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“NPL Quality – The Pipeline To Success”. AGA 2006 Operations Conference. “Unmarked Sewer Laterals & Horizontal Cross-Bores”. Mike Kemper, NPL Construction Company. “NPL Quality – The Pipeline To Success”. Who is NPL?. Core Business :

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unmarked sewer laterals horizontal cross bores

“NPL Quality – The Pipeline To Success”

AGA 2006 Operations Conference

“Unmarked Sewer Laterals &Horizontal Cross-Bores”

Mike Kemper, NPL Construction Company

who is npl

“NPL Quality – The Pipeline To Success”

Who is NPL?

Core Business:

  • The safe installation & maintenance of reliable energy distribution systems
  • Over 500 crews
  • Over 2500 employees
  • Operate in 20 states
  • One of the largest users of

One-Call Centers in U.S


Do We Have a Problem?

Who’s responsible for marking?

Sewer Main

Lateral to mains connection

Service line


City street

Property line

What could happen?

what happens when laterals are hit during drilling boring operations
What happens when laterals are hit during drilling / boring operations?

What happens when a plumber is called?

headline february 16 2002 shocked gas company pleads ignorance
Headline:February 16, 2002Shocked Gas Company Pleads Ignorance
  • The natural gas explosion that rocked a mobile home park on Wednesday shocked officials who say they never knew their gas line bisected the clay sewer pipe.
  • A plumbing contractor was removing tree roots from a sanitary sewer line in the 127 unit mobile home park when the gas line was struck.
  • “About the only time we know about sewer lines is when people call because they get backed up and have to call someone in to clean them”, said the Operations Manager with the Local Gas Company.
headline march 17 2006 answers in gas home explosion
Headline:March 17, 2006Answers in Gas Home Explosion
  • Investigators say they now know exactly what led to home explosion.
  • The subcontractor the Local Gas Company hired to install new gas lines ran the gas line into the sewer line. The augur went “right through the gas pipe and they didn’t even know they had done that.” - Fire Marshall
  • City Building Inspector: the contractor “did the work like any other contractor would. There’s no system to know exactly where sewers are, especially to a house on a hill.”
headline march 17 2006 answers in gas home explosion14
Headline:March 17, 2006Answers in Gas Home Explosion
  • Fire Chief says a plumber was using an auger to clear a clogged drain when he accidentally hit a natural gas line. After seeing bubbles in the water and smelling the gas, he told a grandmother and 3 grandchildren to get out of the home immediately, likely saving lives.
  • As soon as the people got out of the home, it blew up.
headline march 17 2006 answers in gas home explosion15
Headline:March 17, 2006Answers in Gas Home Explosion
  • This isn’t the first time city officials have discovered a gas line that broke a sewer line.
  • City Inspectors say this affects more than residents of their own city.
  • They plan on meeting with the Local Gas Company to come up with a plan to prevent this from happening again.

Commercial Building


Residential Home

Mobile Home Park

Apartment Complex

how many might have led to a major incident

What are the odds?One Case Study:

11,000 Laterals Were Inspected;

250 Hits Identified And Repaired;

2% of Sewer Laterals Were Hit.

How Many Might Have Led To AMajor Incident?

another case study
Another Case Study
  • 4 Blocks Were Inspected;
  • 24 Hits Were Discovered.
the big concerns
The Big Concerns
  • Catastrophic Human Tragedy
  • Huge Property Costs
the greatest concern


Because Some

Utility Lines





the cost concern
  • Contractors and Utilities are often held responsible for hitting these unmarked, unknown utility lines;
  • Insurance rates are on the rise;
  • As the insurance industry is becoming rapidly aware of this exposure, the ability to secure insurance for trenchless technology is in jeopardy.
the root cause a catch 22
  • Crews have no practical way of finding them & are often even prohibited from checking for them due to governmental no-cut policies.
  • The laws in some States do not require all privately-owned & some publicly-owned facilities in the historic corridor to be marked.
  • The laws in some States are not well enforced.
state regulations 40 states
State Regulations – 40 States
  • “Owner or operator of an underground facility is responsible to locate the approximate horizontal location of that facility”.
    • Is that the home/building owner or municipality?
    • Courts have ruled that home/building owner does not have expertise to be responsible for location of sewer laterals.
    • Does the State require them to join the One-Call system?
    • Who is responsible for enforcement?

Interesting Interpretations?

  • In Kansas and Vermont:
    • Sewer is not designated as a “facility”;
  • In California:
    • exempts “non-pressurized” lines;
  • In Missouri:
    • exempts “privately owned” sewer and water lines.
houston we have a problem

“Houston, we have a problem”

-Tom Hanks in

Apollo 13

the challenge
  • There is little awareness of this issue outside the contracting and insurance industries.
  • This exposure is escalating as more trenchless installations are done each year.
  • Action can be taken immediately.
luck is not a strategy

“Luck is not a strategy”

Steve Ewing

Chairman AGA

Vice Chair, DTE Energy

the solutions
  • Installed Solutions
  • Installation Solutions


  • Take stock, get a plan
    • Example: Educate local plumbers, rental stores, mobile home park owners … to look before they root
  • Goal:

Find installed problems …before they find us.


What about the costs?

$50 - $125 per lateral locate

depending on variables….

  • Diameter of sewer main
  • How much cleaning required
  • How many locates per set-up
installation solutions
  • All new sewer laterals should be installed with a location device (i.e. tracer wire, marker balls, etc.);
  • All underground facilities, including sewer lines, should be marked by the entity that receives revenue from the facility.

Goal: Protecting all Parties

  • Public
  • Facility Owners
  • Contractor
call to action
Initiate Legislation/Enforcement

Support Legislation/Enforcement




“NPL Quality – The Pipeline To Success”