By Dan Story
Selecting the correct accessories will maximize cleaning while minimizing water use, tank refills, labor, and headaches.
For sewer pipe maintenance professionals, having the right tool for the job is essential to meet heavy workloads and resolve difficult cleaning challenges such as stubborn obstructions. Although purchasing a well-equipped vacuum truck is essential in this effort, so is the selection of the proper accessories, tools that can take their performance to another level and save considerable time, labor, and water resources.
Industry expert and consultant on vacuum sewer trucks Matthew Woods, VP of Sales and Marketing at Haaker Equipment, offers some of his top accessory choices and insights among the available categories of accessories. According to Woods, these accessories are essential to help vacuum sewer truck crews perform better and faster while handling some of the most difficult challenges in the field.
“The value of having the right accessory for the job cannot be overlooked in terms of operating safely, quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively,” says Woods. Haaker Equipment is a dealer of vacuum sewer trucks, sewer cleaners, pipe inspection equipment, and parking lot sweepers for the contractor, municipal, and industrial sectors in California, Nevada, and Arizona.
Accessory #1: Nozzles
As industry professionals understand, hose nozzles are some of the most important tools on vacuum sewer trucks and are used daily as the primary method of cleaning sewer, storm, and sanitary lines. Nozzles direct pressurized water to clear out obstructions such as silt, sludge, grease, and mineral buildup as part of required maintenance or to prepare pipes for re-lining.
Although nozzles with many configurations are used, the industry rates nozzles in three tiers based on efficiency: Tier 1 (approximately 30 percent efficient), Tier 2 (50 to 60 percent efficient), and Tier 3 (75 to 98 percent efficient). Most sewer vacuum trucks typically are outfitted with several Tier 2 nozzles, which are adequate for some jobs.
However, with the industry looking for more effective ways to conserve valuable (and expensive) water resources, companies like Haaker recommend purchasing higher efficiency nozzles with every vacuum sewer truck.
“Each vacuum truck comes with three Tier 2 nozzles, but we regularly recommend stepping up to a Tier-3 nozzle,” says Woods. “The ultra-efficient Tier 3 nozzles play a key role as fresh water becomes scarcer because the nozzles provide more efficient fluid mechanics to prevent the waste of water (GPM) and reduce operating pressures (PSI).”
“Today, most vacuum trucks are still filled with clean, treated, fluoridated drinking water [from hydrants], which is an increasingly costly resource to put down a sewer line to clean it,” adds Woods.
Among the Tier 3 nozzles he commonly recommends are models which provide up to 98 percent efficiency. The Tier 3 nozzles are more efficient and offer tight water patterns that efficiently clean the pipe wall and create a powerful water stream to move debris long distances and propel the nozzle.
“With a more effective Tier 3 nozzle, operators will get better performance and clean more pipe using less water. They will be able to clean more square footage of sewer line with the water available on the truck,” says Woods.
Reducing water also saves costs by eliminating unnecessary extra trips to refill the truck’s water tank and keeps crews effectively on task.
Accessory #2: Sewer Line Cameras
Having a camera or nozzle-camera can help operators assess pipe condition without a CCTV truck. A camera is often necessary to not only locate pipe offsets, collapses, and infiltration but also avoid obstacles that could trap a nozzle. Video or photo documentation of before-and-after pipe condition is advantageous to ensure the pipe is completely free of obstructions.
“Without using a camera, sewer truck operators are going into the pipe ‘blind’ and do not know what is down there or what they are cleaning,” says Woods. “It is much easier for crews to clean once they identify what is going on inside the pipe. With this information, the operator can apply the right tool or technique and speed completion of the job.
According to Woods, a pole-mounted camera can be used to quickly assess sewer lines from an adjoining manhole to determine if they need cleaning, repair, or further inspection. Wi-Fi wireless control and video eliminates cables and allows live video sharing on multiple devices.
“The pole-mounted camera makes it easier, faster, and more affordable for crews to quickly assess the sewer condition. It allows the prioritizing and allocating of resource-intensive inspection and cleaning crews, to keep the operation running smoothly,” says Woods.
To further simplify inspection further down the sewer line, some manufacturers in the industry have developed camera nozzles that capture video while cleaning. Woods points to a camera-nozzle system that provides operators the ability to clean sewer and storm lines while recording upright high-definition video. The device has a self-leveling camera head and provides its own illumination. Only a jetter hose connection is required — no cables or wires. The camera captures the video in memory and the files are automatically date- and time-stamped for later downloading by Wi-Fi to mobile devices or PCs for viewing.
“During routine cleaning, the nozzle-camera captures video that can show if there are roots in the pipe that should be removed before they even become a problem. If the roots cannot be removed by the action of the nozzle itself, an operator can go back in later with a chain cutter,” says Woods.
Accessory #3: Chain Cutters
When sewer or storm lines become blocked, tree root growth is often the cause. Blockages can also occur due to accumulated hard mineral deposits, grease, silt, or debris.
When a severe blockage is identified, chain cutter nozzles might be required. Most are hydraulically powered, which reduces the overall cost of the unit, but many supply sufficient power or torque to cut through heavy roots or hard mineral deposits. In some cases, the unit can stall or seize up.
Chain cutter nozzles that utilize water pressure are more efficient and can deliver the required torque to cut through thick masses. In this approach, high-pressure water enters the chain cutter nozzle chamber and is directed to spin the cutting chains at high velocity.
As an example, Woods points to a powerful chain cutter that has a high-speed, high-torque, water-driven design. The chain cutter can eliminate heavy root blockages as well as scale, rust, mineral deposits, hardened grease, and even protruding taps such as concrete and cast iron. The chain cutter is designed for use in offsets, pipe rips, and protruding taps.
Accessory #4: Sewer Maintenance Tools
Another valuable addition to the accessory list is the broader category of general “tools” that simplify tasks and improve efficiency. This includes items such as manhole hooks/picks, telescoping claws, sewer brushes, debris baskets, tubing transition couplers, vac-traps, and the like.
“For sewer cleaning and maintenance, there are many special tools and accessories that crews use on a daily basis that facilitate safety and productivity,” says Woods.
For a variety of sewer maintenance accessories and equipment, dealers like Haaker Equipment provide specialized sewer cleaning tools for vacuum trucks and municipalities.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line for sewer pipe maintenance professionals is that having the right accessories can significantly improve the speed and quality of cleaning by any work crew, while conserving water.
With so much to gain, cleaning crews are advised to spend the time and energy investing in the accessories they need. Those that seek out best-in-class options and use them effectively to complement the vacuum sewer truck itself will enjoy dramatically improved performance and productivity.
Dan Story is Operations Manager at KEG Technologies (www.kegtechnologies.net), a manufacturer of sewer and storm line products including nozzles, chain cutters, and camera nozzle systems.