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City debates sewer cameras

October 8, 2010

The City of Columbia City is considering the purchase of equipment that could help city workers see underground.
Televising equipment, or video cameras design to snake through sewer lines and capture images from inside the pipes, could benefit the city in terms of man-hours and dollars, according to city officials.
The possibility was discussed at Friday’s meeting of Columbia City’s Board of Works and Safety.
According to Kelly Cearbaugh, Superintendent of Columbia City’s street department, the benefits of purchasing such equipment could be far-reaching.
“We’ve had some demos and I’ve looked at some (cameras) at conventions and it’s a good picture,” Cearbaugh said. “I’m pretty impressed with the picture quality.”
The cameras would be used to help map previously undocumented sewer lines and subterranean structures such as manholes as well as monitoring weaknesses, pipe damage and potential future damage.
“If you’re able to go in and televise a line and find potential problems, you can be proactive,” Cearbaugh said.
Cearbaugh said that street department employees would use the city’s “jet” to clean out the pipe before sending in the camera.
According to him, there are many lines and manholes that have not been mapped. Using a camera could result in a more accurate picture of all the municipally built infrastructure residing underground.
Without the camera, lines and manholes could only be discovered by excavating.
“If you don’t know where the pipe leads, you’re kind of in the dark,” Cearbaugh said.
While he stressed that the figures are a rough estimate, Cearbaugh projected the cost of such a unit at between $140,000 and $170,000.
It’s a price that could be retrieved over time due to the popularity of such equipment.
“We could end up being asked by contractors and other cities for use of the equipment,” he said, “so there’s opportunity there for us to make some money.”
The cameras would not only detect breaks and weaknesses in sewer pipes, but also root infiltrations.
In the case of unmapped lines and other structures, Cearbaugh said a previously unknown manhole was discovered while the city was receiving a demonstration by a company from Florida.
“It was a buried manhole and we had no idea there was even a structure there,” he said.
As more and more video would be shot of Columbia City’s sewer lines, an increasingly accurate layout of the town’s entire underground infrastructure could become a reality.
“The mapping system of our sewers is not really accurate,” Cearbaugh said.
The 40-pound unit shoots digital video and sends the image wirelessly to a monitor above ground. A sensor on the ground plots exactly where the camera is and the location of the line or structure can be plotted and included in the Global Positioning System (GPS).
The business end of the camera can reach 1,000 feet from the entry point via the system’s cable.
Cearbaugh added that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is becoming more and more supportive, if not insistent, on the use of cameras to detect problems or map sewers.
The board members present, Mayor Jim Fleck and Roger Seymoure, Walt Crowder was absent, were receptive to the idea.
Cearbaugh will proceed with taking quotes on video systems.
Fleck touted the potential economics of having such a system which could reduce the amount of manhours looking for underground structures and could detect sewer breaks before they happen.
“Let’s keep it moving,” Fleck said. “I think there will be savings there. This could be very prudent.”
In other board business, the panel:
• Approved signage for Auto Body Columbia City. The directional sign is slated to be placed near the intersection of Ellsworth and South Washington streets.
• Approved a certificate of substantial completion for Ironclad Excavating for stormwater improvement at Jeffrey Drive and Holden Road. The board approved payment to Ironclad of $38,207.36
• Approved payment of $544,339.40 to Bowen Engineering regarding the LTCP Phase IIA City of Columbia City Equalization Basin and Interceptor Sewer.
• Heard an update from Police Chief Michael Petersen on the purchase of two new police cars. Further action was postponed until after next Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
• Heard from Larry Whetstone on the progress of street light installation in the city.
• Received a report from Mike Cook, Superintendent of the Water Pollution Control Facility on the progress of one of his lift stations which just received several new pumps and valves. The station has been up and running smoothly with the new parts for about a week, Cook said.

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