Cheap Insurance: Daily Equipment Maintenance & Prep

Daily Equipment Maintenance

Our last post was about ways to keep your equipment from being harmed by intense heat exposure. This post covers the importance of daily maintenance on the bread-and-butter of your operations: your down hole tools and their support equipment. We also discuss adequate preparation that should be made before each field operation, to ensure the greatest possible success.

Pre-Flight Equipment Prep

  • Before you pack up your service vehicle, inspect all power cables, pigtail connections, bridle, tires, axle seals, etc. for damage and/or wear.
  • Make sure everyone on your team been trained on how to do any potential field repairs and cable re-terminations.
  • Perform a pressure test to check product for leaks. The product comes from the factory with a 7 psig charge of nitrogen that pressurizes the housing. This aids in preventing water from entering the unit, and the nitrogen—being inert (dry) gas—helps prevent condensation forming inside the unit. Over time and with use, the product will lose some of its pressure.  If equipment will not hold pressure at all, this indicates a possible leak, discontinue use until the leak is found and repaired.  Be sure your equipment is COOL prior to leak checking.  Submerging a heated unit can cause a vacuum and actually invite water intrusion.  Contact the factory for supporting documentation and instructions.
  • Hardware should be checked PRIOR TO EACH USE. Failure to do so can cause major damage or loss of equipment, and costly downtime. Taking a few extra minutes to check all equipment hardware each time prior to performing an inspection can save hours of downtime, and keep equipment failures to a minimum.
  • Generator set for summer?  This setting is very important due to the heavy load from air conditioners.  Refer to Generator User Manual.

Equipment Maintenance During Use

  • Consumable spares – Always keep spare pigtails and top cables on your vehicle, so they’re with you in the field if needed. You should you stock at least one of each for a day job, and three for longer trips. You should also keep a spare termination kit for each inspection cable being used.
  • Most hardware used to mount equipment—skids, wheels, etc.—is only good for a couple of uses, after which it loses its holding ability. This means that hardware used in high-stress areas, such as wheel retaining bolts, should not be used if any signs of wear on threads is observed. Better to replace it before starting a job than have it break down in the middle.
  • IMPORTANT: Bolts with distorted threads will not hold torque on axle threads!  They will loosen and fall out, causing the loss of transporter wheels in the pipe… a scenario no one wants to be part of. Truly, in this case more than others, if there’s any question at all about the integrity of these bolts, err on the side of caution and just replace them.

After-Use Maintenance

  • Clean equipment EVERY TIME it is removed from a pipeline. The entire assembly should be washed.
  • Most importantly, remove cameras from tractors and clean the camera mounting area at the end of each day. This is where debris and corrosion get trapped, and if left to deteriorate, will ultimately destroy (dissolve) the equipment.
  • IMPORTANT: Do not spray down the cable reel! Water on the electronic controls can cause failure of this piece of equipment. Instead, carefully wipe it down with a damp cloth, remove any debris that may have built up as the cable was reeled in, and make sure the spindle is well-lubricated to move freely without seizing up.

If you follow these daily preparation and equipment maintenance routines, you’ll be ensuring optimal service life for the professional quality equipment you’ve invested in, and maximum results from its use.


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Beat The Heat With Crunchtime Maintenance

Beat The Heat header graphic

A little TLC and regular maintenance go a long way toward keeping your equipment performing dependably in summer heat.

Summer’s in full swing across the Lower 48, and it’s already been a scorcher for many areas. Still, work goes on and that means on many days, you’re going to be asking a lot of your inspection system and equipment: high performance under grueling conditions. Here we suggest some things you can do to ensure minimal downtime during hot, high-performance time frames.

