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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.


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.


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.


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.

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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


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.”


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.


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!

Get To Know Our Customers: Randy Askea of Continental Pipe Services

Randy Askea (pronounced AS-kay) of Continental Pipe Services (CPS) in Marietta, Georgia got his start in the wastewater management industry in 1975. He worked for a pipeline services contractor for about six years, then went into business for himself in 1981.

CPS offers pipeline cleaning, inspection (mainly video), chemical grouting and sealing, manhole restoration, and wet well rehabilitation. They do pressure testing, vacuum testing of manholes, and generate reports on these tests.

“We’re really known for ‘pipe-in-the-ground’ contracting,” says Randy. “We do the job fast, which gets us a lot of projects for cities and military bases.”

At one point, this work supported a staff of twenty employees. When the economy tanked in 2008, Randy had to make some difficult choices. “We downsized when the economy got bad. We were forced to lose quite a few people, so we’re down to about four now.” As for so many other businesses, it was a tough time for CPS, but things are improving.

As of the 2018 WWETT Show, Randy had just bought a brand new TrioVision CCTV inspection truck. “We have an older TV truck van as well,” he says, “and I have one of the Cobra portable units that I can load onto a pickup truck, and go to places that most people can’t in the industry.” With that new equipment and capacity available, CPS has put a new crew to work, now that the economy’s picked back up in their area.

In his early years working for the other contractor Randy says he went a lot of places on the job. “We worked in Hawaii, Guam, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba—all the military bases, all over the U.S. He would send crews and equipment over” to get the jobs done. These days, he keeps a bit closer to home, but still ranges out a bit. “I spent about five years in Houston back in the ’80s,” he recalls. “We had a project going there. I also did a lot of work up in the Memphis, Tennessee area. We go where the work is.”

CPS currently runs a total of five vehicles: Two mobile jetters, two televised inspection trucks, the previously mentioned mobile one, and the little portable inspection unit. The portable goes on a Bobcat 4-wheel drive. “I can throw it on there, then on the trailer,” to make it super-portable and handle jobs in tighter, trickier locations.

One place CPS really likes to use that portable setup is when they get contracts to work on new dam installations. “There were 48 dams that were to be laid down across Tennessee last year,” Randy remembers. “We inspected the overflow pipes. We just picked up another contract in Culpeper, Virginia, to inspect 11 more dams.” Those contracts usually come as a package deal for several dam locations.

One of the things that keeps Randy coming back to Cobra equipment is the heavier crawler that we developed, some years ago. “It’s heavier than most other crawlers, so it allows the cable to pull the camera farther,” he says. “You can go greater distances, doing several main sections at a time. It’s so efficient and increases productivity when you can do 700-800 feet at a time.”

He also enjoys the convenience of working with our Georgia headquarters. “The Cobra office is about three miles from that Culpeper location, making maintenance easy. I can run by, pick up a part…they can fix any issues I have. It keeps me out on the job, making money.” That’s important to a small business, running on tight margins in a competitive field. And the workplace is hard on everyone’s equipment.

“It’s a very demanding environment. When you drop a camera down two lines, you run back and forth all day long, and you’re beating on the equipment pretty bad. I don’t care whose camera you’ve got, it needs to be able to take that and still perform.

“But when things do break, you also want to be able to fix it quick and get back to work. One thing I like about Cobra: Almost every part on it seems to be a standard thread or whatever. I can go to a hardware store or Home Depot, and get the nuts and bolts and things that haven’t been specialized to the point where you’ve got to call the factory.” He appreciates that this ease of maintenance is also reflected in the ongoing price of ownership.

When Randy does have to take a piece of Cobra equipment in for service, he feels well-treated by our service staff. “If my guys got a problem—you know, a camera went out or a cable broke, or the guys messed the cable up—it’s always the operator’s fault, not Cobra’s or TrioVision. But when I call from a site with an issue, they put somebody on the job, and in a couple of hours, we’re back to work.”

He feels that his business is made a priority by his customer sales rep, who maintains ownership of the account long after each sale.

“When we walk in there looking for help,” Randy says, “they always pull somebody off whatever they’re doing. Cobra has done that throughout the time I’ve had a relationship with them, which is the entire 26 years I’ve been in the business for myself. They may make a lot of sales, but they’ve tailored themselves to be responsive to contractors, too. They know that contractors are different to cities: Cities can send it away and get it fixed, but when it comes to contractors, they have got to make money. They’re not making money if they’re off making repairs. So Cobra’s service guys quickly get you going, put you back on the job. In 26 years, my equipment’s never spent the night in their shop! They get it going in an hour’s time.”

He has had some issues through the years, when Cobra service has said, “If it comes to the point where we haven’t fixed it and you need to get back on the job, here’s a loaner camera you can take to get back to work.” But he’s never had to exercise that option.

“No matter what,” Randy says with a grin, “Cobra and their equipment keep my company profitable.”

And that’s what we like to see.

Gearing Up for Year-End, Part 2: Budgeting and Equipment Acquisition

With year-end planning in full swing, one of the inescapable must-dos is budgeting for the next year’s projects. In wastewater and stormwater management, this means including pipeline inspection as a line item.

Many municipalities are under consent decrees to lessen or put an end to non-point source pollution, and this necessarily has a massive impact on budgets. While normal budgets are determined by tax revenues, consent decree work budgets are driven by what kind of mandates they have issued. Depending on the specific project, sometimes the federal government will help cities find funding to do what they need to do.

