Can-Do Attitude of Youngstown, Ohio, Collection System Crew Helps City Comply With Tough Environmental Mandates

April 14, 2004
In March 2002, the City of Youngstown, OH, announced an agreement with federal and Ohio EPA authorities to develop a long-term sewage discharge control plan that would result in significant benefit to the environment. The agreement created a schedule for the city to follow in order to eliminate direct discharges of sewage and sewer overflow near the area known as Mill Creek Park, replace two pump stations, and make significant improvement to operation and maintenance of the sewer system.The first project scheduled under the plan was the cleaning and inspection of 11 sections of a 60-inch-diameter sewer interceptor. The project scope was larger than anything the Youngstown staff had ever encountered, and they needed to decide whether to contract the work out or keep it in-house.It appeared that the easy solution was to contract the project out. However, Lou Zorella, catch-basin supervisor for the City of Youngstown, had a different opinion. Zorella approached Lawrence Gurlea, Youngstown’s superintendent for wastewater plants, with the idea that the city’s crew could complete the project with the addition of some new equipment and support. Gurlea was cautious. “I knew we had a timetable to meet, and it was crunch time,” he says. “There would be fines assessed if we didn’t meet our deadline. Plus, it would require us to set aside other projects.” He was, however, willing to investigate the possibilities.
For the city crew to complete the project, several pieces of new equipment needed to be purchased. The city had taken delivery of a new Vactor 2110 about 12 months earlier, and Zorella was concerned that the length and demands of the interceptor project could potentially cause this new unit to burn out. With Gurlea’s help, the city’s engineering department agreed that if the existing Vactor truck was burned out as a result of the project, the department could purchase another. In addition, because of the money saved (approximately $500,000) by performing the work in-house versus on-contract, the department also received approval to purchase a new CCTV inspection vehicle. After additional discussion and assessment by the department, Zorella and his crew were given the green light to bring the project in-house. Zorella and Gurlea called upon Karl Dickinson of Jack Doheny Supplies in Twinsburg, OH, to assist them with the assessment and procurement of the additional equipment needed for the project. Doheny Supplies is part of the State of Ohio Cooperative Bidding Program, which made purchasing streamlined and efficient for Youngstown. In addition, Doheny’s service center was a short distance away, and having access to same-day service was critical to meeting project deadlines. The city acquired a snorkel kit for more efficient underwater cleaning and a bulldozer nozzle by ENZ USA. After the first interceptor project was completed, the city also took delivery of two bucket machines by Sewer Equipment Company of America and a Pearpoint CCTV inspection vehicle equipped with a mainline inspection system, including dual tractors and flexidata pipe survey reporting software. Training was a critical factor to the success of Zorella’s crew. Dickinson recalls, “They attacked the project with a can-do attitude, and they were going to succeed and do a better job than anybody else could do with their sewers. Equipment was important, but even more critical was the training and support. They took full advantage of all the training and specialized services available from Doheny.” The Doheny staff worked very closely with Youngstown to help its crew learn how to more efficiently clean pipe, conduct TV inspections, and get top performance from all of its equipment.Case in point: At the beginning of the interceptor-cleaning project, a crew of three was required when utilizing the Vactor truck. This was of concern to Gurlea, as one of the crew members was there just to turn a fire hydrant off and on for the water supply to the truck. The crew was using a fire hose because, at the typical volume of 80 gal/min, the tank supply would be used up very quickly–approximately every 15 minutes. The tank couldn’t be pressurized because any overflows onto the ground in cold weather could become a hazard. A better solution to controlling the water flow was needed. Zorella called Dan Coley, Doheny general manager, and asked him if there was a way to get the job done and keep the water flowing but do it with a crew of only two. Coley went to the job site and came up with a simple, cost-effective solution–an on/off switch could be added to the truck. The switch would work on a float so when the tank was full, it would trigger a valve that would leave the fire hose pressurized but not the tank, thereby alleviating the need for the third crew member for water control. The Project The Mill Creek interceptor sections were at least 60 years old and had