  1. Keep equipment clean. Clean equipment each time it is removed from the pipeline.  Most importantly, remove the camera from its tractor, remove wheels and treads, and clean beneath all of these. This can prevent some extensive damage from corrosion or to seals from debris.
  2. Lubricate all relevant areas on a regular basis so your equipment isn’t working against itself. Heat is also hard on lubricants of any sort. The more intense the heat, the more they tend to thin down, so it’s important to make sure oil reservoirs are full, and that moving parts and reels are greased with enough quantity to ensure they’ll continue operating under hot conditions. It’s a good idea to keep some spare cans, tubes and bottles of any lubricants you may need on your vehicle, in case you do run into heat fatigue with what’s already applied. You may even want to invest in some that have high temperature formulations.
  3. Check down hole equipment for pressure loss or leakage. You don’t want to find out in the middle of a sweltering job that you have to stop because water entered a housing where it shouldn’t have.
  4. Position portable equipment out of direct sunlight if you can. The sun’s direct rays beating down intensely on any equipment (but especially that with metal components) is one of the harshest types of exposure it can endure. High heat will cause all components to expand somewhat. Metal parts can eventually develop permanent warps from this type of long sun exposure.
  5. Heat flexing can cause screws, nuts, bolts and other fasteners to loosen. Keep hardware tight. Check hardware constantly for wear or excessive looseness.
  6. Another rubbery surface that’s subject to heat hardening and cracking is power cord sheathing. Some of this is now made from siliconized rubber that’s more hardy, but it’s still a good idea to run your hands over power cords from end to end, so your fingers might feel cracks your eyes have missed. Replace these as necessary. Don’t wait for cracks to become wide or long—even a small opening in that outer sheath could allow dangerous arcing in wet environment.
  7. Outer plastic sheathing on cables is subject to a lot of punishment even without the heat effect, so keep an eye on those, as well.  Replace as needed.
  8. Check connections between main equipment housings and cables, cords, plugs and accessories. Heat flexing may also have affected these.
  9. Clean off cooling fans for computers, generators and other truck-mounted equipment. Dust, cobwebs and other debris can gather over time, decreasing the fan’s effectiveness.

Keep these tips in mind, and your equipment should continue to serve you well in any weather.

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Stormwater I/I: Could It Be Making Your Flows Toxic?

Toxic stormwater?

One of the things that keeps CCTV pipeline inspectors busiest is identifying sources of inflow and infiltration (I/I) into stormwater conveyance systems, whether they be the old-fashioned combined storm/sanitary systems, or today’s separate pipelines.

Stormwater drainage systems are designed to move rainwater away from areas where they could cause backups and flooding. The system may include underground pipes, ditches, streams and creeks. Flows enter the system from a variety of inputs, including roof drains, foundation drains, lawn drains, and street drains/catch basins. The flows are discharged into nearby waterways, lakes and/or the ocean, depending on location.

Ideally, this runoff is simply rainwater moving from one place to another, but the reality is that it frequently (maybe even usually) picks up other liquids and even small solid materials as it flows along. What it picks up will depend on how much rain falls and how fast the resultant runoff is flowing: Longer and higher intensity rainfalls will generate faster runoffs, which produce more hydraulic power to lift and carry heavier objects.

Sources of toxic stormwater

As discussed in our previous post, some of the places where runoff can pick up toxic materials include:

  • industrial and manufacturing facilities –gas, oil and other petroleum products and processing byproducts
  • municipal and other government facilities – chemicals, petroleum products and any number of toxic substances
  • agricultural facilities –animal waste and fertilizer chemicals
  • commercial locations – cleaning solutions, lubricants and other chemicals

And these don’t cover plain old roadways and parking lots, which can accumulate many of the same nasty stuff, plus pesticides and herbicides.

Aside from the obvious dangers to the environment from polluted water, toxic I/I could also be causing chemical wear and damage to stormwater pipelines. Of course, there are BMPs that can be used on the other end, such as filtration basins to capture non-point-source pollution, but they’re not always wholly effective and don’t solve the problem of what it might be doing to your pipes. And it’s clear this problem will only get worse as more development happens and there are more vehicles on the road.

  • What do you think is going to happen with this issue—will regulators begin addressing it?
  • Are you concerned about toxic stormwater?
  • Are you monitoring the health of your stormwater flows?
  • If so, how are you identifying and measuring pollutants, and what are you doing about capturing and eliminating them?

We’d love to hear from you.

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Stormwater and Drought

Stormwater & Drought header

Stormwater is considered a nuisance when it comes to managing its runoff into natural waterways, since it can cause two unwanted problems: flooding and pollution. The former either causes or exacerbates the latter, carrying runoff from all kinds of places that contain pollutants no one wants to see go into waterways.

