From Years of Experience Come Innovative Solutions

California-based Express Sewer & Drain uses directional drill to help separate laterals for area businesses
From Years of Experience Come Innovative Solutions
An Express Sewer & Drain employee works on a pipe bursting project.

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Just about any contractor can learn how to run machines effectively and efficiently. But figuring out how to use equipment to solve customers’ problems with innovative solutions is what separates a good company from the rest of the pack, says Bill Heinselman, the founder, owner and president of Express Sewer & Drain in Rancho Cordova, California.

“That’s why having properly trained employees to identify problems correctly and provide the proper solutions is so important,” Heinselman says. “One thing that our customers like about us is that they can call us with problems and we come up with solutions for them.”

A recent job offers a good case in point. A customer called because a clogged lateral line was backing up sewage into his business. As it turned out, that business was hooked up to the same lateral as an adjacent business. “We had to separate the (lateral) lines,” Heinselman explains.

But a big obstacle loomed: A road that runs behind the two businesses had just been repaved, and a state law imposes a 5-year moratorium on tearing up newly paved roads. In extreme cases, roads can be torn up, but then contractors must follow strict guidelines — including repaving far beyond where the work occurs — that make projects prohibitively expensive because of the high cost of labor and asphalt, he notes.

But Express Sewer developed a novel solution. In a typical pipe-bursting job, workers string a cable through a host pipe, then use that cable to pull through a pipe-bursting head that breaks up the pipe and pulls in a new PVC lateral line. But since there was no lateral line to serve as a host pipe in this case, workers instead used a Ditch Witch directional-drilling machine to run the pipe-bursting cable underground from the building out to a manhole that, as luck would have it, was located in the road, directly across from the building.

“Then we cored a hole in the manhole wall and set up our pipe-bursting equipment inside the manhole,” Heinselman explained. “After that, we pulled a new 6-inch-diameter, 60- or 70-foot-long lateral into the manhole.

“By thinking outside the box, we effectively rerouted the one building’s sewer line by running a cable through dirt instead of through a host pipe, then used the pipe-bursting equipment to pull in a new line,” he says.

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