Water Finds a Way: I&I Sources Are Interconnected, and Solutions Are Holistic

Longtime trenchless rehab veteran says I&I must be attacked from all angles.

Water Finds a Way: I&I Sources Are Interconnected, and Solutions Are Holistic

The team at CME Pipe Lining includes, from left, Josh Dickson, Craig Trammell, Derrick Klotter, owner Chuck Menkhaus, Lindsey Jones, Charlie Knapp, Mike Patterson, Justin Beighle, and Jake Ward.

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When Charles “Chuck” Menkhaus first started in the pipe lining industry years back, an audience of 40 old-school plumbers nearly laughed him out of a conference room while he spoke about the potential of CIPP technology. Today, his company does CIPP work for 38 of those plumbers solving issues for residential clients.

Menkhaus owns CME Pipe Lining in Cincinnati and is a longtime veteran of the trenchless industry. He’s seen CIPP evolve over several decades. Once considered a fad by some of his peers, CIPP has gained traction in his region as a viable solution for solving aging infrastructure issues and mitigating the effects of inflow and infiltration.

Menkhaus and his team are specialists in relining, focusing primarily on specialty contracts for municipalities, industrial rehabilitation and residential repairs. Although the increased use and acceptance of CIPP for pipeline renewal and I&I remediation is encouraging, Menkhaus cautions that it isn’t a silver bullet to solve a sewer system’s I&I issues completely.

“At a recent conference about treatment facilities, one of the things pointed out is that we’re building new treatment plants throughout the country because of the amount of water that is coming into plants to be treated,” he says. “The plants can’t handle the new levels that are coming through each day and are often forced to release without being fully processed because of capacity overflow.”

A great deal of that excess water coming in is from I&I, he says. “In my mind, building bigger treatment plants is counterproductive. Although we are using CIPP to fix some of the issues and at a much faster rate than traditional dig-and-replace, lining of just the mains will not take the burden off of the plants long-term, and eventually they will just need to be expanded again.”

Strong programs that include rehabilitation for a community’s sanitary mainlines have been shown to mitigate a portion of a system’s I&I. However, Menkhaus has seen firsthand that it’s only capable of resolving or reducing a fraction of the surcharges coming into the system and that the true predominant source of I&I is coming from laterals and, in some cases, manhole structures.

This makes the resolution of I&I challenging for municipalities, as the sources of this excess are on private property and are the responsibility of homeowners, by and large. Some cities are considering alternate forward-thinking approaches. For instance, employees from a small municipality recently approached Menkhaus seeking advice for proposing a case to their city council that the municipality take over ownership and responsibility of residential laterals so rehab could start as soon as possible. Due to limited funds, treatment plant expansion was off the table.

“Because it is impossible for a municipality to force a property owner to fix something that in their opinion isn’t broken, as far as it is not affecting their usage, the case is strong for the city to assume the maintenance and have the freedom to correct the issues,” Menkhaus says.

A plan like this may not be possible for most utilities because it would necessitate raising sewer rates, which is a tough sell. But if you’re stuck with your current wastewater treatment plant, and you have severe I&I issues, it’s an idea that starts to sound more appealing.

Creating awareness and understanding

When Menkhaus’ crews perform CIPP rehabilitations in municipal mainlines with the goal of extending the asset life, as well as reducing I&I, they’ve seen that if the surrounding infrastructure is not addressed, water that once entered the system through the problematic mainline will in all likelihood find its way into the system through the laterals.

Residential property owners may not understand the issues existing in laterals that lead to I&I or the fact that those issues translate to overburdening their public wastewater systems, eventually affecting the rates they pay for service.

“The homeowners aren’t doing anything wrong; they just aren’t aware of the nature of things and how water will seek an exit if given a chance,” Menkhaus says. “Because the issue isn’t affecting their service directly, they aren’t aware that a serious problem is taking place underground on their property.”

Menkhaus suggests that municipalities initiate educational outreach to help residents understand trenchless technology and how CIPP is being used to solve these issues — not just for the parts of the system that the city is responsible for, but also how homeowners can utilize it and be part of the solution long-term. 