By and large, stormwater runoff is a manageable annoyance, because most rain events are fleeting and don’t drop too much water at one time or in a concentrated area. However, there have been many recent significant rainfall events across the country, during which small geographic areas have found themselves inundated to damaging, even dangerous levels.

Some people believe these anomalies are proof of global warming, but the jury remains out on that particular point. However, those responsible for future planning must take that possibility into account in their efforts to create sustainable living areas we can continue to live with.

Regardless of their causes, most of these recent events have unfortunately taken place primarily in urban or heavily populated suburban areas. Many people, their businesses, property and pets have been affected, and it’s been costly for all involved. In the recent extended heavy rains over much of urban and rural Texas from a stalled-out storm front, ranchers lost an enormous amount of cropland and livestock in the resultant widespread flooding.

So it’s a bit hard to grasp that in the midst of these very events, we’ve also got places that continue to experience record-setting drought. You’d be right to think drought would be a good thing for stormwater control efforts, but the cost for drought-stricken areas far overshadows this positive facet. There actually is a silver lining to the regional droughts in terms of the greater good, but let’s first take a broad look at stormwater. 

Stormwater Overview

Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snow hits impervious surfaces such as roads, rooftops, or parking lots and is not absorbed into the ground where it falls. Instead, this water picks up trash, metals, chemicals, and other contaminants as it makes it way to our waterways.

Due to concerns about flood damage in urban areas, stormwater has traditionally been viewed as a liability and a danger, so urban areas were designed to move stormwater out to waterways as quickly as possible.

In most modern cities, stormwater typically bypasses wastewater treatment plants through a separate collection system. As a result, it has become a major source of pollution in our rivers, streams, and oceans.

Stormwater Regulations

The 1972 Clean Water Act introduced the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). This is a system developed to regulate point (individual, readily identifiable) sources of groundwater pollution that come into contact with stormwater runoff. These may include:

  • industrial facilities such as manufacturing, mining, oil and gas extraction, and service industries
  • municipal government and other government facilities, such as military bases, landfills and dumps, garages and warehouses, etc.
  • agricultural facilities, such as animal feedlots and fertilized fields
  • commercial locations, such as trash cans and dumpsters, construction sites and mobile businesses

Point sources are not allowed to discharge pollutants to surface waters without a NPDES permit. This system is managed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with state environmental agencies. These permits allow the EPA and other regulatory bodies to know which pollution sources exist, to monitor what kind of pollution and how much of it they emit, and to issue controls on those pollution streams, to keep them from entering the surface and groundwater.

Issues arise when there are point sources of pollution that have either not been identified by the EPA, or which have not been issued an NPDES permit, because then pollutants are entering waterways from there, unabated.

So, what does this have to do with drought?

Drought and Stormwater

Places like California, truly hard-hit by drought over the past several years, have begun urging citizens to take anti-drought measures such as

  • replacing lawns with natural stone and drought-resistant plantings (called xeriscaping)
  • disconnecting downspouts to collect roof runoff for watering
  • replacing solid pavement with permeable paving solutions
  • creating swales and rain gardens to capture and slowly release any rainfall into the surrounding groundwater.

That silver lining we mentioned earlier? It’s that municipalities outside the drought areas have taken notice of what’s being done to conserve water by capturing storm runoff, and are realizing these initiatives could work well in remediating ongoing stormwater runoff issues in non-drought locations. That means we can all benefit from their innovations all year ’round, on a permanent basis.

So that’s the story of stormwater runoff outside of collection systems, which creates a huge pollution problem. Our next post will deal with the health of stormwater that does enter our systems, becoming a huge issue for municipalities who are responsible for eliminating it to keep from exacerbating the existing pollution.

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Municipal Procurement: Wider Reach, Bid Consistency and Less Hassle Using Coop Buy Boards

Using Cooperative Buy Boards

Last post, we introduced the concept of municipalities participating in the use of cooperative buy boards — using the most well-known of them, HGACBuy, as an example — to purchase the equipment they need, because it typically saves time and money in having to put together a formal RFP, and manage a bid process for every item they must purchase. This time, we’ll look at reasons you may or may not wish to participate in this type of procurement.

