this faith and trust you put in TrioVision and Cobra Technologies that spurs us to review each year like this. It’s important to see where we’ve done well and keep doing that, and to seek out ways to do better next year.

Accomplishments

We feel proud of our accomplishments, some of which you won’t be seeing until the WWETT Show, but we’re never satisfied with what we’ve done. We know you are constantly being confronted with new challenges in the CCTV pipeline inspection and reporting industry. It’s our responsibility to help you stay out ahead of those potential issues.

Recognition

We take great joy and pride in fulfilling this mission, because we know how important your work is. We know you are part of the front line in the constant battle against poor sanitation, and the resulting public health crisis that always lurks behind the chaos it causes. After all, how many people can really say that it matters to the rest of the world that they get up every day, to do their jobs to the best of their ability?

At TrioVision and Cobra Technologies, we strive to work as hard as you do to keep the world’s underground infrastructure in sound condition. We’re very proud to be your comrades-in-arms in fighting this good fight.

Good Wishes

On this eve of the year’s end, we wish for you all a little break in the action. We hope you may enjoy the fruits of your labors, and spend some quality time with those who matter most to you. And rest up for a New Year filled with the kinds of challenges we will help you rise to.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays, and looking forward to continuing to serve you in the New Year.

Header: H2S - A Silent Killer Lurks

H2S: A Silent Killer Lurks

Most people recognize sulfuric acid as a toxic, dangerous substance. Fortunately, it’s a liquid we can see and therefore, avoid. However, in its other form, hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S), poses an insidious risk because it’s invisible. In the course of a busy day, sewer workers may not be as aware as they should be of the very real dangers of H2S that collects inside wastewater conveyance pipes.

A colorless gas, H2S is toxic, flammable, and water soluble. It may also exhibit a sulfurous smell, but that can’t be depended on. And that’s a problem, because inhaling just a small amount of H2S can kill a person in just a few minutes. People don’t necessarily die from the gas itself. They mainly become overwhelmed and passing out from inhaling it, and drown in the liquid waste at the bottom of the pipe.

How It Gets There

As the organic matter in human waste breaks down, it produces H2S. The gas is also a byproduct of common industrial processes. Because it’s heavier than air, H2S tends to pool over the surface of sewage in low-lying, poorly ventilated areas. This excellent article from the September, 2017 issue of Municipal Sewer & Water magazine covers in depth how H2S forms and explains its particularly lethal character.

Sewers are perfect breeding grounds for the development of H2S, which tends to collect primarily in main lines, as opposed to service laterals. It slowly builds up along the top of the pipe, until someone opens up a manhole lid or cleanout. Suddenly, any gas trapped there is released into the air. If workers aren’t ready for it by donning their PPE, they can quickly be overcome and pass out into the pipe.

Why It’s So Dangerous

This rapid overwhelm factor makes H2S a real danger in confined space work. Workers can generally tell it’s present when they smell an odor like rotten eggs, but this isn’t always true, which makes it so dangerous. The key is to protect yourself as if H2S is always present…truly a case of “better safe than sorry.”

One issue with depending on the ability to smell the sulfurous stink of H2S is the fact that sometimes, those who have been around low levels of this gas for too long can become used to it. This can cause them to lose awareness of its presence. This is when it becomes most dangerous, because the effects of H2S are cumulative.

Potentially, H2S can damage any of the body’s physiological systems:

  • Cardiovascular (Heart & blood flow)
  • Metabolic (Energy processing)
  • Neurological (Nerves)
  • Ocular (Eyes)
  • Reproductive (Having children)
  • Respiratory (Breathing)

In low concentrations, H2S can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, potentially causing delayed respiratory effects. Greater concentrations of the gas may cause anything from vomiting to extreme respiratory distress, immediate loss of consciousness and even death.

How To Protect Yourself

Clearly, the best way to avoid becoming an H2S victim is learning to recognize it.

H2S can always be present, so just assume that it is and take proper precautions.

  • When removing a manhole lid, don’t hover over the top of the hole. Stand to the side, so any escaping gas can disperse. You may start feeling nauseous immediately, if you somehow breathe in a lot of it. You’ll become light-headed, then nauseous, and even develop a severe headache.
  • It’s especially important to stay off to the side of a manhole if you’re working alone. This way, if you do feel faint, you at least won’t fall into the hole and be completely overcome or drown.
  • Once you remove a manhole cover, check for this visual cue that reveals the presence of H2S: You can actually see it, as a white powdery film, along the wall of the manhole. In severe, prolonged concentrations, it will even eat the concrete. Beware of areas where you see efflorescence or rotting/crumbly material on such walls.

