Contractor conquers cold weather, deep water and logistical challenges to clear a clogged pond drain.
Heavy winter rains and a clogged cast iron drainage system in a private 2-acre pond flooded a family’s pet cemetery in Lexington, South Carolina. A plumber recommended the homeowners call Drain Pro in Columbia, South Carolina.
“The water was 18 to 20 inches above the vertical 6-inch overflow,” says Drain Pro owner Chris Bergeron. “It had happened before, and the customer blamed turtles for the blockage.”
Bergeron and his brother, Jeremy, had never worked on a pond and were concerned about maintaining its integrity. Although they anticipated challenges, the project ballooned into their most difficult to date. The homeowner’s cooperation, and equipment from Perma-Liner Industries, made it a success.
LAY OF THE LAND
A 15-foot-high earthen dam across a stream in a heavily wooded area had created the 65-year-old pond. A walkway on top of the dam encompasses the pond. A 90-degree elbow connects the 12-foot-deep overflow to 75 feet of 6-inch pipe daylighting behind a woven field fence on the downstream side of the dam. The line discharges to the stream.
Bergeron used his Club Car turf utility vehicle to transport three Powerhorse bypass pumps from the staging area 500 yards to the pond. Three days of pumping with two 2-inch pumps (7,860 gph each) and a 3-inch pump (11,820 gph) failed to lower the water level.
“They couldn’t keep up with the rain,” says Bergeron. “Our only other option was extending the height of the overflow by attaching a flexible Fernco coupling and a 24-inch length of 6-inch PVC pipe. However, we risked snapping off the elbow in the process.”
To reach the overflow 30 yards from shore, the brothers designed a small barge, but the idea was expensive. The homeowner responded by offering his rowboat. “This year, January temperatures were in the low- to mid-40s,” says Bergeron.
“Once out on the pond, we discovered the boat had a hole in the bottom. The water bubbling up was frigid and we struggled to keep our feet dry.”
To avoid accidentally rowing over the top of the overflow, Jeremy hooked it with a bow rake, then pulled gently until they drifted alongside. Attaching the extension to the overflow went slowly. The water numbed Chris’ hands in a minute and he had to warm them repeatedly under his armpits. Meanwhile, Jeremy steadied the extension and boat with the rake.
The only way to reach the outfall to inspect the pipe was down the face of the dam. After the brothers parked a Generac generator and 18 gpm/4,000 psi trailer-mounted 300-gallon jetter (US Jetting) on the dam’s walkway, they tied a rope to trees to help navigate the slick 65-degree slope as they hauled the extension chord and jetter hose behind them.
With the owner’s permission, they cut and rolled back a section of fence wide enough for the ATV. “We strapped our Pearpoint P350 flexitrax sewer camera to the bed, then I drove the vehicle down the embankment,” says Bergeron. Inspecting the pipe revealed vegetation, heavy scaling in areas, and two dead turtles causing a blockage. Cleaning the line with a 1/2-inch Warthog nozzle from StoneAge exposed holes in the brittle metal.
Driving back up the hill, Bergeron didn’t have enough momentum to crest the top. Gravity rolled the car into a tree, caving in the fender and grille, and breaking the driver’s side mirror. Hemmed in by trees, Bergeron struggled to turn the vehicle around and back up the embankment.
To prevent the pipe from collapsing, Bergeron suggested rehabilitating it using the Perma-Lateral liner system (Perma-Liner). The homeowner agreed. However, inverting the 3-mil liner downstream through the overflow would be complicated and risky. “We didn’t want to capsize, so we went with two liners, inverting the first from the outfall,” says Bergeron.
In preparation, the brothers hand-dug through the clay to expose 7 feet of pipe, then cut off 6 feet to make room for the inversion unit. In the Perma-Liner trailer, they wetted 75 feet of material with hot epoxy resin (60-minute working time), then transported it via ATV and by hand to the inversion unit.
Before blowing the liner at 8 to 10 psi, they turned off the bypass pumps to hear each other on two-way radios. The liner traveled 70 feet and stalled at the elbow. “We pulled the liner back 5 feet, increased the pressure to 25 psi — just below popping the safety valve — and made four attempts before it shot around the bend,” says Bergeron.
As expected, the 3 feet of unsupported liner in the overflow collapsed. Bergeron assumed the calibration tube would push the liner into place. It didn’t. “We switched from inversion to pull-in-place,” says Bergeron. After retracting and inverting the calibration tube, Chris sent a fish tape downstream, Jeremy attached the liner’s pull strap and the tube, and Chris pulled them up into the overflow.
“As we introduced steam, the pressure pushed the liner where we wanted it, while smoothing any wrinkles in the bend,” says Bergeron. Because the water and pipe were cold, the brothers steamed the liner for 30 minutes at 6 psi to jump-start the accelerant and compensate for heat displacement, then they introduced air at 10 psi for an hour to cool the liner.
DOWN THE HATCH
To line the top 9 feet of the overflow and overlap the bottom liner by 12 inches, the brothers glued the second liner to the calibration tube. Once Jeremy was in the boat holding the assembly, there was no room for Chris to use the oars, so he paddled the boat like a canoe to the overflow. They attached the pull strap to the fish tape, sent it downstream, and an assistant pulled the strap as Jeremy fed the assembly into the overflow. “We shorted the second liner by 4 inches, as cutting it flush with the top of the overflow would require electric tools,” says Chris.
To project the outfall 12 inches into the stream, Chris attached 5 feet of PVC pipe to the liner using a Fernco coupling, then backfilled. Jeremy removed the extension on the overflow as Chris inspected the cured-in-place pipe. “The homeowner couldn’t believe how good it looked,” he says. “Perma-Liner equipment came through for us again under difficult conditions.”