Precision Jet Cutting Handles the Toughest Pipe Blockages

A factory fire that led to 330,000 pounds of wax melting and flowing into the sewers shows the benefits of the precision jet cutting technique

Precision Jet Cutting Handles the Toughest Pipe Blockages
Hardened wax after it had settled in the sewers.

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When a fire broke out at a factory in the town of Bladel in the southern Netherlands last year, it required the response of about 200 firefighters. Despite their efforts, the building burned to the ground.

But that was only the first problem. The factory had produced candles, cosmetics and medical products, and 330,000 pounds of natural wax had melted, flowed into the streets, and eventually settled in the sewer system. About 30 sanitary sewer and stormwater lines ranging in size from 12 to 28 inches, as well as manholes and lateral connections, were nearly 100 percent blocked with hardened wax.

“Although the material was not extremely hard, it was too complicated for conventional jetting trucks to take care of, and replacing the lines would simply take months,” says Bart van der Zalm of ID-TEC.

The solution ended up being the company’s precision jet cutting robots. The operator controls a robotic crawler equipped with camera and steerable nozzle, allowing high-pressure water to be blasted directly where it’s needed in order to break up material, everything from fats and roots to concrete. The wax that had settled in the pipelines and lateral connections required 4 gpm at 7,250 psi to break it up into inches-thick chunks, before being flushed down the line to manhole accesses for removal.

“Precision jet cutting is in only a handful of systems. Stateside it’s a relatively new technique, but it has proven itself for over a decade in Europe,” van der Zalm says.

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