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Aug 14

Finding a better way: DOT Sewer Repair Section rises to the challenge

Posted on August 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Communications Office

Maintenance Supervisor Jesse AlvarezAs a lifelong San José resident and City employee for 14 years, Maintenance Supervisor Jesse Alvarez is committed to finding innovative solutions that save time and money and avoid community disruption when it comes to repairing sewer lines.

Repairing a sewer line is not an easy task. The system is underground so repairs start with breaking up asphalt and digging a trench as deep as 20 feet to reach the pipe. Once the pipe is exposed, crews cut away the damaged section and install a new section. After the repair, crews fill in the trench and restore the area and pavement.

Pipe repairs can be anywhere, ranging from a resident’s backyard to the middle of a busy intersection. During the repair, sewer service may be disrupted and traffic could be restricted from a few hours to a few days. The work is often disruptive, costly, hazardous, and labor intensive.Jesse shared, “We had one situation where we had to send guys into the trench, digging for two days.” This motivated Jesse to look for alternate methods.

A few months ago, Jesse and his team had to repair a very large pipeline in Alum Rock Avenue that serves thousands of residents. Because of the scale and location, this repair job was expected to require several days and a big crew. The job would require stopping and rerouting sewer flow, closing a traffic lane, and blocking a pedestrian walkway.

He used this opportunity to test a process that he had read about known as “Cured In Place Piping” (CIPP) spot repair. This trenchless technology does not require excavation, and crews don’t need to climb into a trench to make repairs. Instead, a special machine with a camera is placed in the sewer pipe, repair material is added, and pressure is applied within the pipe itself. With this new technology, the repair crew can complete two to three sewer main repair jobs per day, with no disruption to residents and no physical strain on employees. It saves time and money that would normally be required for a conventional open trench repair. Once tested and determined a success, administrative staff was able to move forward with using the technology elsewhere.

When Jesse is asked how he feels about the new method, he replied with a smile, “It’s nice we don’t have to inconvenience residents. We don’t have to dig up anyone’s property.” The repair is now so smooth, “it’s like residents don’t even know where we’re doing the repairs.”

Not only were there cost savings but the team’s problem solving skills demonstrated their concern for our community and for the safety of others. Kudos to Jesse and his co-workers for finding a better way to minimize the potential disruptive and costly side effects of a traditional sewer repair!

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