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Reality Check: $120k device to inspect city pipes could help catch problems early

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The City of Asheville's Stormwater Services Department has approved a 5 percent increase in fees for 2018 after already charging 5 percent more this year. The Stormwater Services Department is entirely funded by the fees it collects, and it recently spent $120,000 on a device that can get into small pipes. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

The City of Asheville's Stormwater Services Department has approved a 5 percent increase in fees for 2018 after already charging 5 percent more this year.

The Stormwater Services Department is entirely funded by the fees it collects, and it recently spent $120,000 on a device that can get into small pipes.

Most people try to get out of the rain, but inside or out, the weather used to reach Leslie Klingner. In 2012, rain breached her home via a stormwater pipe. The water eroded the home's foundation, and forced her to move.

"Every time it rained, a river was flowing," she explained.

After a multi-year fight, the city paid the majority of the cost to move the pipe.

"Everything's been resolved," Klingner said.

She's a lot happier now than when News 13 talked with her in 2012.

"It's really sad. This is my first house," she said five years ago.

Klingner didn't know the pipe was below her house. Now, the city should have an easier time finding and checking pipes. In mid-January, the city acquired what it refers to as the "Pipe Ranger."

It's a short remote controlled rover with a camera and lights. It can go where no man has before. There's no other way to thoroughly inspect the narrow pipes.

"There's a little bit of rust, but not too much. So, I think overall this pipe is in fairly good condition," said Justin Boll, a Stormwater Services employee who was controlling the Pipe Ranger in Shiloh.

The Ranger came with a generator, a trailer, monitors, and a software program to track inspections and map pipe.

"It makes my job a lot easier and this equipment? We can't place a value on it, really," Boll said.

The city's infrastructure is so old the department doesn't know where all the pipes are, let alone their condition. The head of Stormwater Services said the $120,000 was money well spent.

"This right here gives us the opportunity to look at those pipes where we could see if things are starting to happen to that pipe, so we can be proactive instead of being reactive," Tony Chapman, the Stormwater Services Director, said.

Klingner would loved to have had a heads up about the pipe under her former North Asheville home.

"One problem like this costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. So, to have something that you can go in and send in without putting people at risk is really money well spent," Klingner said.


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