With a buy board, if cities and towns have funds already approved in their budgets, they simply submit appropriate vendor buy board information to their purchasing department. It gets reviewed and approved at a City Council meeting, at which point the buy board process can legally substitute for the open bid procurement required by law.

Why use buy boards?

Chris Remillard, our Inside Sales Manager here at RST, has been involved with the HGACBuy board for 2-3 years, representing our company as a potential municipal vendor. “A lot of municipalities want to avoid the bid process for reasons of cost and convenience,” he explains. “They can legally procure the equipment they want from the manufacturer they prefer, and not necessarily have to go with a low or high bid. It speeds up the process.” (more…)

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Municipal Contracting Through the HGACBuy Boards

This month, we explore the HGACBuy Boards, a member-based, online government-to-government procurement portal, created by the Houston Galveston Area Council Local Development Corporation. Governmental entities have been procuring products and services through HGACBuy for over 30 years. As a unit of local government assisting other local governments, HGACBuy strives to make the governmental procurement process more efficient by establishing competitively priced contracts for goods and services, and providing the customer service necessary to help its members achieve their procurement goals. All contracts available to members of HGACBuy have been awarded by virtue of a public competitive procurement process compliant with state statutes.

What’s the History?

The Houston Galveston Area Council Local Development Corporation (HGAC) was created in the early 1980s, to promote economic development throughout the 13-county Upper Gulf Coast Region of Texas. This non-profit organization offers online Buy Boards as a resource for municipalities to buy their equipment without having to write specs and send them out for bid. Local municipalities put out their general specs for needed equipment, so all potential bidders get the same information. (more…)

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Water and wastewater privatization: What does it mean to our industry?

If you do a Web search on “water privatization,” the majority of the links that result are stories that talk about the dangers and disadvantages of the privatization of public utilities. That’s probably why it hadn’t been done by the majority of states before last year, when New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, signed into law the New Jersey Water Supply Privatization Act.

That the Act was originally written in 1985 and took 30 years to get passed on a “fast track” basis, by a governor desperate to balance his state’s budget, is another indicator that most folks seem to think it’s not a great idea. However, it’s now law, and that precedent means other states may consider similar privatization to get financially faltering utilities off their books.

This means that, as an industry, we’re going to have to deal with the results of those decisions. So, what are those results, and what do they mean to those of us who work in the water and wastewater management industry?

First, let’s look at the core wording of the legislation, so we can understand what we’re talking about. Here’s the initial paragraph from the Act:

The Legislature finds that the construction, rehabilitation, operation, and maintenance of modern and efficient water filtration facilities are essential to protecting and improving the State’s water quality; that many of the water filtration systems in New Jersey must be replaced or upgraded if an inexorable decline in water quality is to be avoided during the coming decades; that the citizens of this State, in recognition of the crucial role the construction of new and the upgrading of existing water supply facilities play in maintaining and augmenting the natural water resources of the State, and with an understanding that the cost of financing and constructing these systems is beyond the limited financial resource capabilities of local governments and authorities and must be borne by the bonding authority of the State and repaid, in part, through a system of water supply user charges, approved the enactment of the “Water Supply Bond Act of 1981” (P.L. 1981, c. 261); that the water filtration needs of the State are so great that the limited funds allocated for this purpose from the “Water Supply Fund” established by that 1981 bond act are insufficient; that given this inadequate present level of State funding, alternative methods of financing the construction of new or the rehabilitation of antiquated or inadequate existing water filtration systems must be developed and encouraged; that one alternative method of financing these necessary facilities available to local government units consists of contracting with private-sector firms for the financing, construction and operation of these systems; and that for some local government units, contracting for the provision of water supply services, if done in such a way as to protect the interests of water users and to conform with environmentally sound water quality standards will constitute an appropriate method of securing these needed water filtration systems. The Legislature therefore determines that it is in the public interest to establish a comprehensive procedure designed to authorize local government units to contract with private firms for the construction of water filtration systems and the provision of water supply services.

According to this wording, the systems are now being contracted for building, maintenance and operation. This is what is known as a Public Private Partnership—or P3—arrangement. These fiscal arrangements have been gaining traction in Europe since the 1970s, but how is it playing out here, in the United States, in actuality?

