Modesto to consider spending $1 million for sewer inspection

kvaline@modbee.comFebruary 3, 2014 

EC Parkland08

ED CRISOSTOMO/ Materials for a sewer system are stacked along Nelson Way at South Modesto's Parklawn Neighborhood.


The City Council tonight will consider spending more than $1 million for the closed-circuit TV inspection of more than 400 miles of sewer lines over three years.

The inspection is one of the tasks Modesto agreed to do under a recent settlement it reached with a clean water advocacy group that sued the city in federal court in 2012 over its sewage spills.

The Department of Public Works recommends the council hire Sacramento-based ABC Service to conduct the inspections. A city report says the work could cost as much as $491,550 per year. But Robert Englent – Modesto’s wastewater collections manager – said he believes the annual cost will be closer to $370,000.

The remote-controlled robotic cameras are dropped into the sewers through a manhole; one crew operating from a van can inspect about a mile of sewer lines in a day. ABC will provide the city with a report and a DVD outlining structural and maintenance problems. That will help the city pinpoint and fix problems, such as sewer lines that have roots and debris in them.

Modesto agreed in December to pay $161,500 to settle the lawsuit filed against it by the Stockton-based California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, which claimed the city had violated the federal Clean Water Act because of its more than 310 sewage spills from July 2007 through June 2012, which released nearly 379,000 gallons of raw or partially treated sewage.

Modesto also agreed to develop protocols for maintaining its sewer collection system, meet a target for the annual number of sewage spills and conduct an inspection by December 2016 of all sewer lines that are 8 inches in diameter or smaller, are 10 or more years old or have not been inspected in 10 years.

Englent said about 414 of the city’s roughly 632 miles of sewer lines meet those criteria. He said the city cannot meet the inspection deadline with its one closed-circuit TV inspection crew, which also is being used for other sewer projects, such as checking the work of public works crews.

The council tonight will be asked to retain Walnut-based Professional Pipe Services as the project’s secondary contractor. Englent said Modesto would use Professional in the event ABC Service could not complete the work by the December 2016 deadline. Englent said he does not expect Professional to be needed.

ABC and Professional were among the five firms that bid on the inspection work.

Modesto did not admit to any violations in reaching the settlement. Public Works officials have said the city has been working diligently over several years to reduce sewage spills and comply with an informal standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of five spills per 100 miles of sewer line.

Modesto averaged more than 10 spills per 100 miles from 2006 through 2009, according to a city report. The number of spills per 100 miles was 8.4 in 2010, 5.8 in 2011 and 3.3 in 2012.

The City Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or (209) 578-2316.

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