How it all started
Early in his career, in the 1960s, Andy was lucky enough to be seconded to the office of two senior engineers as “gofer”. Here he was exposed to radical thinking on rehabilitation of sewer network assets that were failing prematurely, a result of the proliferation of tanneries in Brisbane, poor design materials for a sub-tropical region and the push to sewer the city.
His managers soon realised that his talent for innovative thinking and problem solving in this area, and quickly he was managing large bleeding edge sewer renovations with day labour, and delivering. There were no contractors in the 1960s that operated in the field, no specs or processes – they goaded pipe manufactures to produce the required products – Vinlon for 300 mm uPVC and ACI Nylex for 700 mm PE, and trained men did the work. That embedded a trenchless role firmly with him for some thirty years.
Andy on the importance of the ASTTArticle continues below…
“The trenchless industry grew worldwide and Australia followed. It was important to form the ASTT as there was no other vehicle to promote efficient and socio-friendly methods of asset management in a large country with a small population, a simple twelve-month budget cycle, and existing water industry bodies 100 per cent engrossed with treatment of water and wastewater.
“The ASTT with visionary leadership filled the role between existing water associations and the consultant fraternity that viewed the trenchless industry from a distance without any real commitment. Australia is one of the few countries where our industry has been introduced and promoted by the contracting firms and utilities, and not by professional institutions.”
Looking into the future
Andy says that worldwide, as in Australia, trenchless is the way to deliver new infrastructure and rehabilitation of ageing and under-capacity utility pipeline assets.
Andy discussed that as cities grow and pipe networks age; there is no alternative, that society will allow, which can keep the expected standards of urban life by providing necessary services without social costs and impacts. These are just not tolerated, and he has seen the acceptance, and even demand for trenchless in brown and green field network upgrades, that some 30 years ago he constructed with large trenches, draglines and bulldozers.
“Times have changed because there is an awareness that an alternative method exists, and this will continue to grow and accelerate the expansion of the trenchless industry. Australia can’t export the delivery of services and infrastructure,” says Andy.
In regards to how the industry has changed over the last five to ten years, Andy says that in Australia the industry has grown in capability and professionalism in the delivery of services to utilities. Customers are asking for the envelope to be pushed in areas such as microtunnelling to reduce costs of jacking pits and for horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to give longer and larger diameter runs with better line and grade controls.
“The advent of the Federal Government’s broadband rollout will present new opportunities not only for HDD but cables into existing networks,” Andy says.
The golden rule
When we asked Andy about what advice he would give to new entrants to the industry he says “Trenchless is no different to any industry – it has the same golden rule – give the customers what they want and you will be successful.”
He says that you should not go to prospective clients with ‘have I got a deal for you’ until you have asked them what it is they need.
“We want to see costs reduced by limiting and controlling set up expenses. For instance, sewer liners installed in very short time or even live, to reduce bypass and onsite costs, and microtunnelling of 1 km or more where maintenance holes can be bored at intervals. Not jacking pits every 150 m or so.“
He said that these are just examples that could deliver infrastructure at far lower costs. “There is more infrastructure needed today than there is budget and this will grow, so cost reduction is a must, without any sacrifice to quality.”
Sewer lining – exciting and different
Andy said that some of the memorable and exciting projects he has worked on include major sewer relining using sliplining and Insituform of trunk sewers were highlights in the 1970s. He lined a 30 inch sewer 116 feet deep – no mean feat.
“The world’s first spiral reline of a sewer by Danby Ltd is also a memory I hold dear.”
This resulted in major relining in this way and some 9 km of 1,370 mm diameter steel pressure pipe in Brisbane last century was a terrific achievement.
Also the lining of the 2.4 m diameter S1 interceptor sewer during construction was a major step in the concept of prevention versus cure.
In regards to exciting projects happening in the industry today Andy said “Today we can’t rest on our laurels, and many network upgrades present the prevention concept but personally, most exciting is the ability to create standards for sewer and water reticulation that reflect 21st century thinking and embrace trenchless principles.”
This includes principles such as NuSewers – fully welded PE networks with welded-in maintenance shafts and connections fitted as saddles – “you can HDD the lot, excavate for a connection only and provide a water and tree root proof sewer at lower cost than conventional and with network savings on pumping and treatment.
“All this and no man-entry requirements to the network – that’s exciting, not just different,” Andy says.
Inspired and encouraged by the best
In his early career, Bob Roskams, Maintenance Engineer Sewerage was an inspiration and encouraged Andy to new heights of engineering thinking.
Later, the Chief Engineer and Manager, Bernie O’Connell, was a real mentor. “He appreciated what I achieved and how it was achieved, and encouraged me to travel overseas and also Australia-wide to bring the best thinking to Brisbane.“
This started with attendance of ISH and IFAT trade fairs in Germany 1987, and delivered new ideas for trenchless, not to mention, changed the world’s toilet flushing regimes, but that is another story, says Andy.
A little bit about Andy
Andy has worked for Brisbane City Council since 1965 in all facets of the water industry, from design, construction and operations to management and planning.
In his personal life, highlights included marrying Aina and raising three boys, now professionals in their industries of choice, all linked to IT and engineering, with the baby a PhD working in New York.
Andy said that “This has been our greatest achievement of which we are very proud.”
The three sons have all moved on, so when not working, Andy and his wife enjoy travel, gardening and camping. In June they drove to the Dig Tree to see the channel country with bird invasions, and he hopes to take Aina to India and share some of the excitement that he experienced in his time there on an AusAID project.
A lifetime of memories
Andy has a lifetime of memories in the trenchless industry.
“One time while doing a project in the CBD, we had a sewerage spill. I was in my office when I got a radio call that Greenpeace had arrived on the job. This I passed up the line with some urgency and awaited repercussions – only to find that a new engineer in our team was green enough to carry that nickname – embarrassing.”
A great memory is of the relining of Coronation Drive, a major road in Brisbane.
“One morning we had a minor issue and held up the traffic badly. It appears that the Police Minister missed his plane and wanted some retribution – so along came a six foot, six inch motor bike officer. He demanded to know who was in charge – and without hesitation, all my men and the contractors pointed to me.
I went straight down a 20 m deep manhole and stayed there until the coast was clear. To this day, I am not sure what was more dangerous; to face the music or not abide by safety requirements of sewer entry, it was a split second decision. So much for the loyalty of my men, all of whom thought it was very funny.”