  • If there is a “green” aspect to your project, you may decide to seek funding from an EPA Clean Water Act Nonpoint Source Grant (Section 319 Grants –—Congress amended the Clean Water Act in 1987 to establish EPA’s Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program to provide greater federal leadership in focusing state and local nonpoint source efforts. Under Section 319, states, territories, and Indian tribes receive grant money to support a wide variety of activities, including:
    • technical and financial assistance,
    • education and training,
    • technology transfer,
    • demonstration projects, and
    • monitoring to assess the success of projects implemented under the grant.
  • EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF –— This program is a federal-state partnership that provides communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects:
    • wastewater treatment
    • stormwater management
    • nonpoint source pollution control
    • watershed and estuary management.
  • Often there are National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES – funds available, although the research and paperwork can be formidable.
  • You may need to be creative in your approach and the way you view your project, when it comes to identifying potential funding sources. Consider asking your local water district for help. Or you may choose to create your project in such a way that it qualifies for funding from other, less obvious sources.

Equipment Field Demonstrations

If pipeline inspection equipment is on your list of must-buys, first do as much due diligence as possible. Research every possibility online to keep your costs in time and travel to a minimum. You may want to consult our exhaustive Due Diligence series in this blog, starting with the first post ( and reading through to the end.

One of the important steps in choosing the right equipment for your needs is scheduling a field demonstration, so you can see exactly how it behaves in actual use. Don’t settle for a simple show-and-tell from a sales representative, especially if it’s new equipment you’re not familiar with. You don’t want to see how it performs under optimal conditions, which rarely exist in the field. You want to see how it handles the rigors and unexpected turns of a real job.

Once you’ve scheduled your demonstration, what should you expect?

According to Robert Studdard, our Southeast Regional Sales Manager, “A true demo should consist of an actual pipe inspection in normal working conditions. The pipe should be cleaned prior to inspection. The pipe size being worked on should be known in advance, so the crawler can be properly set up”, he says. “And the customer should understand that there are no ‘bulletproof’ systems on the market: meaning that the condition of the pipe, its lack of maintenance, and other factors can and will affect the way the inspection goes.”

All of these real-world possibilities should be explained by the sales rep, and the customer should be wary of too many promises made with no limitations. In other words, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The need for realistic expectations extends to the length of the inspection distance coverage. Most manufacturers claim that their equipment will go a thousand feet, and it will. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Most municipalities and counties go manhole to manhole, somewhere between 300-500 feet per run. So make sure you actually need that run length: Bells and whistles on equipment increase its cost, and you don’t want to pay for something you simply don’t need and probably will never use.

You may also wonder what questions you should ask to complete an accurate and in-depth comparison of all potential equipment solutions. We have created a convenient, downloadable checklist for you to use in making these comparisons. It provides a one-stop, go-to document to allow you to ask all the important questions of each manufacturer or rep, so you can then compare apples to apples, so to speak.

Gearing Up for Year-End, Part 1: CIP Planning

While many folks are shifting into late-summer/early fall activities such as back-to-school and looking forward to the start of football season, municipal public works and storm & wastewater management officials have other things on their minds.


These professionals, whose performance over the next year may determine a great deal about the physical health, safety and comfort of those in their service areas, are thinking ahead to the year’s end. This time is always fraught with the pressures of making the best decisions for their systems and constituents, when it comes to planning the next year’s projects, expenditures and acquisitions.


It’s All About The Data

Much of this decision-making takes place only after analysis of earlier collection system pipe inspection results. Depending on the severity of what’s going on in any given pipeline, they may create up to a ten-year plan for their system segments most in need. To make sound, evidence-based decisions, they need to have solid, accurate data about real conditions from their inspection programs.


Knowing how best to allocate their always-limited resources requires accurate PACP coding of defects and rich, thorough data about every facet of their underground assets. This knowledge is critical to enabling city managers to adequately fund time-critical rehabilitation work, while nipping any growing problems in the bud, while they’re still relatively inexpensive and manageable.


The way many larger cities handle these inspection and rehab tasks is with their own dedicated crews. The work of those crews will directly reflect the value of the pipeline inspection equipment and data collection, analysis and reporting software they use.


Establishing Parameters

The first step in figuring out a budget is asking the right questions about the current situation and laying out specific time-and-budget-oriented goals. These questions will establish the figures needed to estimate time and cost. They include, but may not be limited to:

  • How much work needs to be done, and what kind of work?
  • How old are the lines and when was the last time maintenance was done?
  • What is the existing capacity of involved system segments? Do they need to be upgraded?
  • Have there been SSOs recently, or in the past?
  • Are you operating under a consent decree? If so, it will mandate what you must get done each year. This may force your hand in hiring more staff, more area contractors, and/or buying new equipment to meet those quotas.


Bringing Home the Data

In data collection, it’s important that the municipality be able to import any reports generated during inspections for the city. This way, you can send it off to the federal government to show progress on the work required by any consent decree.


You want to avoid “data islands” — where you have data in two or more different software packages, but your programs can’t talk to each other. It’s critical that engineers be able to access all inspection report data at once. This helps them decide where their budgets will work hardest. Make sure all your data management tools have the ability to share data about the overall health of your entire system.


One important aspect of data management that too often gets neglected until there’s a disaster is data backup. It’s critical to back up all the data you generate, both text and imagery, during your inspections. If not, you may end up having to do them over, and no one has the budget to cover such needless duplication of effort. Instead, contact your system administrator from the get-go and discuss your backup needs, so together you can find



Budgeting can become a little complicated for cities under a consent decree. You may want to take a look at the amount of work you must do to meet its requirements, on top of servicing your usual maintenance program. Obviously, this puts added stress on funding sources. In our next post, we’ll take a look at the many sources you might consult to look for additional funding to supplement your regular maintenance budget.