The Untapped Market for Cross-Bore Inspection Services

The demand for cross-bore inspection services is growing — are you prepared to capitalize?

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The Untapped Market for Cross-Bore Inspection Services

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Eliminating cross bores is a top priority for the sewer and utility industries. Yet, finding a contractor that performs cross-bore inspections is increasingly difficult. The few contractors that do perform them are typically inundated with large projects and unable to meet demand. Sewer inspection companies looking to grow business by adding high-demand services should become familiar with opportunities available in the cross-bore inspection services market.

The demand
A cross bore is defined as the intersection of underground utilities. Technically, a cross bore can occur between any underground utilities, including (but not limited to): electric, communication, sewer or gas. However, it is most dangerous when a gas line intersects a sewer.

Trenchless technologies like horizontal directional drilling, percussive moles and plowing are used for the installation, replacement and renewal of underground utilities with minimal excavation and surface disruption. HDD, the most common method for installing gas lines, creates a pilot bore and reams it in one or more passes to a diameter suitable for the gas line, which is then pulled into the prepared bore. Gas distribution lines have been installed by trenchless methods for over 30 years. These methods pose minimal disruption to yards, roads, driveways, traffic and trees, and they cost significantly less than other installation methods. However, because these methods do not allow for visual observation of the utility being installed, they can also cause cross bores.

A cross bore can remain dormant until a sewer backup occurs. Clearing the backup can inadvertently rupture the gas line. A ruptured gas line can then leak explosive gas into a home or business via the sewer lateral. Gas companies that use trenchless methods of pipe installation consider cross bores a threat that must be assessed continuously. One of the biggest cross bore disasters resulted in two young girls being severely burned, and subsequently awarded a claim payout of $30 million — the highest paid claim for a cross-bore explosion.

According to the Gas Technology Institute, there have been 18 accidents resulting from cross bores from 2002 to 2015, a number the Cross Bores Safety Association says is likely an understatement. Results of many cross-bore inspection projects show that in high-risk areas, there are an average of two to three cross bores per mile of sewer line. Large communities can have anywhere from 1,000 to 6,000 miles of sewer lines. As the reliance on trenchless technology installation methods continues to grow, the demand for services to help mitigate cross-bore risk will grow with it. The stakes are too high to let cross bores go undetected.

The variations
There are two types of cross bore inspection programs: new construction and legacy.

Construction companies and gas utilities require cross-bore inspection services to map the utility pipes underground and mitigate cross-bore risk when installing new gas lines. Essentially, construction engineers need to know the precise location of sewer laterals and other utility lines to minimize the danger of boring a new gas line through them. All states have some regulation in place requiring utilities to locate sewers before they do trenchless pipe installations; most recommend both pre- and post-installation inspections. General contractors are increasingly requiring visual confirmation of the absence of cross bores before taking ownership of construction projects. Simply put, new construction inspection projects help prevent new cross bores.

Legacy cross-bore inspections are done to see if damage has already occurred. Before the late 1990s, the risks associated with cross bores were relatively unknown; therefore, gas line installations were done without safe cross-bore mitigation practices. Millions of miles of sewer lines have been potentially intersected with gas lines placed by trenchless methods, which means there are at least thousands of undetected legacy cross bores. These cross bores are not only a ticking time bomb, they can also cause structural damage to the sewer line, leading to I&I and ultimately sinkholes and voids. Legacy cross bores are systematically addressed through inspection and elimination programs. Cross-bore inspection contractors have the potential to compete for large projects of thousands of laterals as the industry tries to mitigate legacy cross-bore risk.

Cross bores are a threat to homeowners, the environment and underground utility companies. Financial resources are being put into use to mitigate the risk. Is your company poised to exploit this growing market?

Sewer inspection companies may find cross-bore inspection services are a good opportunity to grow business. In “Digging Deep: The Growing Market for Cross Bore Inspection Services”, we discuss the many factors a sewer inspection company must consider before diving into the cross-bore inspection services market, including the opportunities available, resources needed and clientele. We also reveal strategies our customers have shared for achieving success in this market. Learn more at


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