Protecting Municipal Infrastructure

Raven Lining Systems’ proven performance is helping utilities extend asset life.

Protecting Municipal Infrastructure

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Water and wastewater infrastructure rehabilitation has evolved significantly over the past few decades, with new liners, coatings and processes aimed at getting more life out of municipal assets with less disruption. Raven Lining Systems is one of the companies that has led the charge.

Kathy Romans joined Raven eight years ago as the Texas regional sales manager and became water and wastewater segment sales manager when Raven merged with VersaFlex in 2018. She has served as water and wastewater segment manager since PPG acquired the VersaFlex Cos. in 2021. She has also been active in industry organizations, serving as president of NASSCO as well as a board member.

Municipal Sewer & Water recently had the opportunity to speak with Romans about Raven’s history and role in the industry, as well as the issues and opportunities municipal utilities are facing.

MSW: Tell us a little about the history of Raven Lining Systems and its position in the wastewater industry.

Romans: Raven Lining Systems was founded in 1988. The first manhole rehabilitation application was completed that same year with the epoxy that would (a short time later) be named Raven 405 — the flagship coating of Raven Lining Systems. Since its inception, Raven has been a leader in providing specialized and innovative product solutions for the water, wastewater and manhole rehabilitation industry.

MSW: What’s the most common problem you see your municipal customers facing and what mistakes do you see them making?

Romans: Corrosion of concrete surfaces is the single most common problem our municipal customers face, caused by H2S (hydrogen sulfide) and sulfuric acid that forms on the walls of manholes, wet wells and other concrete wastewater structures. A lack of routine inspection of structures that is most often caused by stretched or limited staffing is a major problem that leads to mistakes along the way. Additionally, elevated wastewater temperatures and new varieties of customer/constituents are contributing to the rising costs of rehabilitation of structures and treatment of the wastewater.

MSW: What kinds of solutions and capabilities does Raven provide? 

Romans: The Raven product line includes the flagship Raven 405 series. In addition, our patented tri-hybrid AquataFlex products combine a unique formula of a novolac epoxy for chemical resistance and bond, a polyurea for flexibility, and a polyurethane for speed of curing. AquataFlex is both SWAT- (severe wastewater accelerated testing) and ANSI 61/NSF 600-certified, making it capable of withstanding the harsh environment of the wastewater system and safe for potable water applications. 

MSW: How do you see the sewer and water infrastructure rehabilitation evolving? 

Romans: Years of focus on reducing inflow and infiltration and reduced water consumption has created an unintended consequence in the collection system — reducing the flow to the point where it causes corrosion to increase and structures to deteriorate at a faster pace. I recently heard a representative from a state regulatory agency refer to this phenomenon as a lack of “push water” which increases the need for protecting the infrastructure with coatings to prevent premature deterioration. More and more municipalities are protecting the concrete structures when they are installed new, and I think this will become not just a luxury but a necessity to get the intended service life from our valuable assets.

MSW: VersaFlex, the parent company of Raven, was recently purchased by PPG. What added value does that family of companies bring to the municipal water and wastewater customer?

Romans: The truly exciting thing about joining PPG in the Protective and Marine Coatings group is that we now have a complete and full line of products to protect not just concrete — which Raven and VersaFlex were known for — but we have products for every area of the wastewater environment: steel both in immersion and atmospheric settings, proven coating systems for chemical containment areas, flooring, piping, laboratories, roofing and so much more. We recently introduced a wastewater systems guide designed to assist our municipal and engineering customers with product selection. The approach we took was specific to environments and substrates; for example, a coating that is suited to a concrete substrate that is in a severely corrosive immersion service. We will be introducing our combined Potable Water Guide in the next couple months that will focus on our full line of ANSI 61/NSF 600 coatings providing solutions beginning with the purification process and including storage and delivery.

MSW: Do you envision a larger suite of products for the water and wastewater industry in the future?

Romans: PPG and Raven are always innovating. We have products in the R&D pipeline to introduce to our customers that will add to our already robust portfolio in exciting new ways. 

MSW: What differentiates your products from the competition?

Romans: I think the one thing that differentiates both the Raven product line and the PPG product line is the proven performance. Raven 405 has been in service protecting municipal infrastructure since 1988. The 50-year design life of this product is performing as per the intended life cycle. A few years ago we revisited several structures that were coated when Raven first came to market in 1988 and in the early 1990s. These structures are serving the communities as designed and the Raven 405 is protecting them today. Additionally, PPG’s products have years of proven experience in protecting steel infrastructure with the Novaguard and Amerlock family of products. 

MSW: Can you provide some insight on the company’s product development process?

Romans: PPG and Raven go through an extensive process when developing a new product. It starts with an idea and a set of parameters, the wish list of what we want from this product. Along the way we look at where the product will fit in the marketplace and we ask a lot of questions: Will this product solve a problem? Will it be better than what we have? Can it offer a unique solution? There is product development with our R&D chemists and technicians, testing throughout the process to determine if we are answering the questions and checking off the wish list. Once there is a product, field trials are performed, and we involve a few of our contractors/applicators. Not all products make it through the process, which is the way it should be, to ensure that only the very best make it into the marketplace. 

MS W: Do you sell direct to contractors and utilities or go through distributors?

Romans: In 1992 Raven started the Certified Applicator Network as a way to factory/manufacturer train our contractors with both the product and the equipment. Today in 2022 — 30 years later — Raven has a network of about 70 certified applicators throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Our applicators go through an extensive training before receiving their certification, and annual refresher training and periodic field audits. Raven 405 is sold and applied only through our network of certified applicators, ensuring the municipal owner that their rehabilitation or new construction project will provide a long service life. Many of our other products are available for direct purchase and or through our distributors. 

MSW: Could the average municipal utility install your products with an in-house crew, and what sort of training do you offer?

Romans: We have some products in our portfolio that are ideal for municipal utility crews to install. Our Raven 581 Chimney Seal is a terrific product for municipalities to install. We have a great training video to get them started along with robust technical support along the way. Additionally, many of our municipal customers purchase AquataPoxy to make repairs to water tanks. 

MSW: Is there anything else you’d like people to know?

Romans: Raven Certified Applicators are some of the most qualified contractors in the field today. Most of our CAs have at least five years applying Raven 405 and we have many CAs with more than 25 years. PPG and Raven also have what I believe is the best field technical service team in the industry. This group has years of experience — not only with our products but also with the specialized equipment used to apply our materials. 


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