Michael Vargo, technical consultant for Prime Resins, sat down with Water Online Radio for this live interview from the show floor at WEFTEC 2011 in Los Angeles. Vargo discussed the issue of I&I (inflow and infiltration) into water systems and how Prime Resins’ epoxy and polyurethane solutions can help. Listen or read on to learn more.
Todd Schnick: We are back, broadcasting live from the Los Angeles Convention Center and the tradeshow floor of WEFTEC. I'm Todd Schnick, joined by my co-host, Todd Youngblood. We are kicking off hour seven with a flurry.
Todd Youngblood: Let's say hour seven, day two with a flurry.
Todd Schnick: Hour seven of day two and, boy, we're having a great time.
Todd Youngblood: I'm noticing some people that have wandered by yesterday are wandering back by again today.
Todd Schnick: I'm sure it is because of me.
Todd Youngblood: It's because of the guest.
Todd Schnick: It probably is because of the guest. Speaking of him, let's get on to our guest. We're joined today by a technical consultant with Prime Resins, Michael Vargo. Welcome to Water Online Radio.
Michael Vargo: Thank you. Glad to be here.
Todd Schnick: Michael, before we get into a conversation, why don't you take a few minutes and just walk us through who you are, your background, and tell us about Prime Resins.
Michael Vargo: Okay. Well, Prime Resins is a manufacturer of epoxy and polyurethane resins. We're headquartered in Conyers, GA, which is just outside of Atlanta, and a most of our products deal with the repair and restoration of concrete structures: tunnels, dams, manholes, utility vaults…things like that.
Todd Youngblood: Michael, what kind of trends do you see in the water/wastewater industry that are capturing your attention?
Michael Vargo: Well, the new mantra, I guess, is doing more with less. We’re seeing people trying to be more effective with the manpower and the dollars that they have, and obviously repair and restoration is a big part of that as they try to maintain the systems since they are not building new systems.
Todd Youngblood: And what kind of things are you doing to help your customers address those trends?
Michael Vargo: Well, mainly in this market we deal a lot with issues dealing with I&I, infiltration and inflow. So we're dealing with stopping water leaks. So in the manholes, in the pipeline systems, trying to keep that excess groundwater from coming into the systems and then also flowing to the treatment plants and help them save money by not having to have that additional capacity.
Todd Schnick: Michael, help the professionals in the Water Online community, the thousands of them, better understand the true value of what you deliver to your customers by sharing a very specific example of a recent win or a victory that you achieved on behalf of one of your customers?
Michael Vargo: We've got a customer in the Midwest – a decent-sized system – and they're very proactive in dealing with their I&I issues: they've done the studies, they know where the problems are. So they’re actively going in and addressing those issues.
One of the issues we found is, obviously, they struggle for money; but in their studies, they did some flow monitoring and we sealed some leaks. Some of the payback periods they were getting ranged from four or five days payback on some of the heavy flows of water, to maybe three or four months. So the payback is very quick in a lot of cases.
Todd Youngblood: Well, I mean, you're talking about four or five days…that's really impressive. And then you stretch to what I thought was going to be the long payback period of four or five months. It sounds like the repairs can pay for themselves…to really avoid the need for a capital investment in replacing things?
Michael Vargo: That's right, they can. And one of the advantages with dealing with the infiltration issues is, it's generally the first step. So even if you’ve got a major rehab project coming where you may have to replace pipe, do some pipe bursting, maybe reline a section of pipe with an impregnated liner, generally the first step is stopping that infiltration so those repairs can be made.
Now, if the pipe’s structurally sound and the issue is infiltration, grouting will take care of that. Then you don’t necessarily need to line it. I see a lot of pipe get lined that don’t need to be lined. All they need to do is get the joints sealed to stop that water infiltration. Structurally, the pipe’s in good shape – it’s just the infiltration issue. And that can be fixed very economically.
Todd Schnick: The EPA is putting an awful lot of pressure on municipalities. How are you seeing the water/wastewater market adjusting and dealing with that?