Prime example

CME was called out to inspect and investigate a lateral line for a local municipality after the homeowner had fixed their portion of the line due to a root intrusion problem. The portion of the lateral for which the city was responsible was located under water in a small creek. On drier days, water from the creek would go straight into the ground where the lateral was installed, leaving a dry creek bed downstream.

The pipe was buried and could not be seen from the surface, but the crews saw the water stopping suddenly in the creek and disappearing straight into the ground. It was apparent the line was compromised and water from the creek was flowing directly into the lateral line at every possible opening.

Due to its location, excavation and replacement were not possible and trenchless methods were required. Active infiltration from the creek made this line a perfect candidate for CME to deploy proprietary developed techniques and equipment for CIPP rehabilitation.

It was a great example of how I&I issues aren’t simply isolated to mainlines or strictly on the property owner side. All the components of the system must be examined and considered a potential source so proper actions can be taken.

What about exfiltration?

In another CME project for the local municipality, a large-diameter sanitary trunk line had sewer officials concerned about both I&I and significant exfiltration. Cracks and joint issues create an opportunity not only for I&I, but also for untreated sewage to leak out of the line into surrounding bodies of water and charging the groundwater.

Pipe bursting and dig-and-replace methods were considered for the project, but due to the location of the line and its condition, lining was the only option. The challenge of this job for CME was that it was 27 inches in diameter, gravity fed and had manholes about every 100 feet, which is uncommon. In addition to the poor condition of the pipe, the manholes along the line were also experiencing water ingress due to poor substrate condition.

As CME began to repair the sections of the mainline, sealing off I&I as well as exfiltration, the water simply sought another way to travel and the level of infiltration into the manholes began to increase. At that point, manhole rehabilitation was inevitable and was performed using cementitious methods.

“This project was a prime example of how repairing only one portion of a system may not correct all of the underlying issues,” Menkhaus says. “Water always wins because it will find a way to exit. We have to be vigilant and seal off those opportunities if we really want to eliminate as much infiltration as possible.”

Industrial projects have also helped Menkhaus and CME extend their capabilities and knowledge in the areas of I&I and exfiltration for process water pipeline applications. In these projects, exfiltration is typically the primary concern, as manufacturing facilities cannot leak water into surrounding environments and allow any water to leave the process piping.

In most cases, these clients will have an onsite treatment plant, desalinization or acid removal facility on the property before the process water is sent on to the municipal wastewater system. For these customers, I&I and exfiltration issues go hand in hand, and regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can quickly shut down an industrial facility when such things occur. Menkhaus and his team have successfully used CIPP as an effective method for industrial clients to deal with various process pipeline degradation issues in a timely and highly cost-effective manner, thus avoiding costly plant shutdowns.

Ever-evolving solutions

Menkhaus and CME follow the axiom that “one size doesn’t fit all” when it comes to CIPP trenchless technology. Having been involved in the industry for many years, Menkhaus has gotten to know many of the manufacturers and equipment providers for the industry. He calls upon numerous vendors for his projects because diverse products are needed for diverse projects. He says some of the product lines and equipment CME uses the most come from Easy Liner, MaxLiner USA and Perma-Liner Industries.

That day early on in his career when Menkhaus says he was nearly laughed out of the room for promoting CIPP, he’d been speaking before a plumbing association audience that told him the technology wouldn’t work. Since then, the cured-in-place process has steadily progressed and has been adopted by the mainstream. “Since its inception in 1971, this technology has gotten better and better, and engineers have learned that it works and in what applications it is best suited.”

One of the ways that Menkhaus believes CIPP and related technologies can be incorporated more frequently and effectively into solving I&I issues is for engineers and cities to use carbon footprint calculators. These calculators can help assess the costs of implementing a rehabilitation method and how much it will save over the long term. They also help determine the cost of ignoring those issues.

“We may not be able to rid our systems of 100% of the I&I, but if we recognize that lining of mainlines is just one small portion of the efforts that we should be making and that laterals are a huge contributor to the problem, then contractors, municipalities and property owners, as equal stakeholders, can begin to work together to address wastewater systems as a whole interconnected framework — not as individual components,” Menkhaus says. “Water is a tough opponent, and the right approach will help our communities win the battle, as well as create solutions that are sustainable for the long haul.” 


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