Sewer technique may save homeowners money
Unique system to fix 'lateral' pipes now being used in town
Steamboat Springs — A new system for fixing sewer pipes is being used for the first time in Steamboat Springs a method that could save homeowners and taxpayers big money.
While the technology for “pipe lining systems” has been around for 25 years, it is now being used on the smaller “lateral” pipes that often run to homes.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said local contractor Larry Flynn, who was watching the developer and a local plumber putting in one of the special liners.
“I was truly impressed,” Flynn said.
Florida-based developer Jerry D’Hulster was in town Wednesday showing the employees at Roche Plumbing how to install the liner.
“It will renew the pipe without digging up your grass, landscaping or cutting up the road,” said D’Hulster.
On Wednesday, D’Hulster and Roche were working on a lateral pipe that ran to a home on Fourth and Maple streets.
Plumber Ken Roche explained the homeowner’s lateral sewer pipe was cracked and leaking and the owner was experiencing back-up problems.
Instead of replacing the old clay and PVC pipe by digging up the road where the lateral pipe runs, and digging up the homeowner’s driveway, Roche was able to fix the problem with the “Perma-Lateral Liner.”
D’Hulster said the system can be used for pipes that are cracked or leaking.
Here’s how it works. The plumber sends a camera down in the pipe to see what’s blocking the pipe and inspects the integrity of the pipe.
After high-pressure cleaning and taking measurements of the pipe, the plumber is ready to cut the “lining” material.
He then puts a special “resin” on one side of the liner, while the other side of the liner is a PVC-coated material.
It is the resin that will stick to the inside of the sewer pipe and harden, making the pipe stronger than the original pipe.
The liner is rolled up and put into a round machine, that then inverts the lining as it shoots it out and into the sewer pipe.
“It’s like pulling a sock inside out,” Roche said. As the lining is inverted, air pressure is used to expand it, making the liner stick to the pipe walls.
The plumber then takes a calibration tube and holds it against the pipe lining for three hours to ensure the resin hardens and takes hold.
The calibration tube is then pulled out, leaving the new pipe liner in place.
The liner creates a continuous, jointless, seamless pipe that is impervious to root systems and avoids the pitfalls of jointed pipes that are more likely to crack at the seams.
In the case of the Maple Street job, the homeowner could have been looking at $10,000 to dig up the road, yard and driveway to replace his old pipe.
Roche said a job with the perma-liner would cost more like $4,500 to $5,000.
Jeff Anderson, a sewer technician with Longmont for 14 years, started using the new system nine months ago in his business, Aqualine Services.
He said Longmont and other cities have used the liners for their big pipes for years.
“You put a camera down those pipes and it looks the same as it did 15 years ago,” Anderson said about the liners.
But new innovations have now made it possible to use the technology in the smaller lateral pipes that often turn corners as they run up to homes and businesses.
He cited one job at a Longmont restaurant where the city and state had just repaved a major street, adding new light poles and landscaping.
“A week after they completed it, the sewer line failed,” Anderson said.
“I told them we’d have to dig up the street at a cost of $50,000. We ran the liner for under $6,000.”
However, Anderson did admit some sewer line contractors might charge more for their lining services than what it would cost to just dig and put in a new sewer line.
“They figure you save money on not digging, you don’t ruin huge trees or have to dig up driveways,” Anderson said.
Roche has agreed to provide the perma-liner service to Routt, Moffat, Grand, Eagle, Pitkin and Summit counties.
As for how often the service is needed, Roche said Steamboat could soon find out.
“All these sewer systems are 30 years old,” Roche said.
“With all the ground movement and frost penetration found in the mountains, our pipes are shearing. Raw sewage is leaking into the earth and getting into the water supply.”
But Roche said people often prefer just to keep treating their problems by continuously having their sewer lines unplugged and cleaned.
“Eventually you’ll have complete failure and have to go in and dig it up anyway,” Roche said.
“And it never happens at the right time Easter, Christmas, the dead of winter.”
D’Hulster, the developer of the new system, said it is approved by the National Sanitation Foundation and is designed to serve sewer pipes up to 8 inches round.
“It has at least a 50-year life, and meets all plumbing codes,” D’Hulster said.
Now we need to see if it meets “consumer code.”
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