Stormwater Services deploys new ‘Pipe Ranger’ for underground inspections

The Cues Pipe Ranger can rove 25 feet into stormwater pipes to scope out conditions.

The Cues Pipe Ranger can rove 25 feet into stormwater pipes to scope out conditions.


What’s all-wheel drive with two-speed transmission for rugged off-road torque?

That would be Asheville Stormwater Service’s new Pipe Ranger, a camera on wheels now used to inspect underground storm pipes. The cam on wheels can pan, zoom and tilt, going where no Public Works crew member can go, down tiny holes to get the real picture of what’s going on down under.

Stormwater Services began using the new tool this month and they are putting it to good use both for better efficiency and worker safety.

“If there is a sinkhole with a pipe failure, we can go and see exactly where the failure is at,” said Bobby Austin, Labor Crew Coordinator for Asheville’s Storm Water Division. “And hopefully by using this Cues Pipe Ranger, we can head off potential sinkholes by identifying structural deficiencies in the system before it leads to a failure.”

At a cost of $120,000, which bought not only the sophisticated rolling camera but also software, a monitoring computer system and a trailer to house the computer system for work in the field, Stormwater Services is already seeing benefits from using the new rig.

“It’s going to save the Stormwater Service Division a lot of time and money,” said crew member Justin Boll.

For example, in the past a visual inspection of a pipe may show that it’s rusted out on the end. But when crews dig up the pipe to replace it, they sometimes found that the pipe was fine, only the end was rusted out. The new rolling camera will prevent that from happening.

There’s a safety factor at play as well. “Before we had to put a man in a hole to visually inspect a pipe. Now this machine does it for us,” said Austin. Of course, that would depend on the diameter of the pipe. Some are too small to accommodate a person.

A recent windy day found the Stormwater camera crew out on Old Haw Creek Road checking stormwater pipes under a road scheduled for resurfacing. A City vacuum truck served as the advance team, clearing debris so the Pipe Ranger could roll through to inspect the underground structures. “That way if a pipe is bad we can replace it before the resurfacing project begins,” said Austin.

Another efficiency.

Finally with the Pipe Ranger software, everything found in the field is now documented electronically. “It eliminates any paperwork that we do,” said Boll. “The information can be shared with anyone; it’s readily available.”

Money to pay for the Pipe Ranger came from the stormwater fee assessed in City utility customer bills.

The City of Asheville Stormwater Services Division maintains about 40 miles of stormwater pipe.