Small Coleman DPW Staff Cleans and Televises Its Own Sewer Lines

Coleman, MI, January 20, 2016: Eric Cozat and Todd Hasenfratz got an inside look in 2015 at the City of Coleman’s sanitary sewer lines – all 12.3 miles – thanks to a new televising truck the city purchased.

In the next two years, the city’s Public Service Department employees have plans to take a peek at the 10.2 miles of storm sewer lines, too.

The City received a $1,020,438 grant which required a local match of $117,924 through the Stormwater Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) grant program. In-kind labor is being used to provide the local match.

The cleaning and televising of the city’s collection system was able to be completed through the SAW grant program. Although somewhat of a common practice for big cities with larger staffs, the televising and cleaning of collections systems by a four-man DPW crew in small, rural communities is almost unheard of.

“For a community of Coleman’s size, doing it on their own shows they are very efficient and not afraid to take on this large program,” said Gary Bartow, of Fleis & VandenBrink. “Not only do they cut lawns, plow streets and run the operations and maintain the utility system, the staff is completing the cleaning and evaluation of almost their entire sewer system as part of the SAW program.”

Bartow, who has over 40 years of experience in consulting engineering, is the co-manager of the F&V East Michigan Services group.

“I’ve worked with a lot of DPWs over the last four decades and these guys are good. They’ve got a lot of experience and a lot of talent,” added Bartow, who works out the F&V office in Midland. “They took the initiative to do this work on their own. They have stepped up to the plate to make a really big difference in their community.”

Bill Cozat, the City’s Public Services Director, said having a televising truck has been a win-win situation for the city.

“If you hired a contractor, he’s going to come in and do all the work and all that you are going to end up with is a folder with all the information and a bunch of CDs that you probably won’t even look at until you have an issue,” Bill Cozat said. “My guys have actually seen every foot of our line and that’s more valuable than a report that someone else did.

“They know a lot more and we have the peace of mind knowing that we’ve that we’ve cleaned our sanitary system and about 97 percent of it is perfect. Three percent of the sanitary line may need some attention but we know exactly where it is.”

The city purchased the Envirosight televising truck from Bell Equipment last year to complement a cleaning vacuum truck they bought two years ago.

“The television and cleaning trucks have been a big help,” Bill Cozat added. “And the mayor and city council have been very supportive.”

Eric Cozat and Hasenfratz did the bulk of the cleaning and televising with help from part-time employee Don Haske.

“We got the sanitary sewer done this year which was a big goal for us,” Eric Cozat said.

The 8, 10 and 12 inch lines of sanitary sewer had not been televised or cleaned since the pipes were installed in the early1970s.

“Now we know exactly what we’ve got in our system,” Hasenfratz said. “It’s a real good thing.

“We found some bad spots and a lot of spots that looked brand new yet. Overall the pipes were better than we expected.”

Unlike bigger cities where there are several departments in the Public Service staff doing specialized jobs, the DPW crew in Coleman does everything – from water, streets to parks and recreation.

Hasenfratz concentrated on cleaning the lines while Eric Cozat ran the robotic camera through the sanitary lines. The two communicated through headsets.

“The camera was a valuable tool because it allows you to see the results of your work,” Eric Cozat noted. “A lot of times we’d put the camera in the line on one end of the block and come around from the other end of the line with the jet truck and would look for roots or other problems.”

The root balls, which can restrict flows in the system and create maintenance nightmares, had to be removed.
Hasenfratz would turn up the RPMs on the nozzle and cut the root ball out of the line.

“We would go down the one end and code everything on the way and if I saw that it’s not clean enough or we had an issue, we’d communicate through the headsets,” Eric Cozat said.

The crew did find an 8-inch steak knife lodged horizontally in a pipe but could not dislodge it. They also discovered a few street sign posts that went through the tops of some pipes.

The plan was to televise and clean about 1,000 feet of sanitary sewer per day. They met that goal most days and had days where they nearly doubled their goal.

“Doing the storm sewer will be harder and take longer,” Eric Cozat admitted. “It was meant to take water so you get gravel and leaves in there … stuff you don’t get in the sanitary sewers.”

Eric Cozat and Hasenfratz went to a three-day school to get PACP certified.

“We hit the ground running and it’s worked out really well thus far,” Eric Cozat said.

Hasenfratz also used a GIS handheld unit with GPS capabilities to document all the manholes and took pictures of all of them.

“When the whole project is completed, we will have cleaned and viewed all the lines, all the manholes and all of the taps and identified every single problem,” Eric Cozat said. “When it’s all said and done, we’ll turn in all these reports and get a grade on each section and you’ll have an asset management plan, which is required to qualify for any grants down the road.”

The televising truck came in handy earlier this year when a city customer claimed the city line was blocking the flow of water from the residence. The truck was able to show that the main line was clear and that the contractor hired to snake the line had not yet reached the main.

“We’re finding a lot of perks to it,” Eric Cozat said.

“The work that we’re doing, any city has the personnel to do it,” Bill Cozat said. “But it’s the equipment that you have to have so your personnel can go and do that.

“It’s been eye-opening what you can do today that you couldn’t do before.”

Eric Cozat said the DPW crew was a bit overwhelmed with the new technology and software in the beginning, but now it’s become second nature.

“We’re not nearly as intimidated about running the $100,000 camera,” he said. “We’ve got GIS equipment and we’re looking forward to having a complete GIS program and it’ll be in the truck at all times.”

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Midland Daily News

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