MSc in Integrative Ecosocial Design
Gaia University

Richard Kühnel

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Implementation I
Results - Sewage Pipe

This was the first task that started implementation - and it was almost a disaster! This was the first day we actually started visibly implementing what we have planned for so long. Some things of course had to be arranged in advance in order to work out. Ryan had to be informed and made sure his schedule is working. I had to rent an excavator. First I started out with a 4000 pound heavy one, but after talking to Ryan we switched to a 8000 pound excavator with a 1 foot wide bucket. The other option, 2 feet, would have been too wide. We had planned to dig out the foundation also for the porch and the smaller bucket is easier for getting really close to the house without damaging it. We had covered up some area where any excavated dirt could be stored. A few days before we had a plumber come by with a video camera that can be passed into pipes to examine our sewage pipe. We have had 2 blockages over the years and were wondering if we have to replace the pipe. And yes, we did. For some reason we had a pipe type in there called "Orange brick", which is made of corncobs and tar, used after the 2nd world war. We could see roots growing into it, belching, some water standing in it - the plumber said it is going to collapse soon. To replace it he gave me a bid of $2500 including excavating. Without excavating it would be $1200 for about 3 - 5 hours of work. That seemed a little bit high. I called a few other plumbers. One gave me good information, including that if it goes out into the street it would be much more costly. But only to the meter it would be around $2000. Now back to Ryan. His father is a plumber and he himself was also a plumber previously. So we decided to dig the pipe up and ask his father to replace it. The excavator was around $240 per day for 8 hours motor time, any additional hour an extra $30. Delivery charge, because we are so close would be only $50. But as we are so close we actually could drive it ourselves without any additional charge for that. Interesting enough, refilling gasoline, actually dyed diesel, would cost $5.50 if they do it, and just the regular price when we do it ourselves, which we did. So we could pick up the excavator at 7 AM and have it till the next day around 8 AM. On the day before, Daniel, Noah and myself were preparing the plants. Cutting down the tree on the SE corner and the bushes around the sewage pipe cleanout and some lower branches from the plumb tree. And put the cardboard down. We also had to first repair the tires of the trailer. So earlier in the week I got a cross wrench and some 2D4D and we finally got the nuts of the tire bolts. We had to be pretty careful to make sure the trailer would not tip (only 2 tires) and is supported while both tires are gone. We hooked it up to the car, then lifted one side of the axle until we could put a ceramic pipe section I had right under the spring, leaving just enough space for the car jack. Quite an operation and discussion how to do it! It worked. Then I got new tires - because of size and width was not so easy, but one place had one a little wider. Now the tires are more worth then the trailer itself! Once the excavator was here the first thing we did was dig up the sidewalk. Before that Ryan cut the plumb tree down, which went really fast and we had a hard time keeping up with de-branching and salvaging the larger limbs. Everything was packed behind the North fence and is piled up there for later use. He pulled the other stumps out that we left from cutting back the plants the day before. I hooked up my trailer and things got loaded in there and brought to the back. Now, ready for digging the sewage pipe. That was hard. One needs to be careful not to hit and damage anything and we also had to check where the water line runs from under the house. So we dug like a 6 feet ditch, deeper and deeper and suddenly we see at the bottom of the clean out that it turns towards the West. So we refilled that, dug a new channel. Once back to the same depth it turns out it turns back South. Fill it again and dig a new one a little bit further west to the first one. Suddenly we hit something and a thin metal pipe comes out almost twisted into a knot! Oh - we pulled out the water line! Now we were without water. It turns out that he water pipe is practically running on top of the sewage pipe. Oh man! Digging further, always watching the water pipe, we come to a point where the water pipe makes a turn to the East. So we have to dig out a big square hole and find that there is a buried shut off, not used anymore, before the current water meter and shut off. The sewage pipe goes straight ahead and attaches pretty soon to a clay pipe. Ryan gets the materials we need and some tools for fixing the water pipe. In the meantime we dig out around the sewage pipe connection and in the crawlspace where the water pipe comes in under the footing of the house. I also went to get some materials and when I got back the sewage pipe was replaced and the outside water line, too. Now we had to hook it up in the crawlspace. Ah - of course - before all this started the water was shut of from the main at the meter. Back in the crawlspace, Ryan cut off a line I had dug out that turns out is going nobody knows where - but not in the house. That was quite a procedure to get all the tools and materials down there, including the burner, fix it and than get back up. Once that was done and tested, the dirt was filled back in to close the ditch. After that we realized we needed to move the old concrete to another spot. We want to reuse it for a footpath and other purposes, to make space for dirt. This also provided opportunity to break it into smaller pieces, by lifting it up and dropping it from high on top of other concrete. Then the digging out for the sidewalk started, which continued a few days later, including digging out the driveway approach and the foundation for the porch.


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