Video Drain Inspection Cuts Maintenance Costs

Dec. 28, 2000

Knowing the location of underground drains and lines and their condition is important to running an efficient manufacturing operation. This information becomes critical when you are trying to keep pace with the continuous improvements of an ISO-9002 qualified shop. Knowing where everything is and maintaining ISO standards in a facility that is about 80 years old is a real challenge.

“Drains don’t go where you think they go; tie-ins aren’t where they are supposed to be, and manholes get paved over,” explains Doug Long, plant manager at Ridge Tool Company. Originally built as the assembly plant for the Garford automobile in 1907, the plant pre-dates Ridge’s founding.

Until recently, the location of some of the underground lines and their condition in this Elyria, Ohio plant was almost as well known as the Garford automobile.

Today, Long and his maintenance staff do know precisely where every line is and its condition.

These technologies have been available for several years, but until only recently they were either too delicate or too unreliable for industrial use.

Today, these technologies have been developed to cope with the most demanding environments, including submerged and scraping across the jagged interior of cast iron drain pipe. Electronic locating and video inspection technologies are reliable, accurate and rugged enough to be used by plant maintenance and engineering staffs to significantly reduce time and budget expenditures on drain problems.

As an example of the challenges faced with locating, examining old and repairing buried lines, maintenance foreman Dave Botos cites the search for an 80-year-old line and manhole, believed to buried beneath 8 ft of fill.

The problem was a blocked sanitary sewer main. The challenge was that maintenance had access only to a branch of the line, not the main which runs from the plant beneath railroad tracks and private property before entering the municipal sanitary sewer. Nowhere in that distance was there a manhole for access to the sanitary line.

From plant drawings almost 75 years old, the maintenance staff knew the sanitary lines paralleled storm drains. Locating a storm drain, Botos crew inserted a RIDGID/Kollmann SeeSnake video inspection camera into the storm drain that led to the storm main. Pushing the inspection camera further into the main, an abandoned manhole was found. With the inspection camera’s electronic locating unit, the precise location of the manhole was pinpointed from the surface. A quick excavation found the manhole beneath 3 ft of stone.

Because the sanitary and storm sewers run parallel, the Ridge crew excavated 5 ft west of the newly uncovered storm sewer manhole. The sanitary line was found exactly 8 ft down. Constructing a manhole for the sanitary and cleaning it with a drain cleaning water jetter, the video inspection camera with its electronic locator were inserted to find the blockage.

Illuminated by bright light emitting diodes (LEDs), the inspection camera located the tile tie-ins of the sanitary line to be constructed of 12 hard tiles with newer sections of ductile iron.

Because of later installation of a large 108-in. storm sewer close by the sanitary, the soil had been disturbed. The video camera showed the disturbed dirt had allowed the sanitary tiles to “settle,” causing the sanitary line back-up in the plant.

Using the video inspection camera and the electronic locator, the Ridge maintenance team was able to precisely locate the point of the underground problem and diagnose the sewer blockage from the surface. Without these technologies, a lot of expensive exploratory excavation would have been required.

More maintenance dollars and time were saved using the video and locator technology on a similar storm drain problem in the plant.

The facility had also experienced some back-ups in the parallel 21-in. storm drain. To investigate the cause, the video camera and locator were again inserted into the storm drain and pushed beyond the manhole discovered earlier. Fifty feet beyond the manhole, the first problem was located. Vibration from a nearby railroad had caused severe damage to one tile. This resulted in misalignment of the tiles, and large sections of broken tile and infiltrated dirt obstructing the line.

Approximately 100 ft beyond this debris, the inspection camera showed a large open space. This proved to be an abandoned, buried and collapsing manhole. Although the electronic locator transmitter was more than 8 ft beneath the surface, the precise location of the deteriorating manhole was pinpointed from above ground.

The deterioration of the sanitary and storm drains required their replacement. However, knowing precisely what the problem was and exactly where it was saved significant time and maintenance money for Ridge Tool.

For further information, call Ridge Tool Company at 800-769-7743 or visit their web site at