Focus Beyond Drain Cleaning to Solve Customers’ Pipe Problems

While drain cleaning is an important component to sewer maintenance, it is only part of the solution

Focus Beyond Drain Cleaning to Solve Customers’ Pipe Problems

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“You guys who are promoting lateral lining and pipe bursting are trying to sell a product that isn’t needed. If you stay ahead of the roots with scheduled maintenance, you don’t need to repair or replace a sewer lateral.”

I had a drain cleaning contractor say those exact words to me recently. I was a little stunned that there are people in our industry who still think this way, but there are more than you’d think.

There are a couple of points of view on this topic — one from the “macro” side or the view of the overall population, and one from the “micro” side or the view of the owner of the sewer lateral in question.

First, the “macro” view. When you have root intrusion in a sewer line during dry seasons, you have raw sewage that exfiltrates into the ground. This may not bother you unless you drink water produced in the general area where the sewage is exfiltrating into the ground. Or perhaps your water is piped from far away, but what if that water is fouled by some exfiltrating sewer near the source? The cost of treatment is driven up by the extent of this fouling and you may pay more for water than you would getting freshwater that needs less processing.

Even more costly is the processing of infiltrating water caused by a rain event. Water falling from the sky migrates into the sewer through the pipes where roots have invaded. This freshwater increases the volume at the wastewater treatment plant. My discussions with plant operators is pretty universal in quantifying that increase. Most tell me that without any rehab efforts, inflow to the plants is double that of normal dry-weather operation.

On the “micro” side, looking at only a single person’s sewer lateral, root intrusion and leaking pipes can erode the soil around the pipe and potentially cause a collapse. That regularly scheduled cleaning will eventually end when the collapse occurs. Then the choices become very limited and more costly. Moreover, the customer is inconvenienced every time the drain cleaning technician needs to clean the line. People are most likely taking vacation time to sit at home waiting for the tech to show up.

You can take the approach of building a business through only drain cleaning contracts, but are your customers being served in the best manner? When they find out that there are other options besides scheduling an appointment with you occasionally, and that those options can also fix the issues permanently, you’ll lose the customer to someone who can provide that fix. While drain cleaning is an important component to sewer maintenance, it’s not the one and only option to be considered. If you’re a drain cleaning contractor thinking that scheduled cleaning is the only answer, ask yourself this: Do you let the brakes on a truck go until you have a total failure or should you change brake pads before that happens?

About the author
John Heisler is the owner of Pipe Lining Supply and Quik-Lining Systems Inc. He has 20 years of experience in the CIPP lining industry and over 40 years in the underground construction industry.


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