New York Contractor Prepared to Rise to Any Challenge

R.I.C. Plumbing is always willing to embrace the tough circumstances its customers’ jobs sometimes present

New York Contractor Prepared to Rise to Any Challenge

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A March 2017 call to clear a clogged sewer line appeared at first to be fairly standard for R.I.C. Plumbing of Lockport, New York.

The company responded and quickly eliminated the clog, then ran a camera through the line to check its condition. When the video stream showed the cast-iron pipe had no bottom, the decision was made to burst and replace the pipe. From there, things got a little complicated.

Four inches from the 4-inch sewer line ran a parallel 3-inch waterline, which had also experienced failure on several occasions and been repaired. The property owner decided to have R.I.C. Plumbing burst and replace both lines. Also factoring in was that the facility served by the lines contained a blood dialysis clinic. A state mandate required such health facilities to be open six days a week.

Working with the local construction inspector, R.I.C. Plumbing decided to undertake the pipe bursting on the following Sunday so that the clinic would be up and running again on Monday morning. The required excavation was done beforehand, and replacement pipe was shipped overnight to the job site.

“We own a bursting machine, but we needed to have a custom bursting head built,” says Scott Kuhns, president of R.I.C. Plumbing.

He quick-ordered the bursting head from Pow-R Mole Sales in Lancaster, which even delivered it to the job site on Sunday morning to save R.I.C. Plumbing some time. To provide a further challenge, it began to snow that day. March in western New York state is definitely still winter, and the temperature when the crew assembled on the job site was 15 degrees with 10 inches of fresh snow blanketing the ground.

“Our crew was ready for the challenge,” Kuhns says.

By 2:30 that afternoon, final connections in both lines had been made, excavations were backfilled, and the inspector had signed off on the work.

That’s one good example of the types of challenges R.I.C. Plumbing is willing to take on in the name of quality customer service. In another recent example of a sewer blockage call, R.I.C. Plumbing knew from the get-go that it likely wouldn’t be a normal run-of-the-mill job. 

“We were referred to the customer by the third plumber who had been there,” Kuhns says. “Two other companies tried to snake it. One guy got his jetter stuck, cut it off and left it in there. Another guy tried it and couldn’t get it open. The third guy came in, looked at it and referred the customer to us.”

After meeting with the property owner, it was determined that the sewer lateral was full of water and the break was in the street. The line had an inside trap with no clean-out after it. Kuhns told the customer that his crew would need to remove the trap, then jet and vacuum the debris that was in the sewer in order to get cameras in for an inspection. The customer agreed but wanted the work done quickly.

“They asked that we try and do it soon because it was an active property with a barbershop in the front and a two-unit apartment in the back,” Kuhns says. “We were able to move things around and got back out there the next day.”

After clearing the water and debris from the sewer line, the R.I.C. Plumbing crew of four inspected the line using one of the company’s four Vivax-Metrotech cameras. The camera got in about 100 feet before running into the problem. A 4-foot section of the original 6-inch clay tile sewer was missing and filled with clean 1-inch round stone. The bad spot was under a new 16-inch water main and 120 feet away from the exit of a new roundabout that the state had just built.

Upon discovering the problem, Kuhns went to the state Department of Transportation to see what options there were for correcting the situation.

“They said absolutely no digging could take place in that area,” Kuhns says. “We showed a copy of the break to state officials and they said the problem is that of the property owner. The sewer main was also across the street in the right of way.”

Kuhns went back to the property owner with the news and began brainstorming ideas of how to repair the break. The first idea was to dig pits on both sides of the roadway and burst a new pipe in. The second idea was to try and enter through the property owner’s basement.

“If we could get it from the homeowner’s location it would be a lot less costly, and it would only be a day rather than a few days on the job,” Kuhns says.

Kuhns and the property owner decided to go with the second option. The R.I.C. Plumbing crew excavated where the sewer exited the house in the basement. Right after the trap, the crew was met with 6-by-4-inch clay tile reducer, which then moved into 6-inch clay tile pipe. The reducer was broken off to make it 6-inch the entire way. The crew inserted the tube from a Ditch Witch FX30 vacuum trailer into the pipe and pushed it through to where the break was and started to pull out the crushed stone.

“We did that for an hour or two and got a ton of stone out,” Kuhns says.

A camera was then put back into the pipe to check on progress and crews could see the other side of the break. They then fused 120 feet of 4-inch HDPE pipe, using fusion equipment from Gorlitz Sewer & Drain, and pushed it through the sewer line.

“When we got to the bad spot, we found that the stone had caved back in again,” Kuhns says.

Not giving up, the R.I.C. Plumbing crew hooked up the vacuum to the new HDPE pipe. They turned on the vacuum and began clearing the stone again until they could see a shot.

“Once we did that, we just started hammering and spinning the HDPE pipe until we got it to go through,” Kuhns says. “We got it into the other side of the pipe, but the main was still another 15 feet beyond that, so we just kept hammering until we got about 4 feet from where the drop was down to the main.”

A combination of a camera and a 1-inch steel rod helped steer the HDPE pipe through the old pipe.

The crew hole-sawed the piece of 1-inch steel through the end of the pipe horizontally on the end not in the ground. They then used that as a steering wheel. For the end in the ground, crews cut a 45-degree angle on the pipe to help spin it around the joints in the clay tile. For the camera, R.I.C. Plumbing technicians cut a slit in the HDPE pipe to put the camera reel in and left the camera in the pipe instead of inserting and removing the camera constantly.

“If we ran into snags or hung up on anything, we would check on the camera to see what we were hitting and then we would steer around it,” Kuhns says. “We were looking at a lot of alternative ways to do this job. Sometimes you have to think out of the box.”

After getting the HDPE pipe to the main sewer line, a PipePatch from Source One Environmental was used to seal off the end of the pipe and grout was pumped in to seal the void in the road.

“We hung the sewer in the basement and installed a sump pump to finish off the job,” Kuhns says. “It was a challenging job, but one we are all very proud of.”

Read more about R.I.C. Plumbing in the August 2018 issue of Cleaner magazine.


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