Selling Customers on Trenchless Methods

Contractors, engineers need to be proactive when it comes to explaining ways a project can be handled without open-cut methods

Selling Customers on Trenchless Methods

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How to communicate to municipalities and utilities about the benefits of using trenchless repair methods over open-cut is one of the ongoing struggles contractors in this industry face. It’s a topic being discussed by attendees of the NASTT No-Dig Show in Chicago this week. 

“Open-cut is generally the default when a municipality wants to start a project, but what we try to do is come up with solutions that are less disruptive,” says Shaun McKaigue, president and CEO of FER-PAL Infrastructure, a contractor with offices in Ontario, Michigan and Illinois specializing in CIPP for waterline rehabilitation. The company also does mortar lining, pipe splitting and pipe bursting.

“We’ve pretty much covered all the methodologies you could try,” McKaigue says. “We do approximately 250,000 feet of pipe repairs a year.”

He says that most of the communities his firm steps into for a first time always start by looking at open-cut methods, which can be more costly because of the scope of equipment and size of the job site that is necessary. Many contractors agree, saying that the toughest part about proposing a trenchless method is explaining to the customer how much more beneficial it is to a community. 

“Instead of ripping up the entire road to put in new pipe, we could easily be doing it with just an entry pit and an exit pit,” says Art Gallow, a directional drilling contractor near Washington D.C. “The tough part is explaining to the municipalities what trenchless is. Even today.”

The city of Pacifica, California, knew it couldn’t do an open-cut method on its project — replacing 16,000 feet of a sewer main. The sewer mains in Pacifica run through the backyards of residents in much of the city. 

“There was going to be no way we could get in there with heavy equipment and just start tearing up backyards,” says Jeffrey Tarantino of Freyer & Laureta, the engineering firm working with the city. “We proposed pipe bursting from the start, knowing it would be easier and more cost-effective.”

Crews still had to do some tearing up and reconstruction of backyards, but not as much as there could have been with open-cut methods. 

“When you have to start tearing up backyards and then having to pay for restoration of those yards and gardens and that stuff, it can add up,” says Philip Howery, utility systems operations manager for the Tulsa Water and Sewer Department in Oklahoma. “We’re always looking for trenchless methods first.”

Tulsa is another community where the sewer mains run through the backyards of residents. 

“It doesn’t matter where the water or sewer mains run, trenchless should be one of the first methods proposed these days,” says Corey Meiter, a contractor in Kansas. “The costs go down most of the time and it’s much better for the environment. It’s time we start pushing our methods more.” 


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