Tackling Tough Wastewater Projects

Wisconsin contractor builds its reputation serving the municipal market.

Tackling Tough Wastewater Projects

Great Lakes TV Seal owners Greg Healy (left) and his brother Brett Healy, with some of their crew around a Vactor 2100 Plus Water Recycling System truck.  

Great Lakes TV Seal readily goes to extremes to serve its municipal customers, even if it means inspecting underwater sewer lines via barges and boats or using all-terrain vehicles to transport portable inspection systems through swamplands.

“That’s one of our niches — doing jobs that other people won’t do,” says Brett Healy, 45, who co-owns the Green Bay, Wisconsin-based company with his brother, Greg. “We look at jobs as challenges, and before you know it, you’re home — the time just flies. The key is finding and enjoying the challenges in what you’re doing. It’s either in your blood or it’s not.”

That can-do philosophy, coupled with a strong emphasis on professionalism and continual investments in new technology has served the company well since Healy’s father and mother, Jeff and Denice Healy, bought it in 1984.

Moreover, the company’s customer base expanded to include the entire state of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with a clientele consisting mainly of municipalities that need pipeline inspections, cleaning and rehabilitation.

Based on need

Jeff Healy took a two-pronged approach to new technology, and his sons have followed suit. The first focused on buying new equipment based on customers’ needs. “We wanted to be a one-stop shop — never be in a position where we have to tell a customer we can’t do something,” Brett Healy says. “If we see a customer that has an issue, it gives us a reason to make a technology leap right then and there.”

The second prong is centered on spotting new technology and creating a niche market for it. As an example, Healy cites the company’s investment in pipeline inspection cameras with pan-and-tilt capability when that technology first emerged in the market. “Dad knew that once engineers saw these cameras’ capabilities, they’d start to spec it in contracts,” he says. “He has great business instincts.”

Manhole rehabilitation provides a good example of how Great Lakes TV Seal prepares to capitalize on new trends. They noticed that as cities worked to reduce their inflow and infiltration, there was less air movement and water flow in sewers. That subsequently led to higher levels of hydrogen sulfide, which hastened the deterioration of concrete manholes and sewer lines.

“We saw pipes and manholes deteriorating, so we did our due diligence on technology,” Healy explains, which led to services such as epoxy coatings for manholes. “Every one of our services was pretty much spawned that way. We aren’t afraid to pay more for the best equipment,” he notes. “Dad preached to us for years that people will pay for quality, so don’t cheapen up equipment or services.”

Building the fleet

For inspecting pipelines, Great Lakes TV Seal relies on 10 camera trucks featuring systems (including lateral-launch equipment) made by Aries Industries, Cobra Technologies (Trio-Vision) and RapidView IBAK North America; three Aries Industries grout trucks capable of rehabbing mainline pipes up to 30 inches in diameter; three Vactor 2100 Plus combination vacuum trucks; three waterjetting trucks featuring jetter units made by FMC Technologies, SRECO Flexible and Aquatech (Hi-Vac); a PipeHunter trailer jetter built by Texas Underground; and an easement machine made by KWMI.

“When we have to go through backyards or golf courses to get to interceptor lines for cleaning and we don’t want to disturb grass lawns, we use the easement machine,” Healy explains. “A lot of times the manholes on those (remote) interceptor lines are 1,000 feet apart. They usually go through swamps, so the fewer manholes, the better. Our trucks carry 800 feet of 1-inch-diameter hose, and the easement machine carries another 950 feet. We send out the easement machine while the vac truck still supplies the water and vacuum power.”

The company also owns robotic cutters for reinstating laterals or grinding down protrusions; they use units made by Schwalm USA and Dancutter, plus similar nonrobotic machines built by Nu Flow Technologies and Picote Solutions. For jetting nozzles and chain whips, the company invests in products made by Enz Technik AG, KEG Technologies and NozzTeq.

For rehabilitating sewer lines, the company relies on a variety of cured-in-place pipe lining technologies suitable for various applications, ranging from spot repairs to full-out lining. Vendors include AMerik Engineering, Trelleborg AB and Nu Flow Technologies. For cementitious and epoxy manhole coatings, Great Lakes TV Seal invests in AP/M Permaform systems.

Whatever it takes

Inspecting sewer lines isn’t always routine. The company periodically inspects sewer lines for a local sewage district. That’s usually not a big deal — except for the several miles of pipe that lie underneath the bottom of the Fox River.

Inspecting those lines requires small aluminum boats or barges. In some instances, Great Lakes TV Seal even has to rent a larger barge from a local bridge-building contractor. The boats carry technicians and safety equipment while the barges are used to transport equipment.

“The manholes aren’t completely submerged and are used as buoy markers for ship navigation,” Healy points out. “We tie up to them using cleats on the manhole. After that, it’s just like working on land, just without traffic signs and safety cones.

“We also have to stay in touch with the dam tenders to make sure the dams ahead of us aren’t opened, or the river water would get too low for a barge,” he adds. “And if an upstream dam starts releasing water, it can flood out the manholes. There’s an element of risk because if the water starts rising quickly, you can’t shut the manhole right away because you’ve got to get the camera out first. But we’ve never had a problem — knock on wood.”

Dependable people

Jobs like these wouldn’t be possible without really good people. “Our employees have to be positive and realize they’re working for the customer,” Healy emphasizes. “They also have to be problem-solvers. We always tell them that they should never say they don’t know something or that we can’t do something. We tell them to always first come back to the shop so we can talk about it.

“They need to understand that they must create cooperative relationships between them and customers, not just with Great Lakes,” he says. “It’s the greatest thing when municipalities call and ask for an employee by name. We’re very big on developing relationships — letting customers know that we’re here not just for the job we’re working on, but the next one and the next one and the next one.”


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