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We mend hearts by non-invasive methods, but to mend a water pipe we dig trenches

‘We mend hearts by non-invasive methods, but to mend a water pipe we dig trenches’ was the headline of the weekly political review show ‘Benovska asking’ on ‘Canal 3’ and ‘Radio K2’ on 15 September 2019. Guest in the show was Mr. Stefan Zhelyazkov – President of the Bulgarian Association for Trenchless Technologies and Executive Director of Construction Machinery AD Kazanlak.

 

The host of the show Iliana Benovska opens the talk on trenchless technologies by making the allusion to cardio surgery. ‘What made you think of using a bloodless, trenchless method of recuperating pipelines? – was Benovska’s question. Zhelyazkov explained that it had happened more than 22 years ago, when he was employed in the water sector, and the manager of one of the subsidiary companies had requested information about trenchless technologies, more particularly about a machine which was in general operation.

The example

The large screen in the studio was showing a video shot near the television tower in Sofia, which presented a project for trenchless rehabilitation of two pipelines with diameter about 900 mm, crossing diagonally the boulevard and having 6 perforations within 3.5 metres, leaking water and causing sinking of the street surface.

Zhelyazkov presented the trenchless technology ‘Cured-in-place-pipe technology’ and described it: ‘A lining is made on the inner side of the pipeline, so that the old pipe is used as formwork and a new pipe is cured on its inner wall. In very short time we achieve a new pipeline without excavating and it has 50 years of service life, yet, compared to the trench technology, this becomes reality much faster and without blocking the traffic. Ass you can see – the boulevard is open for traffic, there are excavations on both sides, yet no one sees that repairs are done underneath, except the people engaged in the repairs’. The Host made a guess that such repair would be much cheaper than the routine, involving digging pavements, blocking of traffic and then restoration of infrastructure, which was confirmed by her guest, underlying that when preventive repairs are performed, there will be no sinking of asphalt and traffic limitations. “As far as I know, Sofiyska Voda” and the Sofia City Municipality have launched a campaign for the critical locations where the same water pipe could cause problems in order to prevent them through rehabilitation” commented Zhelyazkov.

International awards for trenchless projects

‘I learned that you are beginning serious discussions and possibly start applying these technologies in many Bulgarian cities and in order to optimize these operations, the Bulgarian Bank for Development – the only state owned bank – would support you, which is plausible as far as business and money cooperate not only for private interests, but also for public purposes, as your activities are in this direction”, said Benovska. Zhelyazkov explained that they have been working with the BBD for many years and thanks to the Bank’s support and the Bulgarian Export Insurance Agency, there are active projects not only in Bulgaria. ‘We have a branch in Morocco with 2 completed projects, we have a branch in Kazakhstan where we have been operating for 4 years. One of the projects we completed there, got first global award for 2015 by the International Trenchless Technologies Association. This is an award by the world association with participation of projects – 28 national associations worldwide, with no limitations to the projects offered’ explained Zhelyazkov. He pointed out that the firs award they got in 2011 was the first for Eastern Europe and the company is the only one in Eastern Europe which can boast with two first prizes. 

About the interest demonstrated by the premier Borisov to trenchless technologies and the Technological center for trenchless operations in Kazanlak

‘I want to say something which I would like to be correctly understood – I saw you for the first time in Morocco during a visit of the prime minister heading a delegation with economic priorities, then we met again during a visit in Turkmenistan, and you say that your first global award is from 2011. Why now, 7-8 years later, you were noticed by a premier – Boyko Borisov? Was he inspired by your project? He did so much want you to get an engagement in Turkmenistan and to step there. He told us journalists on the plane, everything you have shared with him and he had understood it’ commented Benovska. Zhelyazkov explained that Borisov had shown interest and as early as 2012 they won a project financed by European funds and, supported by the BBD, they managed to ensure additional financing. ‘This is a project for building a centre for trenchless technologies and Mr. Borisov, then, presented the contract for 8.8 million Levs. This technology center is in Kazanlak, its partners are the UACU and the Kazanlak municipality. The purpose of this technology centre is to promote trenchless technologies, to test new technologies and machines, to find solution for designing and problems which occur in Bulgaria and generally all which are concerned by trenchless technologies, so that everyone could get what they need’ – explained Zhelyazkov. Benovska mentioned that the Minister of Economy Karanikolov was well aware of the trenchless operations.

The pipeline grids in Bulgaria

The host reminded that there was a problem in Pernik yesterday, and there are serious leaks for old asbestos-cement pipes, and asked her guest whether the state, the MRDU, Minister Petya Avramova or her deputy Nikolay Nankov had contacted him for developing a plan for recovery of Pernik, where the pipes are more than 50 years old. Zhelyazkov commented that globally the pipelines’ life is about 50 years and after that the costs grow rapidly. ‘Regretfully, the water supply grid of Bulgaria is highly worn out and needs very large investments. The MRDU governs a limited budget, doing its best, but this is not enough for everywhere. There are funds expected on European programs’ – commented Zhelyazkov. ‘Well, what about the individual Water Supply and Sewerage companies, which are independent businesses, as Petya Avramova told me?’ asked Benovska. The President of the Bulgarian Association for Trenchless Technologies (BATT) replied that these companies were investing their own funds and any other sources were drastically insufficient. ‘What we are doing together with Mrs Avramova and Mr Nankov is to select suitable projects for which solutions could be found by assistance of trenchless technologies’, explained Zhelyazkov.

The final of the show

Traditionally, the guest of the show offers an initiative. Stefan Zhelyazkov proprsed in relation to the Pernik situation, supported by Radio K2 and Canal 3, the Technological Centre for Trenchless Technologies and the Cluster for trenchless technologies to reach the directly concerned people – the WSS operators and specialists in the communities, to highlight the current problems in order to seek solutions.

For the Final, Zhelyazkov made a present to the show – specialized literature on no-excavation technologies and the book ‘Kazanlak – a Festival of the Rose’ with the message: As Bulgaria is famous worldwide with roses, so it should become famous with its trenchless technologies.