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It makes no difference whether a property is a private home or a large industrial facility: anyone generating wastewater is obliged by law to have their pipes checked regularly for leaks and to have this work documented. A perfect job for the experts at BUCHEN’s sewer service division who are able to shed light into the darkest of corners thanks to their state-of-the-art technology.
BUCHEN’s sewer service division and its staff focus exclusively on professionally cleaning, inspecting and checking for leaks in sewer pipes, drainage systems and other pipe networks as well as oil/fuel and fat separators, collecting tanks and household pipe connections. The company’s three businesses in Köln-Niehl, Duisburg and Karlsruhe have a total of 14 special vehicles equipped with cutting-edge CCTV technology to perform these specialist tasks. Their technology includes, for example, mobile camera systems, which can be attached to a variety of robotic crawlers and guided through the pipes by remote control or – if the robotic crawlers are too wide – pushed through the pipes. As the camera makes its way along the drains and pipes, it films the pipe network, digitally recording any damage so that the condition of the surface can be assessed.
14 sewer service vehicles equipped with cutting-edge CCTV technology are available to inspect sewers and manholes
BUCHEN’s sewer service division in Cologne recently acquired a state-of-the-art 3D optical scanner which allows the condition of manholes and other vertical structures to be assessed in a completely new way. Attached to a special camera cable, it can be lowered into the manhole. As it slowly moves upwards, it automatically takes individual images of the surface (every 5 centimetres) which are then transformed by computer into a three-dimensional image. The result is an extremely detailed picture of the inside of the manhole which enables the operatives to make an exact analysis of the general state of the structure. This technology has considerably shortened the time needed for damage assessment projects: in the past this work could only be done by operatives climbing into a manhole wearing extensive safety equipment and manually collecting the data themselves. Depending on the quality of the wastewater, they sometimes had to put on full protection suits and use breathing apparatus.
This camera technology should always be operated by experienced CCTV inspectors as they alone know how to get the most out of it. They not only have to guide the camera through the pipes from their computer workstation in the sewer inspection vehicle, they must also spot any damage to the surface of the drains or sewers and compile a detailed report. It is only possible to get a realistic picture of the overall state of the structure if the images are analysed correctly. Such work requires high levels of concentration, specialist knowledge and a trained eye. “All our CCTV inspectors have taken part in excellent training courses and have many years’ experience of doing this work which means the services we deliver are of a correspondingly high quality. This is also underlined by the fact that external engineering firms and assessors regularly use the results of our surveys to plan renovation projects,” commented Bernd Engelhardt, manager of the sewer service division at the company’s Köln-Niehl branch.
“The really difficult cases are not a problem for us either.“
Bernd Engelhardt, sewer service division manager
He and his colleagues believe that BUCHEN’s portfolio of cleaning, inspection and leakage test services provides a number of other advantages as well. “Over the years, our company has built up a reputation of being a top quality cleaning specialist. And as the sewer pipes always have to be cleaned before they are inspected, we can combine these two services for practically every project. We have an extremely versatile set-up.” The company is even able to take on complex projects involving long stretches of sewer pipes up to 400 metres in length or clean pipes with a large diameter or an unusual shape by using its specialist technology. “And the really difficult cases – for example when an operative needs to enter the sewer to carry out manual work – are not a problem for us either as we have the equipment to cover every possible situation,” Bernd Engelhardt continued.
No matter how experienced and skilled the operatives may be or how well the sewers and drains may have been cleaned, it is not possible to detect the really small leaks or notice when seals are very slightly damaged. To rule these out, therefore, leak tests are always carried out once the inspection or renovation work has been completed. Air or water is pumped into the pipes to enable a pressure test to be performed. Diverse DIN EN standards stipulate exactly how such tests need to be executed which means they, too, have to be done by trained and qualified specialists.
Just how often pipe networks need to be inspected depends on their potential danger and the size of the business. Major plants such as industrial, chemical and petrochemical facilities or electricity providers are subject to the ‘VAwS’ (Federal ordinance regulating facilities handling substances hazardous to water). These regulations are particularly stringent as environmentally hazardous substances sometimes flow through their wastewater networks. Such systems have to be checked for leaks every five years. Tests at industrial facilities often involve highly sensitive equipment – for example light liquid, fuel and fat separators where the inlet pipes also need to be tested. A further example are the oil-cooled transformers at large substations. These stand on collection basins and are connected to separators. The whole of such pipe systems must be inspected every five years and include a leak test.
The second large group of customers served by BUCHEN’s sewer service division are businesses that own property covering more than three hectares. Since 1995, companies in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia falling into this category must have all their drainage and sewer pipes checked by specialists. Their third group of customers are private households – as home owners must also have their wastewater systems checked at certain intervals. The same applies to new build homes as well as to homes that have been renovated or undergone major conversion work. The local bylaws stipulate how long the owners have to commission such inspection work which depends on whether the property is in a water conservation area or not.
The law stipulates that sewer and drainage systems must be inspected by specialists at regular intervals – and this applies to both major industrial businesses as well as to private homes.
It often makes good business sense for large industrial facilities with extensive pipe and sewer networks to arrange a framework service agreement with a company to carry out such work, as the networks have to be checked regularly and within relatively short periods of time due to the stringent environmental regulations. The CCTV inspection teams need several weeks, or in some cases months, to complete their tasks at large plants. In contrast, pipe inspections at detached homes are normally wrapped up within three to four hours – including the cleaning work. Bernd Engelhardt concluded: “No matter whether you own a home or a major industrial facility: we are the right port of call for every kind of inspection project.”
The BUCHEN team can now perform additional tasks thanks to its new 3D optical scanner system: not only inspections below ground but now also high up in the air. The camera is perfect for assessing the condition of industrial chimneys. Their latest project: the three chimneys at the central heating plant at the exhibition centre in Cologne.