High Standards: Drain Cleaner Kicks Subcontractors to the Curb

C-More Pipe Services builds a reputation for excellence among municipal clients and continues to grow through referrals.
High Standards: Drain Cleaner Kicks Subcontractors to the Curb
Scott Fast (left) and Juan Lorenzano of C-More Pipe Services use an Aquatech jet/vac combo unit to clean a pipeline outside an old paper mill in Independence, Ore.

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When municipalities began to more seriously address the condition of their pipeline systems in the 1990s, opportunities grew for companies like C-More Pipe Services to provide inspection and a variety of other services.

In 1998, Vi McCoy and her partner formed C-More in Rickreall, Ore. Both had industry experience. She was versed in pipeline sales and management, as well as accounting, and he in field services including chemical grouting. McCoy says they had a built-in customer base because of their many contacts in Oregon and Washington, and they found the telephone ringing regularly from the start. She takes particular pride in the fact that C-More has never had to spend much money on advertising, yet they have continued to grow through their 16 years in business.

Two years into the operation, McCoy realized they were spending a lot of money on subcontractors to assist with jobs that went beyond the scope of their own services.

“I’m an accountant, and it dawned on me as we considered expanding that we needed to be doing our own cleaning,” she says. “I said, ‘This is kind of crazy,’ so we bought our first Aquatech combination truck and began using part-time help and calling on family and friends to assist us with the business. Eventually we went on to hire permanent employees.”

Today the company runs a fleet of three combination jet/vac trucks, three CCTV inspection vans, including two that are equipped to provide chemical grouting, and a manhole rehabilitation truck. They have a selection of cameras and other equipment, and are always searching for other tools and technologies that would benefit the operation. McCoy says watching the bottom line is critical when making those decisions.

The company focuses primarily on mainline work, but will occasionally inspect laterals with a push camera.

“Clients are finding measureable amounts of water going into the treatment plants, and are convinced this comes from service laterals to homes and businesses,” McCoy says. “We are adding a lateral launch camera to our equipment so we can differentiate if water is coming from a washing machine, or if groundwater is coming into the line. If we find a certain percentage of laterals defective, this would require the homeowner or business owner to repair in order to reduce the I&I going into the treatment plant. Processing all this water is very expensive. We are offering our clients another set of eyes on the problem by looking into the lateral lines.”

The company’s six field technicians work in two divisions. McCoy’s son, Michael McCoy, joined the firm in 2007 and oversees the four-person Pipe Services team. Her daughter, Brenda McCoy-Manfredo, came on board in 2012 and oversees the Manhole Rehabilitation crew. Michael’s son, Daniel, has made the company a three-generation enterprise.

Focus Sharpens

Michael McCoy is a veteran, having served in the United States Army as a 2nd Lieutenant. His degree is in business, but he has extensive experience in the high technology arena, including software development. He is also skilled in troubleshooting mechanical problems and developing systems to benefit the company. He serves as technical mechanic for both divisions, repairing cameras, trucks and small equipment.

The company began offering CIPP services in 2008. “This was important for us to include so we could properly serve our clients’ needs and avoid having to subcontract this work out,” says Michael McCoy. “Initially we offered QuickLock [Rausch Electronics USA], a stainless steel sleeve that will protect about a 20-inch section of pipe. We still use this product, but we also developed our own CIPP point repair system.”

McCoy’s background also includes experience in engineering and chemistry, and he researched and found sources for silicate-based resin with an ambient cure, along with a fiberglass supplier.

“With our CIPP system we can do repairs from 2 to 5 feet in length,” he says. “But we can do longer distances with individual repairs that overlap each other. We had one situation where we had two different pipe sizes. This went from a 12-inch pipe to a 15-inch pipe in a 4-foot repair. Using our CIPP process we created a smooth transition, sealing the leak and reinforcing the pipe so it would not leak in the future.”

Michael McCoy praises their dedicated and qualified technicians, who are all cross-trained, and points out that they are a particular source of pride for the company.

Future Visage          

When her partner left the company in 2010, McCoy began to think about semi-retirement. Michael, with his extensive background in the high tech industry, had settled into the operational side of the business and contributed significantly to their continued growth. He was ready to step into management.

McCoy also looked to her daughter, Brenda. As the wife of a tenured professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, she didn’t appear to be a candidate to step in, but Vi asked her all the same. She was already commuting three hours per day for her job in Denver, so the idea of commuting each week to Oregon seemed a fair trade-off. Instead of driving 15 hours each week, she now flies about that same amount of time, but on the airplane she can do paperwork and work on her laptop. This is her third year with the company.

In addition to the Manhole Division, McCoy-Manfredo, who is vice president, has duties that include traffic control, permitting on all jobs, safety oversight and daily operational duties for the entire company. She has an extensive business background that includes construction, management and finance, but Vi McCoy continues to handle some of the finance work.

