Success in the Pipeline
In the 1970s, the complex work of city sewage regulation and administration was revolutionized when no-dig, cured-in-place pipe lining (CIPP) hit the civil engineering scene. This method of rehabilitation inserts a resin-soaked felt liner into the sewer and expands it to fit the form of the existing host pipe. After curing the liner, the municipality is left with a fully rehabilitated pipe that will last another 50-100 years. Another key feature of this method is that it ensures that there are no joints or seams in the finished liner. This is ideal as traditional joint repair would hamper flow capacity and cause damage to paving through digging…
Not only are the process and materials used in cured-in-place pipe rehabilitation environmentally responsible, but this method also does not disturb the surrounding infrastructure. Canada’s top service provider in the field, LiquiForce Services (Ontario) Inc. has offices in Kingsville and Hamilton, Ontario and serves clients throughout the country from Halifax to Calgary.
For municipalities that have adopted this technology, there simply is no going back to the cost and hassle of antiquated trench pipe digging when it comes to repairs. It is being applied to mainline sewers, lateral sewer pipes that connect homes to sewer mainlines, and in rehabilitating manhole entrances.
LiquiForce Services (Ontario) Inc. is an expert in the field of CIPP and fully supports this economically-viable method of sewer repair. The country’s municipalities and engineering departments in charge of rehabilitating sewer systems also appreciate cost-effective CIPP methods since the pipe repair extends the life of the pipe by another 50 to 100 years.
“Our unique rehabilitation systems provide new pipe standards and durability of 50 to 100 years for pipes one hundred millimetres to three thousand millimetres in diameter. From the municipal treatment plant to the final user at their house or place of work, LiquiForce Services offers sewer inspection, assessment, rehabilitation, and maintenance of the entire sewer system,” says Business Development Manager Kim M. Lewis.
While the company offers several related services, the essence of performing rehabilitation using CIPP involves inserting resin-saturated felt liners into sewage pipes, where the material cures. This saves a lot of time, minimizes damage to property, and is durable. This method is effectively used to repair and revive pipelines and sewer systems from private residences all the way to sewage plants.
What sets the company apart from other local operators is its fully trenchless lateral lining system. “No other contractor is capable of measuring and lining four-inch (100mm) to six-inch (150mm) laterals in eight-inch (200mm) to thirty-six-inch (900mm) diameter mains to the house without having to install a clean-out,” he adds. The clean-out is an opening in the lateral sewage line that offers access to potential blockages. The LiquiForce system makes the clean-out entirely redundant for cleaning, measuring or pipe rehabilitation purposes, making them an unnecessary cost for municipalities and residents.
The company’s service offerings greatly increased when it was acquired by Granite Construction in April of 2018. The acquisition has let LiquiForce Services, Inc. spread its services across the country to take on ever-growing projects and markets.
The company’s acquisition by Granite Construction has added services that include water main lining; UV lining, which is lining that is cured-in-place with ultraviolet light rather than heat; geo-polymer lining, a specialised ceramic mortar spray that is strengthened with microfiber and used to coat the inside of pipes to effectively build a secondary pipe inside the original; as well as the fabrication of CIPP liners.
In addition, the company’s original services continue with cured-in-place pipe lining offered on full-length main sewer pipes, lateral lining and point repairs, and manhole rehabilitation. Its special projects division performs more challenging functions such as high-risk jobs, heavy-duty project management, large sewer bypasses, and industrial projects. Two support divisions offer additional services for cure-in-place pipe lining. One builds liners, while its manufacturing division creates cured-in-place-pipeline equipment and products and as conducts research and development.
“These divisions provide our service divisions with the tools they need to get the job done successfully by building liners, trucks, and robots, developing new products and managing technology systems,” says Kim.
Its most popular service is its rehabilitation of lateral sewer lines. LiquiForce developed a proprietary method that has turned the traditional thirteen-step lateral rehabilitation process into a compact and effective four-step process. The company moves in, cleans and prepares the mainline, cleans and prepares and measures the lateral line, inserts and sets the junction liner, and then runs a closed-circuit television inspection of the resulting cured liner. The system can be used in mainline pipes in a range of diameters from 200mm to 900mm.
“We have installed over ten thousand lateral liners to date. We are seen, in the industry, as a leader in lateral sewer rehabilitation,” says Kim.
After starting as a small-time contractor cleaning sewers in 1987, LiquiForce Services decided to change direction in the early nineties by turning away from small jobs and only working for municipalities and larger clients. Its founder, chairman, and chief executive officer has always had an entrepreneurial spirit with the ability to see possibility where others simply do not.
