ACS Underground Solutions, a privately owned consulting company in Georgetown, CT., has provided utility locating, leak detection and sewer inspection services to utility and construction companies, engineering firms, municipalities and academic institutions for more than 20 years.
The company has been using ground penetrating radar (GPR) equipment since 2006.
The company’s president, Ian Beaver, is a former pipefitting laborer who switched from finding leaks and fixing water main breaks for the city of Manchester in the United Kingdom to locating pipes as a one-man operation after moving to the United States in 1993. Today, the company Beaver founded in the early 1990s is supported by eight employees, working primarily in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
While the company’s most longstanding customers include several New York-based organizations, such as Pace University, New York University, Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and the United Nations headquarters, some of their most significant work in recent years has taken place in neighboring New Jersey, at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
Setting the stage for the big game
ACS Underground Solutions had successfully located and marked out utilities in and around the older Meadowlands football stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The company was hired to survey and locate the fiber optic communication, sewer, water, gas and electrical lines for construction of the MetLife stadium, the new home to the New York Jets and New York Football Giants of the National Football League.
“More than 5,000 piles needed to be driven into the ground for the new MetLife stadium, but existing utilities were still operating in the old stadium, and it was imperative they be protected at all cost,” Beaver said. “Our experience and expertise with the new stadium kept us at the top of the contract list to help prepare the venue for the championship game last February.”
On a normal game day, parking capacity at MetLife Stadium and the greater Meadowlands Sports Complex is around 29,000 cars. For Super Sunday 2014, only 11,000 parking spaces were available and tailgating was prohibited. The remaining parking area was transformed into a security perimeter, a staging area for satellite trucks and other support vehicles, and an area for warming stations and welcome pavilions.
Because the 2014 championship game was being played in cold winter conditions, plans called for warming stations and heated welcome pavilions for spectators. “More than 1,117 tent pegs had to be driven five to 10 feet into the blacktop to accommodate all the tented stations,” Beaver said.
More than 60 generators were required to provide additional power for the pre-game hospitality, the media and the halftime show. “For all those generators, another 1,500 piercings had to be driven 10 feet into the surface for the grounding bars,” Beaver said.
Before a single hole could be made for the tent pegs or the grounding bars, ACS Underground had to survey the entire area with their GPR equipment.
GPR a game-changer
“It took us six weeks, working in the freezing cold, to complete the job,” Beaver said. “We had to make sure the piercings didn’t hit any of the fiber optic lines or the other gas, electric, telephone and water utilities under the surface. We’re talking about a massive amount of plastic lines, fiber optics, storm drains and sewer lines. We never could have performed work on this type of scale without ground penetrating radar.
“This was one of the most rewarding jobs we’d done with GPR,” he said. “Watching the media coverage before and during the game, there were signs of our work all over – green spray paint with ‘ACS OK’ with an arrow to indicate that a test point had been cleared for drilling through the surface.”
ACS made an investment in their first GPR unit, a Swedish-made system, back in 2006, however they soon became frustrated with the system’s performance and the lack of support from the manufacturer.
“We shared our frustrations over that first system with Ron Labarca, president of US Radar, and he met us out on one of our jobsites and demo’d his GPR equipment,” Beaver said. “Until then, we had never seen trenches and utilities light up the way we did with US Radar’s equipment. I was so impressed; I bought four GPR systems from Ron on the spot.”
Today, ACS Underground uses four GPR systems from US Radar. “We’ve been very happy with US Radar, and Ron and his team do anything they can for us,” Beaver said. “Our US Radar GPR equipment consistently helps us expose the utilities and verify depth so we can get paint on the ground. It’s helped us identify sewers, water mains, cable and fiber optics that supposedly weren’t there.”
Before the advent of GPR, Beaver said he would often leave a job with 90-percent confidence. “Today, with my US Radar GPR equipment, I leave every job with 99-percent confidence,” he said. “You can’t go out and locate everything with a GPR, but I generally use it for the last two hours of a job as a verification tool.”
In the Northeast, soil conditions pose unique challenges for GPR. “We come across everything from big rocks and boulders, to porous soil, to red clay and sand,” Beaver said. “You can never predict what you’re going to get, and sometimes you’ve got to fight for it. We use our GPR equipment to find underground storage tanks, oil tanks, plastic lines and concrete lines.”
Working in such a specialized industry, Beaver said the use of GPR equipment has helped increase his company’s productivity by 100 percent. “You need GPR to get on any job today,” he said. “Even though GPR may not do all the work, you still need it on the job.”
Based in Matawan, NJ, US Radar is a leading manufacturer and distributor of surface-penetrating radar, also known as ground-penetrating radar, systems. The company was formed in 1994 to promote the Seeker SPR technology, determine and test new applications, and identify product improvements. Since 2002, US Radar has been an independent company with complete manufacturing and engineering capabilities and worldwide customer marketing, support and service.