What do Inland Divers Do?
When a bridge, dam, pier, hydroelectric plant, shipyard or underwater cabling has to be repaired or maintained, a water tank needs cleaning, or you need to haul a gruesome corpse from the bottom of a lake, who you gonna call? Inland divers!
The USA is covered in rivers and lakes which have to be crossed by travelers, and hydropower is used for many applications. Inland divers are an essential part of America’s civil engineering sector but they are also employed to work on jobs that fall outside of building, fixing and maintaining too. For example, hazmat work, cleaning up or controlling pollution, recovering toxic dead bodies, or working in septic tanks and sewage systems, is also undertaken in inland bodies of water and performed by inland divers. Hazmat is challenging and intensive work requiring high levels of experience and qualifications, and strict adherence to various safety precautions – vaccinations, additional diver weighting techniques and altered decompression tactics. Because of these risks, hazmat diving often pays comparatively well.
Bobby Roe, DIT Life Support, Facilities, and Instructor, began his career in construction and carpentry, trained as a diver at DIT and worked inland with Liquid Engineering, a water tank maintenance company, for three years before returning to DIT as an instructor. During his days at Liquid Engineering as a diver and supervisor, he would work two months on, cleaning, inspecting and maintaining potable water tanks, followed by two weeks at home.
Inland diving can offer a lifestyle more similar to the landlubber laborers of this world than offshore commercial divers. Inland work is year-round and can allow divers to spend more time at home with their loved ones and undertake other pursuits, like hobbies, that offshore divers just don’t have the time for. “Inland is easier on people with families because they know when they are going to be gone and when they are going to be home. There is still a lot of traveling; I have worked in almost all of the lower 48 states. All of our time was spent driving from state to state doing jobs,” says Bobby.
Tanks containing potable water may remain stagnant for long periods of time. They need to be regularly cleaned to remove inorganic buildup and biofilm, thin layers of bacteria that accumulate and can pose health health risks and degrade the water’s taste.
Bobby provides a snapshot into the long days in the life of tank inspection and cleaning. In the early morning, he and his team, after coffee and driving, would arrive on the job site somewhere in this great vast nation, and make contact with the utility who would take them to the tank to set it up for cleaning. “Setting up an above-ground tank for cleaning and inspection is pretty intensive and can take up to three hours. The first thing to go up to the tank is the cleaning gear; we use what we call a hydro-dyne — basically an underwater vacuum cleaner. Next, we bring in soft, flexible piping that goes inside the tank, and then the hard, ridged pipe that runs from the tank’s hatch to a pump on the ground. After all the cleaning gear is set up then the dive gear goes up! The dive hat, all the diver’s gear and the umbilical. The diver goes up, dresses out, gets in the tank and cleans it up!”
Written for DIT by Londi Gamezde