Just Right for the Job

A Pennsylvania township authority brings mainline and lateral inspection in-house using a flexible and portable camera system

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The Blair Township Water and Sewer Authority sends wastewater to three area municipal treatment plants and is under a mandate from all of them to reduce inflow and infiltration by 10 percent from 2004 levels by the end of 2009.

Part of a successful I&I program is pipe inspection to identify defects that need fixing. The township started by contracting for inspection services, but decided in 2008 to bring the inspection program in-house.

Authority manager Dennis Steward and technician Rick Detwiler now perform the inspections themselves, using a P350 flexitrax system manufactured by Pearpoint Inc. The system gives them flexibility to inspect mainlines up to 18 inches (the largest in the 10-mile collection system) as well as sewer laterals.

Since they began using the system in fall 2008, Steward and Detwiler have inspected nearly 2 miles of mainlines. They are methodically building a complete record of the sewer system on the township computer hard drive and plan to use more of the system’s planning and reporting capability in the future.

Seeking flexibility

The Blair Township authority, about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh, serves about 2,200 sewer customers and 1,000 water customers. For about two years, the authority hired a contractor, who inspected about 3 miles of mains. Upon review, Steward determined that it would be more cost-effective to do the work in-house.

His criteria for picking a camera system were simple: He wanted one system that could handle all mainline and lateral inspections and that would be easy to use. Reliability was also important. “When we’re planning to do inspec-tions on a given day, we need the system to work,” he says.

Steward looked at inspection systems in different configurations and sizes from several manufacturers before settling on the P350 flexitrax, a modular system that includes crawler-mounted, high-resolution cameras for mainlines and a high-resolution push camera for laterals. Both types operate from the same control module.

The system includes a 6-inch steerable crawler with a pan-and-tilt camera along with elevators for inspecting larger pipes. It also includes a 4-inch non-steerable crawler for smaller mains, also with a pan-and-tilt camera. The crawler system includes 800 feet of cable and operates off of a small generator.

The lateral camera is a P330+ flexiprobe unit. It has 400 feet of push cable and 2-inch and 1-inch camera heads and runs on a 12-volt power pack.

Portable convenience

Steward and Detwiler operate the system from the back of a pickup truck. “We just flip it out and it’s ready to go,” says Steward. “If we have to, we can take it off the truck and wheel it behind houses.

“The one control module works with either the lateral or tractor cameras, and that makes our work easier. The connections between the module and the tractor and lateral cameras are extremely simple.”

Color digital images display on an ultra-bright 8-inch industrial-grade TFT screen. The command module lets the Blair team zoom and rotate photos and view live or recorded digital video. “I can look down a sewer, take a picture or a video, put it on a flash drive, download that into my computer, or use it to show our board members what we’re doing,” Steward says. “The picture quality is great.

“I don’t have to carry a printer or DVD player into the field. I just take the flash card or camera card back to the office, download the information, and there it is.”

Steward found the command module “self-explanatory.” He and Detwiler can use a keyboard or voice recorder to note pipe defects and other observations.

Extra capability

“This was the right system for what we wanted to do,” Steward notes. He says that using it is like walking and chewing gum at the same time — it’s that easy. In summer 2009, the Blair team is using the system to check out trouble spots and to continue a systemwide inspection program.

“It actually can do more than we really need at this time, but that’s part of the reason we bought it,” Steward says. “I bought it for the future also. Later on, we’ll get into using it for different reports. We’ll use the data to analyze whole areas of our system and mark areas where we need to do more repair work. We’ll be able to look at the whole system, break it apart into sections, and set priorities for repairs.”


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