OSHA construction protocol for Permit Required Confined Spaces (PRCS), such as sewer pipes and manholes, consists of:

  • Thorough training of workers
  • Identification of all jobsite confined spaces
  • Determining which spaces qualify as PRCS
  • Properly marking confined spaces to warn workers of hazards
  • Developing a standard PRCS protocol for entering these spaces
  • Training workers on proper, safe entry requirements
  • Development and practice of rescue procedures

How much H2S is too much?

OSHA’s permissible exposure limit is a ceiling of 20 ppm, with a 50 ppm 10-minute peak, allowed once in an 8-hour shift. It only takes concentrations greater than 100 ppm for H2S to kill you.

This is one hazard of the underground trades that you can’t take too seriously.

Thanksgiving Header

Thanks. Giving.

The recent Thanksgiving holiday, with all its traditions, is a great reason to get together with friends and family, enjoy a traditional feast, and celebrate all our blessings. But what reflections does it hold for professionals in the wastewater management industry?

Thanksgiving Header

We think some may include gratitude for our position of great responsibility in guardianship of the public health. Despite the relative abundance of fresh, potable water in our country, it takes focused, sustained effort to keep it safe, and that’s where we come in.

Let’s take a look at a few facts:

  • According to the EPA, most homes and businesses send their wastewater to a treatment plant, where many pollutants are removed from the water. Wastewater treatment facilities in the United States process approximately 34 billion gallons of wastewater every day.
  • Globally, two million tons of sewage, industrial and agricultural waste is discharged into the world’s waterways.
  • At least 1.8 million children under five years of age die each year from water-related disease. That’s one every 20 seconds. The World Health Organization believes about 2.2 million people die every year globally from dysentery and similar diseases, usually caused by unclean drinking and bathing water.
    When you think about it, all of us who work in wastewater management and its peripheral industries are what stands between our nation’s citizenry and potential chaos caused by rampant disease.

It is deeply gratifying to know that the work we do every day really matters. It is a source of pride and deep satisfaction that the decisions we make in the course of our work has a direct impact on the wellness of ourselves and our fellow citizens. After all, how many can truly say this?

Let’s give thanks this year, and every year to come, that we have been entrusted with such important work, and allow it to motivate us to strive each day to be worthy of that trust. Let’s remember that it is in the giving of our all, in service to our work and our country, that we are part of the solution.

AssetDMS screen

New Website Launched for AssetDMS PACP Certified Software

In late October, just in time for the opening of the 2018 WEFTEC Conference, Trio-Vision launched a dedicated new website for its NASSCO-Certified PACP Data Collection Software product, AssetDMS.

The new website provides in-depth information regarding the data collection software solution for municipalities and contractors who are looking for a simple-to-use, yet powerful data collection and analysis tool.

The AssetDMS site features a distributor, sales and support staff interactive directory. It will soon be offering a blog component, to provide the industry with useful information related to

  • inspection
  • data acquisition and usage analysis
  • regulatory updates
  • and more!

Drain Services Inc.: The Muscle To Multi-Task

Problem

Drain Services Inc. in Fargo, N.D., is a very small operation, and owner Kevin Cameron needs his equipment to be versatile, capable of multi-tasking. He was looking for a pipeline inspection system that could also be a workhorse for point repairs. Rather than acquire a custom-built rig, he decided that a component-style system would be a better choice for his project requirements.

“I was looking at many manufacturers,” he remembers. “This was my first major equipment financing deal. I did a lot of investigating, to gain the most work for my investment.”

Solution

While getting PACP-certified, Kevin told his instructor about the system he sought: “6-wheel-drive, with enough grip to pull a pipe repair into place. He told me about TrioVision-Cobra, whose crawler is big and heavy, with a robust 13-wire cable. It could do exactly what I wanted.”

While other vendors backed away from this kind of equipment multi-tasking, our sales representative assured Kevin that our warranty would cover such use. He cancelled previous purchase orders and committed to the Trio-Vision modular system.

Kevin requested the ability to install the components himself in a unique, very mobile and agile hybrid van. Our build-out team hadn’t ever fielded such a request, but they took it in stride. They worked hard to have all system elements plugged in when he showed up to take delivery, to show him how it worked. Then they broke down the components and packed them into military grade cases. “All I had to do was open them up, plug and play,” Kevin recalls.

