While most people were recovering from Thanksgiving, GPRS VPI Project Manager, Marco Del Pezo was on a special military charter flight taking him to Cuba for work.
His job? To collect NASSCO-certified WinCan video, photos, pipe conditions, and defect data of 1,700 linear feet of sanitary sewer lines underneath the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, part of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base located on the island. GPRS was contracted by JMC Building Group to provide the CCTV sewer scope video, NASSCO-certified reports, and the subsurface data they needed as they planned a renovation of the detention facility.
But before Del Pezo could board the plane with his mainline crawler, push cameras, and complimentary equipment, both he and GPRS had to undergo strict scrutiny of our company, personnel, and our security practices.
“No place is more locked down than GITMO,” Del Pezo shared. “Very few people ever get into that detention center. Navigating that – going through that process – is extremely locked down.”
No Phones, No Photos, No Names Allowed
It is not easy to mobilize a sewer inspection in a locked down military detention facility. Del Pezo was on the job for a week because security protocols and prisoner lockdowns allowed him only two 2-hour work periods daily. So, each day, he traveled via ferry to the other side of the bay with his equipment to enter the detention center, strip himself of all logos and identifiers, surrender his phone, and accept a military police (M.P.) escort to chaperone him as he set up and conducted his sewer line inspections. Within the facility, no one is allowed to use their actual names. Instead, everyone is given a “call sign,” a nickname that the M.P.s can use for quick identification. Del Pezo’s was Popeye.
“It was a lot of pushing. We had to hurry. It [the job] was very serious.”
Sanitary Sewer Inspection – You Have to “Have What it Takes”
Video pipe inspection (VPI) would be what television host Mike Rowe would call a “dirty job,” running tightly calibrated cameras through sanitary sewer lines, spending hours capturing video, photos, and data on the condition of the pipes, but somebody’s got to do it.
“A lot of people can’t handle sanitary lines,” confirms Del Pezo.
VPI, also known as CCTV sewer inspection or sewer scoping, is not pleasant work in the best of conditions. It is, however, vital to the health of facility and municipal sanitary sewer systems and the communities they serve. That is because VPI is the least destructive way to diagnose a blocked line, assess pipe conditions, and provide facility managers or municipalities the data they need to have more control over maintenance and repair planning.
Those in the business know that you can usually make quick work of running push cameras down 1,700 linear feet. In most cases, the work can be completed in a day or less. However, the security restrictions, and the pipe conditions, required substantial delays. The Project Manager managed to push through blockages that usually require jetting, and his ability to power through clogs is what earned him the Popeye nickname.
What is Sewer Jetting & When is it Used?
Jetting refers to sewer jetting or hydro jetting, where highly pressurized water is targeted toward the source of a clog or blockage to dislodge and remove it. The pressure in a hydro jet averages 1,500 psi, but can go as high as 5,000 psi, which is enough force that OSHA mandates specialized protective gear when applying it to pipes. Jetting has additional applications, like removing grease build-up from pipes, and is sometimes necessary before sewer scope cameras can be deployed into sanitary lines.
Hydro jetting is not to be confused with hydro excavation, where similarly high-pressure water is used to remove topsoil to pothole or daylight underground utilities.
In the case of the detention facility, most of the blockages came from piles of wadded up hand towels flushed into the sewer by prisoners in the attempt to clog the lines. Once Del Pezo was on the scene, the inspection was completed with minimal difficulty.
Elite Training Achieves Exceptional Results
The other factor that kept Del Pezo in Cuba for a week was that once he had started work, the architect for the job was so impressed with his attention to detail that he asked for an additional inspection below another building, which expanded the scope of work. GPRS Project Managers are experts in their field and it’s not unusual to be called in to do one “small job” that turns into a much bigger project.
GPRS Business Development Manager for Miami, Thomas Judge, was not at all surprised at the additional request. “That’s what GPRS does. We’ll do our best to satisfy your needs. When a customer calls GPRS, the job is going to get done, no matter what it is.”
That flexibility, giving the job the time it needs to do it right, and taking a consultative approach to each job they do are key factors in what sets GPRS Project Managers apart. It’s also part of what helps the company maintain a 99.8% accuracy rating on utility locating and concrete scanning on over 500,000 jobs throughout the United States.
And when the weather in the Northern U.S. turns harsh in the winter, there are worse things to do than to hop on a plane to St. Thomas, Aruba, Puerto Rico, Bimini, or Barbados. Resorts, hotels, municipalities, and island governments call on GPRS to provide services. Our Project Managers have aided in reclamation efforts following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and are often called on to locate utilities, provide concrete imaging, and give facility managers and officials the data they need to make informed decisions to renovate and repair aging infrastructure.
In the case of Guantanamo Bay, Del Pezo discovered that the sanitary lines under the detention facility transitioned from cast iron to PVC and found additional lines and clean-outs that did not appear anywhere on their as-builts. The NASSCO-certified WinCan VPI report included assessing surface damage and corrosion in the pipes, as well as the towel clogs. Every pipe defect was catalogued, photographed, and ranked in order of severity to assist the contractor and the military to build that information into their renovation plans.
There Are Worse Offices Than The Caribbean
While it may sound like an intense experience, Del Pezo was able to soak up some of the local culture, especially the food, and build relationships, even with the base personnel. He found an unexpected pocket of support from the local hardware store. The owner gave him anything he needed, and told him to just bring it all back when he was done. Going over and above seemed to be everyone’s mission.
“The M.P.s were very flexible and even came in on their own time to assist over the weekend,” Del Pezo shared. In fact, the M.P.s took “Popeye” out on his last day for an evening of bowling and watching football before he headed home.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “It’s an experience that’s hard to express. To work with the Army, the Navy – it was an amazing experience.”
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a video plumbing inspection or a CCTV pipeline inspection?
Video plumbing inspection or CCTV pipeline inspection are other names for a video pipe inspection, CCTV sewer inspection, or a sewer scope. When performing a video pipe inspection, a Project Manager will deploy mainline cameras, push cameras, and lateral line cameras to assess blockages and pipe conditions. Learn more about VPI services, here.
How much does it cost to hire a drain camera?
You can rent or buy CCTV cameras for sewer line inspections. However, it does require training to understand hoe to properly use the equipment, and to understand the reporting software to utilize the data. You can see a breakdown of equipment and training costs, here.
Are sewer cameras worth it?
The answer to that question depends on your needs. If you want to investigate a clog, or look at your sewer lines once or twice a year, you may find that hiring a NASSCO-certified VPI or CCTV sewer inspection company near you – like GPRS – provides greater benefit for less investment of your time and money because you receive a comprehensive VPI report that provides exact locations and severity of each pipe defect in an easy-to-use interface. As more utility installers utilize directional drilling or boring to install utilities, the threat of cross bores that breach your sanitary lines and contaminate the surrounding area increases. To learn more about annual or bi-annual sewer inspection protocols and pre and post directional drilling inspections, click here.