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CCTV camera detectives

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7 January 2021

Closed-circuit television specialists are the Citycare Water detectives who investigate what is causing stormwater and wastewater pipe blockages for councils all over New Zealand.

In the past, pinpointing the location of a drainage problem relied on guess work and digging a big hole.

Now, the rover camera enables operators to explore and inspect the underground pipe network for 200 metres from where their specially-equipped CCTV van is parked, says Allan Ching, a CCTV camera operator for Citycare Water in Timaru.

As there’s 100m between manholes to access the network, the camera unit can reach pipes everywhere.

It’s an electric set-up, similar to a little remote-controlled car, and the unit drags the cable behind it.

A generator in the van powers the equipment.

A locator on the 150mm camera broadcasts a signal so the operator can pinpoint exactly where a blockage is.

The images from the camera are fed to a laptop in the CCTV van and the operator views the video footage in real time to determine the exact cause of a problem, Allan says.

There are two reasons the team gets called in – a reactive call-out to an actual problem or routine assessment surveys of the stormwater and wastewater pipes network to ensure Timaru District Council records are up to date.

From Allan’s experience, the main sources of drain blockages are cracked pipes, stones and tree roots, and occasionally something like broadband fibres being drilled through.

Sometimes, four-legged culprits are responsible for problems – rats, mice and even possums.

Once a blockage has been fixed, the team is able to use the CCTV unit to check the pipes again and record the solution for the council.

Residents are always curious and fascinated with the camera and what it can do.

“When people look at the laptop, they don’t expect the excellent quality of the images,” Allan says.

There’s industry training required for people to become a CCTV camera operator. ProjectMax provides the training courses based on industry guidelines developed for Water New Zealand.  

At times Allan can fix the drainage problem himself. He’s also trained to use a high-pressure water hose called a jetter, which often solves simple blockages.

CCTV Timaru 3

Trainee CCTV Operator Josh Flick monitors the camera survey on the laptop.

CCTV Timaru 2

Trainee CCTV Operator Michael Fox checks the camera tractor set-up for 225mm diameter pipe

CCTV Timaru 4 low res2

The CCTV rover camera ready to travel and survey the drain.