I help municipal utility owners meet their goals as they relate to buried sewer infrastructure

Someone asked me 15 years ago what I did for a living, and I proudly answered, "I inspect pipe." I could barely contain my enthusiasm. Here I was doing what I loved, playing with robots and getting to travel all over New England meeting some amazing people and accomplishing some amazing things.

Fast forward to today, and I have learned that what the industry (and more so our customer) needs is more than what they typically ask for. It is common for an owner to have a goal of, "Have all pipe inspected by (insert year here)," but is that really the goal?

The dynamics around pipeline (mostly gravity) condition assessment is amazing to me, and I still continue to learn more every day. One of the most important steps — and one I learned many years ago — is simple "start with the end in mind." Simply put, if you don't know where you are going, how will you know you have arrived? Before you start a program, or even if you currently have an ongoing program, take the time to develop a goal, make sure the goal is realistic, and adjust it if necessary to reflect the current state of your utility.

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By developing goals municipalities can now focus on developing strategies to accomplish those goals. For example, if your goal is to reduce SSOs by 50 percent in two years and by 75 percent in four years, you will work to accomplish those goals very differently than if your goals were to develop a 50-year rehabilitation and replacement schedule for all buried assets.

Always look to see if your goals overlap in any way and identify what future goals might look like.

Example 1 - Reduce SSOs by 50 percent in two years and by 75 percent in four years. 
I would take the approach of performing CCTV inspections, manhole inspections and system spot checks under live or actual conditions. For example, CCTV the pipe before cleaning it. This will give you a good look at how it functions and more so how it doesn't function properly. This information is extremely valuable in developing O&M plans, work orders, and focusing your efforts in the right places.

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One of the downsides is you may not get full structural condition assessment information, but you will be working toward your goal. I once had a small utility tell me that's what they wanted to do, but the consultant recommended against it. The owner and the consultant probably did not understand the goals well enough and were having two different conversations. Sound familiar?

Example 2 - Develop a 50-year rehabilitation and replacement schedule for all buried assets. 
This example takes a much different approach than Example 1. Now the condition assessment (structural), failure models, hydraulic models, GIS, standard specifications, data flows, quality control and quality assurance protocols, and other details, become critically important before you start. CCTV data collection and data management (usability) are two completely different animals and will probably need to be managed separately. Make decisions about the why, what, who and how before you get started.

Ted Berry Company has a full-time data and information systems management team tasked with QA, data integration, mapping, customized reporting, and generally making the data collected in the field usable and accessible across all levels of a utility. You should not have to have a Ph.D. in GIS to be able to use CCTV data. If you do, you are probably doing it wrong. 

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So what do I do? 
I help municipal utility owners meet their goals as they relate to buried sewer infrastructure through assisting in developing goals, strategies, and work flows for cleaning, condition assessment, and trenchless rehabilitation of those systems critical to the health, safety, and economy of our communities. 

If I can help you, I will. Love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life! 


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Just a guy who loves what I do, trying to make a difference.

About the author
Matt Timberlake is president of Ted Berry Company in Livermore, Maine.

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