Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility continues to make upgrades to underground equipment through a rehabilitation process called cured-in-place pipe (CIPP), which uses the latest technologies without breaking ground.

The project will improve service to customers by preventing excess water from entering the sewer collection system, utility manager Ken Johnson said. It is also preventing disruptions by avoiding closing roads to dig into the ground, he said.

“We put the lines inside and extend the longevity of pipes by 60 years,” Johnson said. “About 10 years ago, we had 300 service interruptions per year. Leaking water has a tendency to over-tax the pipes. I expect 30 disruptions for calendar year 2016. Most disruptions occur in the winter.

The utility solicited bids for the project and selected the companies with the lowest most responsible bid amounts.

Insituform Technologies of Hammond, La., is installing approximately 10,329 linear feet of CIPP liners in several locations in Pine Bluff. This project cost is around $441,000.

Suncoast Infrastructure, of Florence, Miss., will be spraying a three-part polyurethane material in approximately 20 manholes. This project costs about $60,000.

These companies began working in Pine Bluff on Aug. 13. Insituform Technologies experienced some equipment problems but is nearly on schedule, Johnson said.

“The process is very efficient. Insituform has a patent on this particular technology,” Johnson said. “We are trying to be proactive and stay ahead of the ballgame. Cities that have untreated sewage can be subjected to substantial monetary penalties of $31,000 per day.”

Besides fines, communities want to prevent raw sewage leaks because it poses risks to health.

“We take care of our infrastructure. We do maintenance routinely,” Johnson said. “That is why you see our blue trucks everywhere. We have 50 employees.”

Other wastewater news

* Johnson took part in the Water Environment Federation’s Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference from Sept. 24 to Sept. 28 in New Orleans. It attracted more than 25,000 wastewater professionals from around the world.

They learned about the latest technologies in the treatment of wastewater, saw a trade show featuring equipment and networked with each other. One technology that caught Johnson’s attention is a bar screen, which removes plastic, wood and other substances from wastewater that could damage equipment. Johnson estimates a bar screen that measures 30 feet tall costs $200,000.

“People do not realize the amount of equipment, technology and mechanical devices that are used in the maintenance of the sewer system,” Johnson said.

Pine Bluff Wastewater currently owns four bar screens and needs another one. As far as the prospect of buying another bar screen, Johnson and his colleagues are preparing the 2017 budget and will present it in December.

* Johnson also said that Pine Bluff Wastewater employees are planning to participate in the Susan G. Komen 5-kilometer race in Little Rock on Oct. 22, to benefit cancer research. Pine Bluff Wastewater has two survivors of breast cancer.

* Pine Bluff Wastewater is updating its employee handbook with consultant Bruce Johanson. Some requirements have changed over a period of time, Johnson said. Those changes are sent via memo to employees and will be incorporated into the handbook.