Modified sewer tool keeps lines squeaky clean

Nov. 11, 2000
Kennewick's undisputed kings of the underworld are Bill Hansford and Dave Tuck. Thanks to these inventive guys, the sewer lines that lie beneath the city streets are able to do what they are supposed to — move waste.

By JOHN TRUMBO

November 07, 2000 (Tri-City Herald)—Kennewick's undisputed kings of the underworld are Bill Hansford and Dave Tuck. Thanks to these inventive guys, the sewer lines that lie beneath the city streets are able to do what they are supposed to — move waste.

Were it not for their B-D Whacker, those pipes wouldn't be easily cleared of roots and grease — the stuff that usually is the downstream reason for slow drains and problem toilets.

The B-D Whacker is a "Roto-Rooter" of sorts, but way better than any other industrial-grade motorized clean-out machine, says Tuck.

Tuck is crew leader for the city's waste water plant and Hansford is his general craftsman. The two men invented the gizmo four years ago, but only recently received accolades from their fellow city employees at a city-sponsored dinner.

Simply described, the whacker is a motorized brush that rotates thousands of times per minute as 1,800 pounds of water pressure propels it through sewer lines like a rocket.

"We can go in, cut roots, eliminate grease and wash out the pipe in one operation," said Hansford, proudly. "It polishes the inside of the pipe so you can't even tell where the roots were," he added.

The whacker is a $50 modification on a $1,200 machine sold by industrial suppliers. Tuck and Hansford saw how the industrial machine had problems with premature wearing on cutting blades or with rotary saw blades hanging up inside the pipe.

The answer was to use a tool that would cut like crazy yet be flexible enough to handle rough spots and bends in concrete pipes.

Short lengths of 38-inch diameter steel cable proved to be the key.

Hansford built a special fitting to carry the cable that cuts roots similar to how a Weed Eater whacks vegetation.

When attached to the hydraulic rotary motor, the spinning cables literally tear through roots and slime.

When the cable ends wear down to where they won't work well in an 8-inch pipe, that particular machine is assigned for smaller diameter pipes.

The commercial machines of similar design require frequent replacement of cutting blades, which cost $40 each.

The B-D Whacker can be fitted with new cable ends for about $2, Tuck said. In addition, the commercially sold motors cost $600, but Hansford has found a supplier of the same hydraulic motor in Pasco for $150.

As if the cost savings weren't enough, the B-D Whacker can do the job of the city's continuous rod router using 1,200 feet of rod in one-eighth the time. The rod router would attempt to cut roots in sewer pipe at the rate of 250 feet per hour. But the B-D Whacker will do the same footage in 712 minutes, Tuck said.

For all this technological gee-whiz, Tuck and Hansford split $200 from the city's employee suggestion program.

But city residents are the true beneficiaries, said Tuck, because thanks to the B-D Whacker, what is supposed to go down the drain does just that.

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