Video Sewer & Pipeline Inspections
The video Inspection system is the best, nondestructive way to look into your piping systems. This type of plumbing inspection is recommended for anyone buying a home more than 50 years old that has the original sewer line connections.
Video Inspection Can Help You Locate and Inspect:
* Offset Joints * Broken Pipes * Protruding Lateral * Off Grade Pipe * Leaking Joints * Recessed Taps * Cracked Pipe * Root Obstruction * Blockages * Corrosion * Infiltration * Collapsed Pipe
* House and Service Laterals * House Clean-outs * Drain Lines * Septic Tank Lines * Vent Stacks * Floor Drains * Water Lines * Yard Drains * Utility Ducts * Service Conduits * HVAC Ducts * Chimneys, Flues and Boilers
Ever wonder what it is that is always giving you the same problem?
Although this article is about Denver, Anacortes Mount Vernon, Sedro Woolley, Bellingham, and Oak Harbor have old sewer lines that can be just as problematic.
Denver’s sewer system shows its age
By Jason Blevins, The Denver Post
Pipeline Industries replace a sewer line on King Street. More than $20,000 has been paid by King Street homeowners to repair three sewer taps and a main line.
Mike Delgado is hunkered in his city-owned utility van, turning knobs and a joystick that guide a camera-laden gizmo through the dank sewer line beneath King Street.
The northwest Denver line was laid on July 1, 1913, and shows its age. Spider-web fractures are probed by whisker-thin tree roots. Millions of white bugs scurry away from the illuminating intruder. Delgado stops the machine at a gaping fracture.
“That’s trouble,” he said. “We can’t have sewer leaking anywhere.”
In the end, Delgado found three damaged taps and a fractured main line. And so began a process that would cost the homeowners on King Street more than $20,000 — just as sewer problems cost hundreds of other home owners around Denver thousands of dollars each year.
Every day, Wastewater Management video cameras troll Denver’s 1,900 miles of sewer lines, inspecting century-old vitrified clay pipes and brand new PVC pipes.
The goal is to scope every line every two years. No line — old or new — is immune to damage caused by roots, settling dirt and undetected leaks that conspire to disrupt the dirty traffic in Denver’s oldest infrastructure.
Denver’s sewer system is a gravity-fueled engineering marvel, yet it goes largely unnoticed by residents who depend on its no-fuss operation. But as a vast swath of that infrastructure closes in on its 100th birthday, anywhere from 500 to 700 of Denver Wastewater’s 150,637 customers every year become woefully aware of the system they like to discreetly use and forget.
Residents such as the Wiltses, Cederles and Koles of King Street, who together last month paid more than $20,000 to repair broken taps that connected to the city’s main sewer line under their street.
“I never really thought of my sewer before,” said Jennifer Wiltse, who with her husband, Russell, bought their 1926 bungalow on King Street four years ago.
Dreaded knock on the door
The Wiltses were amply educated about their sewer lines after Kevin Mueller, chief of investigations for the water-quality department at Wastewater, knocked on their door at the end of November and delivered a letter explaining the damage. Specifically, the Wiltses, Cederles and Koles learned where homeowner responsibility begins: at the very inch where their home’s line connects with the city’s main.
And they all learned they had 25 days to fix their damaged tap.
“They were very solemn and cordial. They reminded me of guys who would come to the door during a war, carrying very bad news,” Russell Wiltse said.
Mueller and his investigator, Patrick Villarreal, were indeed bearing bad news.
“We get a lot of ‘How come my neighbors aren’t in on this?’ Who knows why? Maybe the worker installing the connection in 1899 or 1916 or whenever didn’t seal it right or maybe the earth shifted a bit there,” said Mueller, who has worked 22 years with Denver Wastewater. “We hand- deliver this news because we know it can be really hard for people. It’s a tough job. People spit on you. Slam the door on you. It’s a hard thing to communicate when they are so mad.”
There was no spitting or slamming on King Street, but that’s not to say emotions weren’t running high. Especially when the homeowners realized they were on the do-it-now hook for repairs that reached well into the thousands of dollars.
“I was mad, yeah,” Justin Kole said as a Roto Rooter engineer listened to his story and scribbled an estimate that quoted $5,800 to fix just the city-required tap connection to the main line, not the rest of the Kole house line, which may or may not also be damaged. A video scoping will run another $200, and if more damage is found, the repair cost could double.
That’s the news that befell Stephen Cederle, who discovered that the aging pipes surrounding his 1927 home were collapsed. Workers dug 176 feet of 7-foot trenches around three sides of his home, through the middle of his backyard, flagstone patio and concrete driveway. His repair more than tripled the cost of just replacing the curb-to-main section the city had identified, reaching more than $12,000.
“You could say I had the ‘full monty’ of sewer repair,” said Cederle, who has lived in the home for three decades. “If that’s the worst thing that happens in 31 years of living here, I guess I’m all right.”
“I still don’t think it’s fair”
Kole and his wife, Alanna, bought their house in August after winning a three-way bidding war for the 1936 two-bedroom brick home. They did not scope their sewer line as part of the home’s inspection.
“I still don’t think it’s fair,” said Kole, who paid $3,550 to repair just the stretch of pipe reaching from his curb to the middle of King Street and had a CD video of his sewer line. “I don’t think our damage was that severe.”
Denver Wastewater hears a lot of that, said Ed Valdez, an operations supervisor in charge of fixing fractures in the city-owned main line underneath King Street. Sewer lines don’t have to back up to be broken, he said.
“Most people don’t know where their responsibility begins,” said Valdez, noting that two years ago he dug up his own yard to repair a 2-foot section of his home’s sewer line. “You definitely feel for some people. I’ve seen repairs go well above $10,000.”
Valdez supervised a contractor, Jake Guildner of Guildner Pipeline Maintenance Inc., as he repaired the city’s main line under King Street. Guildner, whose father founded the Commerce City company in 1976, has a three-year contract with the city to repair sanitary lines at a cost of about $1,650 for every 5 feet of line.
Guildner uses a proprietary process that slips a chemical-soaked canvaslike sleeve into a fractured main, which cures into a new pipe harder than PVC plastic.
That type of repair is most common for Denver’s 10 million feet of sewer line. About 1.16 million feet of Denver sewer line is 100-year-old vitrified clay and 1 million feet of that has not been rehabbed.
Digital diaries of the lines
The city’s inspectors are building a digital diary of every stretch of line in their domain. Sometimes the video is marked urgent — like Delgado’s King Street video — and city crews immediately make repairs and homeowners are given 25 days to fix their line.
Damaged taps and main-line fractures like those found beneath King Street could be the cause of increased bacteria levels found in Denver’s South Platte River. When the city separated its sanitary and stormwater lines more than 40 years ago as part of the federal government’s Clean Water Act, the stormwater lines were often buried beneath the sanitary lines. A leak in sanitary lines could contaminate stormwater lines that dump directly into the South Platte.
Darren Mollendor, a project manager and water-quality engineer with Wastewater Management, is studying how to minimize sanitary-line seepage into the city’s stormwater system. But before launching into a systemwide revamp, he’s peddling an education program to see if that helps reduce bacteria levels in the city’s stressed and often stinky South Platte.
Mollendor is hoping the city’s new “Keep It Clean” program (on the Web at keepitcleandenver.org) will educate residents about preventing stormwater-system contamination. The program advocates steps such as using less fertilizer, picking up pet waste and pouring soapy water down the drain rather than in the street.
“Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to treat stormwater,” Mollendor said, “we’d like to educate the public and see what we can do to maintain our existing infrastructure.”