As of the end of last month, nearly 2,000 municipalities nationwide have entered P3 agreements for all or part of their water supply systems, according to a FutureStructure article. It’s not always a matter of financial difficulties that causes cities to want to privatize. Some governments simply believe that private interests, whose expertise lies in the management of utilities, will be able to do a better job than they can.

Regardless the reason, once the changeover is made to private ownership of water and wastewater systems, won’t that mean huge changes for those who serve and interact with system owners on a regular basis? Apparently, not necessarily—or at least, not yet.

According to W.E. Timmerman Company, our New Jersey distributor, nothing has changed for them in dealing with municipalities, which constitute the majority of their customers. Our representative there, Nathan McCraney, reports that nothing has changed insofar as who they deal with at the municipalities, and how the deals get done.

At least for them and for the time being, new ownership at the top has not affected how things happen on the ground. Whether this will be the case in the future, or whether it will vary from one municipality to the next, remains to be seen.

A few things are for certain: We should all continue to

  • be aware that change may be just around the corner
  • keep ourselves up to date on the issue, and
  • try to stay as flexible and agile as possible, so we can continue to best serve this industry as well as we can, regardless the circumstances.
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Contractor Marketing Resources: Branding and Positioning

Contractor Marketing header

As the CCTV pipeline inspection industry’s busy season commences, it makes sense to take a look at what you’re doing to promote your contracting business. There are a few bedrock “musts” that you need to think about before doing anything fancy. These are based in the two main concepts embodied in the practice of marketing: Branding and Positioning. Branding is basically who you are, what your identity is in the marketplace. Positioning is where you are perceived by potential customers to sit among your peers and competitors in the marketplace.

Corporate Identity

Branding is established mainly by what’s known as your corporate identity: The “persona,” if you will, created in the marketplace by your staff, your physical location/shop/office, and the visual identity you establish with a logotype. Logos can consist of a simple type modification, in which your company name is expressed in letters, numbers and/or type symbols.

They may also include some kind of graphic image, such as a mascot or abstract design. If they become well-known enough, sometimes the graphic image itself is all that’s needed to identify the company without any words. Think of the Nike swash, the Verizon checkmark, the old Sinclair green dinosaur, etc. But that kind of visual shorthand can only happen after a long exposure to many people over decades and even centuries. It’s nice if it happens, but not really something you can control. (more…)

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CMOM: Effects & Resources

CMOM: Effects & Resources for CCTV Pipeline Inspection Contractors

In our last post, we broadly examined what’s going on with the state of Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance (CMOM) as it applies to U.S. municipalities today, given the generally aging state of their water, wastewater and stormwater collection and conveyance systems.

This time, we’ll look at how CMOM issues affect and are affected by CCTV pipe inspection contractors, and give you some tools to help asset owners bring their systems into compliance.

CMOM – Effects on and of CCTV Pipeline Inspection

It’s safe to say that since CMOM as an industry practice came into being in response to the EPA’s SSO proposal, infrastructure has continued to age out and deteriorate, and technology has advanced immensely, providing new tools and methods for planning and implementing sound CMOM practices and programs.

More importantly, time is running out for cities and towns to come into compliance, so those who have put off necessary inspection and repair work are now being pushed into implementation by consent decree orders. This is, of course, creating more CCTV pipeline inspection work than ever before. (more…)

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CMOM – Where Are We Now?

CMOM - State of the Nation graphic

With most U.S. municipalities dealing with some level of aging-out infrastructure issues, the concept of public wastewater utilities getting a handle on Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance (CMOM) of their systems has never been more critical. Proper CMOM monitoring can and does help slow down and arrest system component deterioration and even failure.

Of course, every municipality weights the importance of CMOM efforts differently according to its own particular needs. This post will take a look at how a random sampling of municipalities is handling its CMOM programs.

Water & Wastes Digest magazine ran a great article on CMOM back in 2013. It defined CMOM’s ultimate goal, as it applies to the wastewater treatment industry, as “to assure that discharges from treatment facilities are free from pollutants. The framework of the federal CMOM program allows for periodic reviews of a collection system by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state inspectors to assure compliance with the program elements.” (more…)

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