Plumbing Contractor Uses Vacuum Excavator to Help Get New Pipe In

Plumber finds a unique approach for cleaning out a stone-filled pipe while also installing a new pipe.

Plumbing Contractor Uses Vacuum Excavator to Help Get New Pipe In

A crew from R.I.C. Plumbing in Lockport, New York, holds the new HDPE pipe being inserted into an existing pipe lateral where crushed stone had collapsed in. Crews used a vacuum excavator with its hose attached to the end of the HDPE pipe in order to vacuum out the crushed stone and push the HDPE pipe through.

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Scott Kuhns knew it wouldn’t be a normal run-of-the-mill job when he found out his company was the fourth one called in to try and find the cause of a sewer lateral blockage.

“We were referred to the customer by the third plumber who had been there,” says Kuhns, co-owner of R.I.C. Plumbing in Lockport, New York. “Two other companies tried to snake it. One guy got his jetter stuck, cut it off and left it in there. Another guy tried it and couldn’t get it open. The third guy came in, looked at it and referred the customer to us.”

R.I.C. Plumbing, which Kuhns owns with his brother, focuses on underground construction, including pipe bursting, lining, sewer jetting and vacuum excavation.

Using their experience and not being afraid to try something new, the team from R.I.C. Plumbing took on the challenging job and used a combination of a vacuum excavation trailer, HDPE pipe and cameras to repair the line for the customer in only one day.

GETTING IN QUICK

After meeting with the property owner, it was determined that the sewer was full of water and the break was in the street.

The line had an inside trap with no clean-out after it. Kuhns told the customer that his crew would need to remove the trap, then jet and vacuum the debris that was in the sewer in order to get the cameras in for an inspection. The customer agreed but wanted the work done quickly.

“They asked that we try and do it soon because it was an active property with a barbershop in the front and a two-unit apartment in the back,” Kuhns says. “We were able to move things around and got back out there the next day.”

After clearing the water and debris from the sewer line, the R.I.C. Plumbing crew of four inspected the line using one of the company’s four Vivax-Metrotech cameras. The camera got in about 100 feet before running into the problem. A 4-foot section of the original 6-inch clay tile sewer was missing and filled with clean No. 1 round stone. The bad spot was under a new 16-inch water main and 120 feet away from the exit of a new roundabout that the state had just built.

NO DIGGING ALLOWED

Upon discovering the problem, Kuhns went to the state Department of Transportation to see what options there were for correcting the situation.

“They said absolutely no digging could take place in that area,” Kuhns says. “We showed a copy of the break to state officials and they said the problem is that of the property owner. The sewer main was also across the street in the right of way.”

Kuhns went back to the homeowner with the news and began brainstorming ideas of how to repair the break.

The first idea was to dig pits on both sides of the roadway and pipe burst a new pipe in. The second idea was to try and enter through the property owner’s basement on that side of the street. “If we could get it from the homeowner’s location it would be a lot less costly, and it would only be a day rather than a few days on the job,” Kuhns says.

Kuhns and the property owner decided to go with the second option.

VACUUMING THE STONE

The R.I.C. Plumbing crew excavated where the sewer exited the house in the basement. Right after the trap, the crew was met with 6-by-4-inch clay tile reducer, which then moved into 6-inch clay tile pipe. The reducer was broken off to make it 6-inch the entire way. Crews then inserted the tube from the Ditch Witch FX30 vacuum trailer into the pipe and pushed it through to where the break was and started to pull out the crushed stone.

“We did that for an hour or two and got a ton of stone out,” Kuhns says.

A camera was then put back into the pipe to check on progress and crews could see the other side of the break. They then fused 120 feet of 4-inch HDPE pipe, using fusion equipment from Gorlitz Sewer & Drain and pushed it through the sewer line.

“When we got to the bad spot, we found that the stone had caved back in again,” Kuhns says.

Not giving up, the R.I.C. Plumbing crew hooked up the vacuum to the new HDPE pipe. They then turned on the vacuum and began clearing the stone again until they could see a shot.

“Once we did that, we just started hammering and spinning the HDPE pipe until we got it to go through,” Kuhns says. “We got it into the other side of the pipe, but the main was still another 15 feet beyond that, so we just kept hammering until we got about 4 feet from where the drop was down to the main.”

STEERING THE PIPE

A combination of a camera and a 1-inch steel rod were used to help steer the HDPE pipe through the old pipe.

“If we ran into snags or hung up on anything, we would check on the camera to see what we were hitting and then we would steer around it,” Kuhns says.

To help steer, the pipe crews hole-sawed a piece of 1-inch steel through the end of the pipe horizontally on the end not in the pipe. They then used that as a steering wheel. For the end in the pipe, crews cut a 45-degree angle on the pipe to help spin it around the joints in the clay tile. For the camera, R.I.C. Plumbing technicians cut a slit in the HDPE pipe to put the camera reel in and just left the camera in the pipe instead of inserting and removing the camera constantly.

“We were looking at a lot of alternative ways to do this job,” Kuhns says. “Sometimes you have to think out of the box.”

WRAPPING UP THE JOB

After getting the HDPE pipe to the main sewer line, a PipePatch from Source One Environmental was used to seal off the end of the pipe and grout was pumped in to seal the void in the road.

“We hung the sewer in the basement and installed a sump pump to finish off the job,” Kuhns says. “It was a challenging job, but one we are all very proud of.”



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