Kim K. Lewis started out working on his grandfather’s dairy farm in Ontario with the rest of his family. After a few years, he decided to set out on his own and followed a number of pursuits including sales management as well as owning a golf course, a roofing company, and an industrial cleaning company.
It was during 1987 that he received an enquiry from the Town of Leamington checking whether his company cleaned sewers. In his true can-do style, he told them to give him a week, after which he had a sewer cleaning truck and a new contract, and LiquiForce Services, (Ontario) Inc. was born.
The three boys helped out in the family shop in Kingsville, Ontario. Here, they learned how to paint and clean trucks. “My father always asked us what we would do if we knew that we couldn’t fail. He always cautioned us not to think too small. It’s remarkable what vision and tolerance to risk our founder has,” says the junior Kim. The company has grown significantly since those days, and the three boys eventually worked their way up into management positions in the company while keeping their father’s big-picture vision in mind.
The company is committed to always staying abreast of technology. It improved its services with advancements such as camera technology that allows it to check pipelines for faults. This saves customers time and money as defects can be repaired before they become a big problem. The company also continuously researches international industry advancements, finding ways for clients to extend the lifespan of their high-value sewage assets significantly.
“Since then, we have taken it upon ourselves to develop and manufacture our own patented camera and robotic rehabilitation systems which have further set us apart from others in the industry,” says Kim.
The company is always looking to improve its systems, and this includes refining its approach to health and safety to ensure that its people are always looked after and out of harm’s way. The policy has served the company well, and its staff retention rate is superb. Some of its employees started when the senior Kim purchased the first sewer truck in 1987, and there are clients who also have been with the company since the beginning.
“We really try to show our appreciation to our team. In 2011 and in 2017, we took everyone from both Canada and the USA operations and their families to Disney World,” says Kim. “For those who are able and willing to work hard, travel, and learn, we have been able to provide a great career with many benefits.”
The company’s staff members’ greatest strengths are their flexibility and creative problem-solving skills. Open communication is very much encouraged and supported, and there are enough big, challenging projects to hone their skills and knowledge.
There have been many great challenges over the years. The good thing about these is that they push team members to do better, and that is exactly what the company has always done when the going gets tough.
The company is especially proud of its project management people who bring have an impressive capacity for concluding challenging projects on less-than-generous timelines. The company completed the $20 million Halifax Northwest Arm project in only seven months, four months ahead of schedule and right on budget. Built in 1917, the pipeline runs alongside the Northwest Arm Inlet in Halifax, Nova Scotia and cuts across the backyards of multiple high-end homes. It took thirteen installations to complete what would become the largest single CIPP installation in the country. Liners ranged between 75 metres to 682 metres in length posing a headache when it came to transporting. Loads had to be smaller, and the project culminated in the manufacturing of 240 metres of liner split into two. This is what is known as an in-field wet splice, and is one of the riskiest procedures in CIPP lining. To avoid digging, the lining had to be stitched together onsite by an expert group.
Another great achievement was the rehabilitation of nearly 5,000 feet of 24-inch to 27-inch in diameter vitrified clay sewer and sixteen manholes with depths of up to fifteen feet. The $2.1 million project in the City of Cambridge started in July 2017 and entailed working on an ecologically fragile site and erecting a temporary steel bridge to enable the bypass system to reach over the river.
Following the bypass system installation, the nearly five thousand feet of trunk sewer had to be checked for faults, cleared, prepared, and double-checked in only four days. The job took a total of twelve days and needed eleven incursions to access pipe that ranged in depth from 141 feet to 686 feet. This was a gargantuan task by anybody’s standards and one that landed the company the Centre for the Advancement of Trenchless Technologies (CATT) award of excellence in 2017.
With great achievements comes great growth, and since the company’s acquisition by Granite Construction in 2018, its expansion prospects are looking good. Granite is one of America’s top infrastructure companies, with an annual backlog of $3 billion. This new acquisition will leverage and extend LiquiForce Services’ presence and technology throughout the Americas, regardless of location or product needs.
“Over the next few years, we will be expanding our service offering and opening new offices to better serve clients across the county and North America,” says Kim. “We believe that we are still in the early days of the trenchless rehabilitation industry in Canada and that there is considerable opportunity for engineers and municipalities to put out larger, more complex projects.”
He also notes a marked industry trend of avoiding low-bid tenders when it comes to rehabilitation and long-term contracts, with municipalities opting for quality, expertise, and trust over low cost. The company’s goal is clear. It has its sights set on becoming the largest trenchless CIPP contractor in North America. It also has plans to expand towards the west in 2019 to support its work in the area. Thanks to its service and business acumen, there is still much success to come.