Fantastic voyage down the sewer

Fantastic voyage down the sewer
Tiny camera system can find blockages in pipes and avoid unnecessary, and costly, repairs
Bill MahThe Edmonton Journal
Saturday, April 19, 2008

Colin Samuels shoots videos unfit for viewing in polite company.
His cameras go where few others dare and his subject matter often belongs in the sewer, quite frankly.
But viewing his videos could save his audience from unwittingly buying a house whose manicured lawn hides a clogged or collapsed sewer line.
Or he could solve a mysterious odour or basement leak plaguing a home.
Samuels is owner of Hydro-Physics Pipe Inspection Services, a year-old home-based Edmonton franchise of a Colorado parent company.
While other companies use closed circuit television to inspect pipes, Samuels says he differs because he doesn’t fix the problem; he only finds it.
Samuels, or one of his two employees, snakes a cable attached to a miniature spotlight and a camera whose head spans less than three centimetres through pipes as narrow as three or six inches.
He then burns a video CD of the pipe tour – looking like one of those health channel documentaries where a camera inches its way down somebody’s digestive tract.
Samuels watches for breaks in the line, tree roots and other blockages. “Recently, I had a lady calling me who’s in her house for seven months and she’s experiencing slow drainage from her tub and her toilet.
We went in and it was a tool that a contractor left inside the line,” said Samuels, a mechanical engineer by training.
The tool was a hammer.
“You will meet up with all sorts of stuff underground there.”
Samuels says his service costs around $185, compared to the $20,000 cost of replacing an underground pipe.
He touts it as a precautionary complement to a home inspection.
His high-resolution, colour footage can also identify Orangeburg pipe, a sewer-pipe product used in some homes starting in the 1940s before PVC pipes.
The tarpaper pipes are deteriorating and prone to collapse.
It’s not just faulty sewer pipes that can cause serious problems.
“A lot of times, we run into situations where we have odour problems or mould or a certain number of things happening in the basement of a home,” said Brian Sanders, of Health Matterz Inc., a home inspection company.
“Of course, the only way to tell is to get the weeping tile and sewer system cameraed.”
He suggested homeowner Diana Richardson hire Samuels to shoot the insides of her home’s weeping tile to check on its condition because the house suffers problems with poor drainage, dampness and mould.
The video will give Richardson and her husband a better idea of whether the weeping tile is damaged.
“Otherwise, we’d have to go in and replace all of it, which is a really huge expense,” she said. “And if it’s just clogged or crushed in certain areas because it wasn’t installed properly, we can just fix that specific area rather than spending $15,000 to fix the whole thing.”
Andy Bowen, director of drainage operations for the City of Edmonton, says a video pipe inspection would be useful for homeowners who have had past plumbing problems.
“If they’ve had to call a plumber to
release a blockage, it would be a good idea to put a camera down to see if there’s any problems with the pipe,” Bowen said.
City crews also use camera equipment.
The city responds to about 4,500 homes every year for drainage problems. “They’ll go out and determine what the problem is.
They’ll auger out the blockage and then they’ll put a camera in to get a picture of the pipe.”
If the blockage is on private property, the city charges $171 for the crew to
Bowen said many blockages are caused by fat, oil and grease residents pour down the drain.
City officials launched an education campaign in March recommending people dump their grease into a container and store it in the fridge to harden, until they have enough to put out with the garbage.

Have had sewer inspections done 3 times in the past year. Have twice planned a meeting with the gent that I have used (a retired city sewer supervisor) to discuss problem areas of the city and mark them out on a city map but both times work (either his or mine) got in the way.

Good post Roy! Colin Samuels made a presentation at our last AGM. All INACHI members use him when we run into suspicious drainage situations.
Nick video taped his presentation and was going to do a NACHI.TV show. I sure hope it’s coming.

Colin charges $185

City charges $171

I wonder, as a home owner, who I am going to get to video the sewer???

Colin is a great guy and I hope to have some work lined up for him here in Red Deer. But I don’t think that Colin is going to get lots of calls from this article when the city is cheaper.

Just my thoughts


PS. The last house I bought had sewer problems and I try to talk everybody into a sewer inspection because I know what happens when there is a problem.

FYI - I called the city and asked about the so called $171 inspection. Gabby informs me they can do them… with a over a months notice that is. Then you are put on “as avaliable” status only - no guarantees. They use older black and white camera equipment and give you NO video record. Colin at Hydro Physics gives inspectors a discount and charges only $165.00 to your customers. He uses state-of-the-art full color colour equipment, documents everything on CVD as well as a written report, and is there on time. What more could you want? He protects against legal action on sewer problems. Believe me, you don’t have to lose a law suit for it to cost you a fortune… you just have to be involved in one. How far do you think you would get dragging a City worker into court if a un-diagnosed sewer problem were found by a homeowner a week after your inspection? It’s a “No Brainer.” Why not throw Colin’s name out there and let the customer decide? If they say no thanks, at least you offered it and they the customer declined. If the customer has a problem a week after they close, they know were offered the protection of Hydro Physics service… but declined. I would reccomend it every time. What do you have to lose by doing that?

There was no intent to prevent business from going to Colin, in my last post.

I tell everybody that they should have an inspection done from Colin but people refuse and Realtors do not like more inspections (as I am finding out with thermal imaging).

Good luck Colin


Vern writes:

A video inspection system like this ( probably not as sensitive etc) is available from Harbor Freight Tools. Cost is about $400. as I remember.

Good post Roy,
Had the opportunity to watch a fellow do a sewer inspection at one of my inspections. He worked for a plumbing firm here in Calgary. Really interesting.
Lawrence or Vern, does Colin work all of Alberta? Or does he only work Central/Northern Alta.?