When Do Contractors Need To Conduct Their Own Locates?

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | May 2011, Vol. 66 No. 5

“If clean-outs can’t be found,” Miller said, “we try to gain entry to the house and research the actual location where the sewer lateral leaves the building. Special tools can be inserted into the lateral from the house, allowing contractor personnel to find the lateral in the yard. In some cases we are able to determine from site investigations that the laterals will not be in conflict with our bore path; for example, the line may come out of a basement at an eight-foot depth, or it exits at the back of the house to a sewer main in an alley, instead of in front where the drilling is taking place. Tooling can be acquired for less than $10,000, and training necessary for this method is minimal.”

The cost to locate or inspect a lateral depends on several factors, with the average between $100 and $200 per locate, said Miller. Making locates can add $2 to $4 per linear foot to the cost of a project. In addition, some companies now require locates of sewer laterals on all of their projects, and some require post-installation inspections to confirm no damage or crossbore has occurred.

All parties agree that crossbores pose a serious safety issue, but exactly how to avoid them remains a controversy with no immediate prospects for resolution. Few would disagree that accurately locating and marking existing sewer laterals is a key element in preventing crossbores.

Miller believes that the industry recognizes the need to investigate sewer laterals before directional drilling. If all utilities would start requiring their drilling contractors to have laterals located, it will become a common practice, and companies will come to the market that will provide this service in a cost effective manner.

“In the meantime,” he concluded, “Miller Pipeline is taking steps to avoid crossbores. At the end of every work day we want each crew to leave the job without having damaged any utilities and without anyone being hurt.”

Miller Pipeline Corp., (800) 428-3742, www.millerpipeline.com

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