Result

Kevin says, “Now I not only have a robust pipeline inspection system, but also a hardy workhorse to help me accomplish remote point repairs, without having to invest in another specialized piece. I think everybody is extremely happy with how it’s going. I know I am.”

Get To Know Our Customers: Terrell Harmon of Harmon Pipe Service, LLC

Terrell Harmon runs Harmon Pipe Service LLC in Rockmart, Georgia, about 45-50 minutes from Atlanta. The company has been in business for six years. It serves the metro Atlanta area, primarily north Atlanta, Forsythe County, and surrounding areas. They work mostly in new construction, primarily new subdivisions.

At its peak, Harmon Pipe Service (HPS) ran a crew of six, doing Mandrel testing, vacuum testing of manholes, pipe cleaning, and video inspection. These days, it’s pretty much just Terrell in the field, and one other part-time employee in the office.

Focusing on Pipeline Inspection

“I’m starting to slow down,” he says, “so we’re doing mostly video inspection. No cleaning anymore, no jetting—mostly just video.” After experiencing many facets of the business, he has found the work he most enjoys and which generates the greatest return on resources invested.

HPS primarily subcontracts to larger pipeline contractors on big commercial jobs, so with this single revenue stream, it’s critical to him that his equipment work every time. He’s been using Cobra Technologies CCTV pipeline inspection equipment since he’s been in the business. What keeps him coming back to Cobra?

“It’s a great product line; simple to operate, and it’s a great product for a fair price. It’s a great fit for me because the company is local, and their after-sales service is great,” Terrell says.

Terrell Harmon driving his UTV-mounted CCTV inspection system

Terrell Harmon driving his UTV-mounted CCTV inspection system

Specializing in Off-Road Locations

HPS specializes in inspecting outfalls and other assets that require off-road access. He runs two of our Model 800 crawlers, two V5 cameras, and Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera on a UTV unit for doing off-road stuff.

He recalls adding that last piece: “Most of my calls were becoming those for off-road jobs. I guess with the big vans, they couldn’t get video equipment to these places. I knew that carving out a niche for myself in the local market was a good positioning strategy, and I saw one in being able to get where they couldn’t. That’s what made me successful.”

So in 2000, Terrell approached us and said “I don’t want a van, but I want your equipment. We’re going to be operating it on a UTV,” a utility ATV such as a Polaris or Gator. He specified what he wanted, and we built him a UTV-based inspection system.

From Niche to Now

The first model was a simple sheet metal fabrication. The second vehicle we beefed up the rugged factor and good looks by adding diamond plate in strategic locations. We then built a third one and began offering these models to the general industry.

These UTV-mounted systems are basically intended to get our equipment out where the landscape is more rural, and there just aren’t many wide, well-maintained roads. As Terrell explains:

“All sewer lines leave the road eventually. Some go through the woods, down to these outfalls in more distant and less-travelled areas. That’s what I specialize in. Everybody can’t stay in the road. That’s where I went with the UTV.”

He says that although it was something of a financ

ial risk, he had really looked at the jobs that were coming in, and studied where his market was going. He believed it would be a good move.

Owner Terrell Harmon stands in front of the rugged diamond plate housing of his Cobra Technologies UTV-mounted CCTV pipeline inspection system

Owner Terrell Harmon stands in front of the rugged diamond plate housing of his Cobra Technologies UTV-mounted CCTV pipeline inspection system

Quick Payoff

It was, only taking about 18 months to pay off that investment.

“Not bad at all,” he quips.

Aside from believing in his own idea, Terrell had to have faith that the Cobra designers and fabrication technicians would be able to execute the plan he saw in his mind. “They never had done (a UTV-mounted system) before, so I kind of worked with them. I said, ‘Here’s what I want, it’s going to work.’ I knew they could do it. We just had to mount the equipment on a UTV rather than in a van, just put a cover over it. I knew it would be fine, because Cobra is good equipment.”

Asked if he sees himself as a sort of pioneer, he chuckles and says, “Well, I’ll try anything.”

Showing the World

And he’s proven out his idea and gotten his mileage out of it. Now he’s ready to let the Cobra team show their mutual idea to the entire market, which is why we had it on display in our booth at the 2018 WWETT Show.

“I’ve been dealing with it long enough, and I was willing to let them bring it and have it at the show,” he says, “so, hopefully, it pays off for them, too.”

We have a funny feeling it’ll do just that. Thanks, Terrell!