“The Manhole Division was brought online in 2013, and our primary function is to repair and rehabilitate the manholes using spray-on cementitious grout/mortar to create a new interior wall line,” McCoy-Manfredo says. “This basically improves the structural integrity of the manhole and extends the life up to 25-plus years. We are expanding to include epoxy coatings as well.”

Other related services of the Manhole Division include removal and replacement of manhole steps, and controlling I&I in underground concrete structures such as vaults, reservoirs, storage tanks, water treatment plants, cisterns and basins, as well as grease interceptors.

“Our business with this division is roughly 30 percent, and growing,” McCoy-Manfredo says. “We are pre-booked up to three months ahead.”

In the past, the company inspected manholes to identify I&I issues but they didn’t handle any of the repair and rehab work.

“If our client needed or wanted manhole repair, we referred them to a local company,” she says. “These were friends and we did not want to take their business. When the owner passed away, the company was available for purchase. We bought their equipment, which we upgraded, and we hired their employee, who had 15 years experience in confined-space entry, and then hired another tech. That is how the division came about. We also turned to AV-100 [Avanti International] to help control I&I issues.

“Offering manhole rehabilitation is important for our clients because 40 to 60 percent of I&I can occur through manholes. For our regular clients, we can help them substantially reduce the cost of treatment if we rehabilitate and repair the leaks in the manholes. They also will have a newer and stronger structure.”

All employees are certified for confined-space entry. McCoy-Manfredo has developed a safety program based on OSHA guidelines, and they have regular training sessions on these procedures.

Eye Spy On The Mainline

Vi McCoy describes their business plan from the beginning.

“Over the years, we have developed a reputation with our customers, primarily municipalities and sewer and water districts, that maintenance programs and inspections will over time find problems and solutions and let them stay within their budgets and have funds to spend on aging systems. It can sometimes take up to five years to get through an entire system and make repairs. Big cities like Portland and Salem will have their own people and equipment. Smaller jurisdictions turn to contractors like us who offer these services.

“Spills in the waterways were raising the consciousness level. They needed to do something about this. They needed to look and see what was going on. In our area, we have 40, 50, 60 inches of rain a year, so it is a high water table.”

Local systems typically are comprised of clay tile and concrete pipe as well as PVC, ABS and iron. Pipes are most often in the 8- to 15-inch-diameter range, but they are occasionally larger. Some of this goes back to the 1930s and ’40s.

They find pipe that is crushed or cracked, pipe that has not healed properly, and of course, roots. Concrete pipe often has holes in it or joints that are offset.

“In the beginning, we had the advantage by offering grouting, and all in the one truck,” Vi McCoy says. “We would go into the city or sewer or water district and find out what was wrong with the pipe. If it was roots, we would remove them. If it was leaks, we would profile what was going on for our client and offer solutions.”

While the company utilizes their own system for patching short lengths of pipe, even up to 16 feet, for longer lines they will hire or recommend contractors who specialize in these procedures.

“This has not been our focus, and that is my choice,” Vi McCoy says. “There are plenty of people out there doing this work, and we don’t believe this is where we will make the most money for the investment. When we see the long lines that need to be replaced, those 500- to 1,000-foot lines, we recommend relining to our customers.”

Toolbox Tally

Rolling stock includes a 2013 Dodge 5500 diesel with Aries inspection equipment, including a new Aries LETS system, as well as grouting equipment. Cleaning is handled with two Aquatech (Hi-Vac Corp.) combination jet/vac trucks. There is a 2007 Ford E-450-SD diesel with an Aries Industries TV Inspection system, and a 2000 Isuzu manhole rehabilitation truck and Strong Seal trailer (The Strong Company).

The company just added the new Aries LETS system for lateral inspections, a benefit to their customers during mainline inspections. They also use Aries pan-and-tilt cameras as well as Logiball mainline and lateral grouting packers.

With new equipment, they put a high value on strong, reliable support from the manufacturer, particularly when it comes to solving grouting problems such as set times, calculating the required quantity of product, or suggestions on what products would be useful for a particular issue.

“With equipment we look for functionality, ease of use, efficiency and simplicity for our field crews,” McCoy-Manfredo says. “We want equipment that will hold up, because we work our equipment hard, and we want compatibility with our existing equipment.”

C-More Pipe Services operates out of a 17-acre site with a 1,900-square-foot office in the basement of Vi McCoy’s home. There are three large shops with a total of 14 bays and 8,480 square feet of space.

Vi McCoy recalls the first job the company completed, a $200,000 inspection job in Battle Ground, Wash., where they televised sections of pipe and grouted joints. It was a big job for a startup operation, but one that set a high standard in the neighborhood and provided some important credentials for the young company.

“The old theory that if you don’t see it, it does not exist just doesn’t hold water anymore,” notes Vi McCoy. “We will be using all our tools to investigate, report, and take care of these issues for our clients.”


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