never been cleaned or inspected to Gurlea’s knowledge. They were deep off-road, and temporary roads had to be cut in to give access for the equipment. The project commenced in October 2001 with a completion due date of June 30, 2002. It was determined that the crew would need to spend 40 hr/wk on the project and that it would take a full six months but would not require overtime. The sections run parallel along the river and lie between two sets of siphons. One set goes under Mill Creek and the other under the Mahoning River. The siphons are comprised of twin 20-inch barrels. The set going under the Mahoning (downstream) was partially obstructed, allowing large amounts of sediment to back up into the interceptor line–all the way to the upstream siphon set. Maximum production was vital to meet the target date, and the project required a great deal of patience. “Some days, I’d get a call from the crew that they had only completed 30 feet but got a truckload [a 9-yard box] out of that small area,” Zorella explains. To keep production levels at a maximum, Doheny outfitted the Vactor with an underwater vacuum air-induction system that allowed the crew to pull heavier volumes of material underwater more efficiently. When the truck could not be used, such as with deep underwater situations, bucket machines were put into production. During the course of the work, the crew had to replace several jet and vacuum hoses, which was anticipated. The debris collection process was like a sand-blasting effect to the hose. The crew procured a few extra but before putting them into service sent them to Michigan to be hard-coated, which increased the life of the hoses. At the project’s on-time conclusion, the team had completed the 11 required sections, for a total of 2,600 feet, and extracted 575 tons of material. Gurlea relates, “This project couldn’t have happened without the dedication of everyone involved. We had a lot of help from our vendor and our employees, who weren’t afraid to experiment and try new things.”Future EffortsThe equipment additions will certainly be earning their keep as Youngstown moves forward with its aggressive maintenance program to eliminate overflows. By taking a proactive approach, the Mill Creek interceptor and other areas of the system will now be much easier to maintain. As with the interceptor project, the bulk of the collection-systems work done by the city is off-road, so its new Pearpoint inspection system was outfitted in a 4×4 offroad-capable vehicle. With the addition of this vehicle, the city can effectively develop a routine TV inspection program of its entire system and keep the work in-house. Prior to acquiring the new Pearpoint system, which is tractor-based with a full pan and tilt camera, the city had a camera that it had to pull with a winch system. “The new system requires less crew and setup equipment; you just send two guys out, and at the end of the day they can bring you back the reports you need,” Zorella says. The city also has “gone digital” for the collection of the TV inspection survey data. Out in the field and back in the office, Youngstown is utilizing flexidata pipe survey reporting software with its CCTV system. The software provides printed reports along with a digital video survey on DVD/CD with digital links to defect observations. “Going this route is very helpful,” says Zorella. “I can bring the reports to my supervisor and show him instantly on the CD where the problems are and what we need to address. Plus, now instead of having to dig through piles of tapes and find the source of a problem, I can call our assistant pretreatment coordinator in the office from out in the field and he can bring up the information in flexidatawithin minutes and let me know what my crew is dealing with.” In addition, the reports generated will be beneficial for Youngstown when dealing with EPA, as they will provide an ongoing written record of the program’s progress and compliance with the mandated agreement.The city is also using its camera system for root-sawing projects. By following the root cutter with the camera, the crew is able to verify that the roots have been removed sufficiently, and if something has been missed, a quick radio call to the operator can pinpoint uncut areas that can then be addressed.
Currently, the crew is working on another major cleaning and inspection project in the Sugar Creek area that is similar to but much smaller than the Mill Creek interceptor project. The compliance mandate was met, and the program is a success. “We are fortunate to work with a city team like Youngstown,” says Coley. “They want to do the best job that they can for the city that they serve. It was exciting to work with a team who was determined to succeed. We wanted to make sure that they did because their enthusiasm and commitment spread to everyone involved. This was a tough challenge, and they met it head on. We congratulate them on a job well done.”

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