It’s easy to under-think the scale of an agricultural drain tile system, even if you’re a frequent reader of the Mad Dog Materials blog. More often than not, we’re talking about drain tile repair, which focuses on replacing the segment of tile that is cut when a pipeline crew comes through. An effective repair is essential for ensuring that the pipeline construction does not result in future damage to the farmland where it occurs.

That said, the amount of tile placed for a repair represents far less than 1 percent of the total drain tile buried on any given property. And there is absolutely a chance that those other buried portions of drain tile can get damaged and result in drainage problems. Neither pipeline operators nor construction crews want the finger pointed at them when something goes wrong—especially when that “something” has nothing to do with the pipeline installation process.

This is why video is so important during the drain tile repair process.

When you buy a home, you hire an inspector to go over the property with a fine-tooth comb and file a report; both so you can find problems for the seller to fix, and so the seller can prove themselves innocent if the problem wasn’t present while they owned the property. Pipeline construction companies have drain tile repair contractors record video of the tile surrounding the repair so they have proof of what condition the tile was in prior to work being completed.

This is done using a video inspection system consisting of a thin camera attached to a cord so that it can be efficiently propelled down the tunnel of the drain tile. The systems used by Mad Dog Materials feature a cord that can extend up to 200 ft. The camera comes equipped, of course, with LEDs to illuminate its path.

Most “journeys” are cut-and-dry, but what kind of problems could you expect to find?

The most common problem discovered would be simple dirt and mud. If you find sediment far down the tile from the “entrance” (where you are conducting the repair), it is probably a sign that the tile is cracked somewhere, which is allowing the soil above to seep in. An obvious clog is easy to see and report, but it’s also important that contractors make note of smaller amounts of soil. Over time, this could eventually accumulate and cause drastic drainage problems. Even years down the line, it’s good to have documentation demonstrating that there was an issue before the pipeline got started.

That said, there are also issues that develop because of the pipeline installation process. For example, the movement of heavy equipment along the right-of-way could potentially push in the drain tile’s ceiling. This is unlikely when it’s buried at a reasonable depth, but possible. In more curious scenarios, it’s not impossible for a bird or small mammal to take advantage of the small hole in the side of the pipeline trench, and start building a nest. Sending a camera down the tile lets you know that you’ve got a blockage to remove for your own good (and theirs).

Documentation is important on a pipeline construction job. Sometimes keeping your hands clean means going 100 ft. into the dirt.