Michael Vargo: Again, you have got a lot of municipalities that are working under an EPA consent decree, just due to the infiltration. You get a rain event, the plant gets overloaded with infiltration, groundwater coming in. So the days of bypass pumping and pumping into a creek or stream are gone.
They’ve got to build either a collection facility to handle it, or they’ve got to stop the infiltration. So as a deal with this infiltration, it eliminates the need for those large capital outlays.
Todd Youngblood: Michael, I just want to clarify. Are we talking strictly about wastewater here, or are we talking about potable water as well?
Michael Vargo: No, we can deal with potable water. Normally you don’t have the infiltration issues on potable water, but they do have issues in the treatment facilities. The tanks and the basins, they may have cracks or failed water stops and they’re actually losing water. And we also deal a lot with the irrigation districts. Here out in the West, you’ve got a lot of irrigation districts, and water is a commodity to them.
They make money for every gallon of water they sell. If they’re losing it through the joints and through defects in their system, then that’s water that they don’t get revenue for.
Todd Youngblood: All right, so you’re right back to the economic piece of it again.
Michael Vargo: Yes.
Todd Youngblood: What is the rehab market? Where do you see it going in the next couple of years?
Michael Vargo: Definitely going upward. New construction has pretty much come to a standstill. So we’re seeing everybody trying to hobble their system together and keep it going as best they can.
So for us in the rehab market, we’ve actually had a very good couple of years, mainly because of the lack of new construction. So we’re a good step in trying to improve the system they’ve got.
Todd Schnick: With all the different players in this industry and all of the interactions of different technologies, how important is collaboration in what you’re doing and how do go about doing that?
Michael Vargo: The collaboration comes in working with either the municipality directly or working with the engineering community. As I mentioned earlier, generally stopping the leaks is the first step in some projects, or larger projects where they’re, again, doing pipe bursting to upsize pipe, or lining a pipe, increasing capacity. Stopping the infiltration is one of the first steps. So we’re a link in that process.
Todd Schnick: Prime Resins is exhibiting at WEFTEC, yes?
Michael Vargo: Yes, we are here.
Todd Schnick: What is your principle objective by attending an event like this?
Michael Vargo: Our goal is to help educate the community and obviously showcase our products. Prime Flex 900 XLV is a great product for stopping leaks and it’s potable water/NSF 61 certified.
We’re just trying to increase the awareness of the products we have and some of the capabilities. I think grouting to some people is a mystery. It’s an unknown. So the more we can educate the customer base, then the better everybody’s served.
Todd Youngblood: You know, Todd, “education” – that word has come up over and over and over as we’re doing these interviews here. Michael, is that something you find your customers coming to you, saying “Teach me, teach me,” or are you really going out to them saying, “Hey, here’s something you really need to know about, something that I can help you learn?
Michael Vargo: It’s a lot of both. As an example, we had a training class at our corporate campus last week and we had people from four different countries as well as throughout the U.S., coming to learn about the technologies on how to use our products, how to apply the products.
So, yes, education works twofold, whether we go to them or they come to us. And one of the advantages that we offer at Prime Resins, we do offer on-site technical support.
So we go out into the field, work with the customer, work with the engineer, to help design a method that make sense, that’s doable. A lot of times what looks good on paper doesn’t necessarily work when you get out in the field. So we can provide that that backup and the support – both to the engineering community and to the municipalities themselves – to ensure the success of the repair.
Todd Schnick: Michael, I’m afraid we’re out of time. Before I let you go, two things: one, Todd and I live in Atlanta, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to cross pass there; two, share with the audience how they can contact Prime Resins and learn more about the good works that you’re doing?
Michael Vargo: Okay. Our website is a great resource and it’s www.primeresins.com. We’ve got videos and tech datasheets there, a lot of good information. Our phone number there is 770-388-0626. If you want to call us up and ask to speak with somebody, we’ll be happy to assist you as best we can.
Todd Schnick: Michael Vargo, it was a pleasure having you. Thanks for joining us today.
Michael Vargo: Thank you.
Todd Youngblood: Thanks, Michael.
Todd Schnick: Okay, that wraps this segment. On behalf of Todd Youngblood, I’m Todd Schnick. Water Online Radio will be right back.