By Melissa Hancock
Compliance EnviroSystems is headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. CES employs more than 160 dedicated and family-oriented employees and provides comprehensive sanitary sewer and storm drain system evaluations, specializing in large and difficult-to-clean or access pipes and alternative cleaning methods. They also specialize in cross bore locating. Josh Graham works with CES and is responsible for business development in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. “As a business development representative, I am responsible for educating our clients (municipalities, engineers, utility owners, contractors and others) on the front end about the very real threats that natural gas cross bores present,” says Josh. “As well as how to efficiently and thoroughly locate and account for cross bores in sanitary sewer collection systems.”
Josh has been with CES for 11 short years. After graduating from LSU with a degree in mass communication and business administration, he took a two-day vacation before he was thrust into the real world. “When I began at CES, I didn’t know much about sewer collection systems or cross bores. By working hands-on with our sewer evaluation crews in the field, attending countless hours of training seminars and having in-depth discussions with thousands of our clients, I am proud to say that I have learned an enormous amount of information and we have grown CES into the premier company in the nation that specializes in cross bore locating.”
“Simply put,” explains Josh, “a cross bore is the intersection of one utility through another utility. Cross bores can be gas, sewer, water, drainage, electric, fiber, telecom, etc. We tend to focus on the occurrence of natural gas lines bored through sanitary sewer pipes because they present the largest risk for gas utility companies and the largest hazard to the general public.” When cross bores exist in a sanitary sewer or storm drain system, it presents a tremendously hazardous situation. CES is capable of locating cross bores through a combination of CCTV inspections of mainline pipes, sewer service lines and highly accurate GPS data collection.”
CES project manager and director of training, Nick Spano explains some of the changes in technology over the last decade. “CCTV inspection cameras now have higher resolution imaging, up to 4k. Camera transporter motors are stronger, and wheels are higher quality allowing us to travel farther and over obstacles. And GPS equipment now accesses more satellites than ever, making GIS data more accurate. Lateral cameras have also become smaller and more agile allowing us to inspect further up laterals.”
CES uses late model equipment and state of the art technology and Nick shares this technology utilized by CES in cross bore inspections. “New lateral cameras, Cues Micro P&T and Ibak Nano cam, smaller outside diameter, higher torque motors and new locators that make tracking gas lines and cameras simple and more accurate, as well as cloud based data storage” make up the technology that assists in the important task of cross bore location.
Josh Graham addresses the important balance of technology and manpower. “The technology and equipment that we use on a daily basis are critical to a successful cross bore locating program. But even more important than the technology and equipment is the people who operate it. It is crucial that our employees know the ins and outs of every piece of our equipment as well as exactly what to look for while conducting cross bore inspections. Lives are at stake and it would be devastating if we affected someone’s life because we missed a cross bore. All CES employees are aware of the criticality of the data we collect and strive to be 100% accurate and consistent every day.”
“Tech is crucial. Everything is a computer now. Handheld GPS collection, databases for tracking production, cameras and transporters have dozens of sensors that are constantly monitored by the computer. The challenge is that tech is RAPIDLY integrating in our industry. We have to keep our employees up to speed and trained. Over the course of a decade, we have transformed our data delivery from VHS to DVD to the current cloud-based data transfer or on USB Flash drives.”
The future of technology in cross bore inspections is full of possibilities. “My guess is that all equipment will be 5G connected. Everything will go to the cloud (GPS, video, reports, etc.)” says Josh. “3-D modeling of underground utilities will reduce cross bores in the future and hopefully there will also be advances in subsurface utility locating tech to make it easier to find existing utilities. Equipment manufacturers are also hinting at artificial intelligence being incorporated into the cameras to quickly and seamlessly identify defects in pipes.”
As technology advances, safety increases—which is the ultimate goal of both the utility and digging communities. Be it artificial intelligence or well-trained workers, the end goal is to create a world safe from the dangers associated with cross bores.