Master Weavers

Boring Through Established Fabric of Underground UtilitiesJason Mushrush is Vice President of Operations at Mushrush Utility Contracting, a leading utility installation contractor headquartered in New Philadelphia, Ohio. The company specializes in underground pipeline replacement and restoration services, primarily for utility service providers, for the benefit of residents in communities located throughout eastern and central Ohio. Mushrush recently dispatched crews to New Philadelphia (pop. 17,000) to install an 11,000-ft gas line.

When complete, the new 4-in. HDP line — compliments of project owner and longtime Mushrush customer Dominion East Ohio — will enhance delivery of natural gas to approximately 220 residences. The job is just one of many currently being completed by Mushrush on behalf of Dominion Ohio East in fulfilling the energy company’s objective of providing customers with efficient delivery of natural gas and a plentiful supply of combined energy resources. 

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Dominion Ohio East is one of many among the portfolio of parent company Dominion, headquartered in Richmond, Va. Dominion serves retail energy customers in 15 states and is one of the largest producers and transporters of energy in the United States, with more than 947 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas storage capacity. And aside from its energy-related product and service offerings, Dominion is active and visible in the communities it serves, supporting hundreds of civic and community improvement projects.

Among the many corporate causes supported by the energy leader, Dominion is proud to be among the first utility interests in the country to partner with the Troops to Energy initiative — a jobs creation program that helps place military personnel in rewarding energy-related careers (see sidebar).

Caution: Interwoven Infrastructure Below

We caught up with Mushrush near the launch site where his crews were busy positioning the company’s Vermeer D20x22 Series II Navigator horizontal directional drill. The project covers an area approximately six-by-six blocks square in a residential area of New Philadelphia. Mushrush selected the D20x22 Series II drill because of its small footprint. The machine’s 50- by 200.5-in. size is ideal for residential work, because the machine’s smaller frame provides more options for launch site locations.

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Mushrush Utility Contracting of New Philadelphia, Ohio“The D20x22 Series II drill is ideal for navigating tight spaces, and its small footprint is perfect for the residential areas we’re working in on this job,” Mushrush says. “When we leave, we will have installed all new gas lines in this entire area, which will provide better services from the main line to the basement wall of every home. When we’re done, the residents’ quality of life will have been bettered.”

Despite the flurry of preparation activity, Mushrush graciously offered to lead us on a guided tour of the site where his crews would be tackling the bore of the day. The first stop was the launch site, where two crew members were sizing things up in preparation for aligning and securely positioning the D20x22 drill. “Today, we’re going to complete a 480-ft bore right here in the midst of this residential area,” he says. “As long as everything goes well, we should be pulled back by around 4 o’clock; then about an hour to tear down and get the holes safely barricaded. We should be out of here no later than 5 o’clock, which, of course, will be a 10-hour day.”

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In the pipeline fusing area, another crew was hard at work preparing to fuse the individual pipeline links into one continuous 480-ft link. Once the bore is completed and stabilized, the entire segment will then be pulled back through and secured in its final resting place before being joined with the previous section. Having a crew assigned to fusing detail helps expedite the actual installation component of the job, yet isn’t always possible if the space above ground is insufficient to accommodate an entire fused segment.

“The more work we can complete ahead of time, the faster things go on the back end,” says Mushrush. “On a job like this where we’re installing in residential areas, we have to do some scouting in advance and reach out to individual homeowners for their cooperation. We can usually identify areas above ground where there’s enough area to fuse a fairly decent segment length together, and the process doesn’t take very long, so even if we need to block driveways, it’s only temporary. And we always have crews nearby in case something needs to be moved.”

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Locating, Locating, Locating
Moving from the pipeline-fusing staging area, we continued back toward the launch site where the first crew we visited had just finished stabilizing the D20x22 Series II drill in preparation to begin drilling. Just a short distance ahead, we came back to the launch site crew — now positioned near a very narrow opening — where one crew member was in firm control of a 30-ft-long hose that led to the rear of a bright-yellow, trailer-mounted cylindrical tank; the other operating a squeeze lever connected to a second, smaller-diameter hose.
The large 800-gal tank was flanked on the left by two impressive black cyclonic-shaped cones positioned directly behind a second tank — a rectangular-shaped configuration — all secured firmly on the platform of the double-axle trailer. According to Mushrush, on a job such as this where an extensive network of interwoven utility threads exists in the direct line of the bore path, the vacuum unit plays the leading role in the success of the entire HDD production.

“Working ahead of the drill, this crew is using a Vermeer V800LEHD vacuum by McLaughlin to vac around all the existing lines, so we can identify precise depths,” says Mushrush. “Minimum cover on the project is between 30 and 36 in., so we’re always encountering obstacles. The V800 vac is a huge help in locating utilities. If they’re mismarked or we’re struggling to locate a utility that isn’t where it’s supposed to be, the vac can locate it so much quicker.

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“These locations are critical because the information will allow our drill operators to weave through the crowded underground most accurately with the boring machine. Approximately every 40 to 60 ft we’ll encounter gas, water or sewer line intersects. We added new 500- and 800-gal capacity vacuums this past year, and I estimate we are saving at least an hour to an hour and a half every day by locating utilities with the Vermeer vacs by McLaughlin.”

With pre-production preparations now complete, the drill operator was positioned comfortably at the controls of the Vermeer drill. With a supporting cast composed of a 500-gal mixing system helping to inject a continuous supply of drilling fluid into the bore path, his trustworthy locator to the drill head on the straight and narrow and the vacuum duo out in front to expose utilities near the bore path ahead, the HDD boring production was officially underway.

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“The key to success on any project — above anything else — is safety,” says Mushrush. “At the end of a long, productive day, the most important thing is that our guys return home safely to their families … and in good shape. Our No. 1 goal at Mushrush is to work safely. When it comes to drilling, without a doubt, it’s our locators. Our drill operators never take the locating duo for granted. Locators are the underground eyes that allow the drill operator to weave the drill head through the utility network incident free. Without the locator and the drill operator working together, trenchless contractors like Mushrush would not exist. It’s as simple as that.”

Randy Happel is a Features Writer for Two Rivers Marketing.

Troops to Energy JobsTroops to Energy Jobs: Putting Military Experience and Skills to Work for Energy
Making the transition back to the mainstream as a civilian after active duty can often be a challenging, frustrating and even disappointing road for military personnel and veterans. Simply navigating the resources available for rejoining the workforce can be overwhelming.

Dominion recognizes the hard work, commitment and sacrifice of all military personnel — whether active, veteran or retired. The energy leader was among the first utilities in the country to partner in the Troops to Energy Jobs program, which helps link military members with rewarding careers in the energy industry.
“One of our goals is to work with our military men and women to make it clear to them there are energy jobs awaiting them, and that we want them,” says Tom Farrell, Chairman, President and CEO of Dominion. “Dominion provides a vital public service to our customers, and we need hard-working, skilled, safety-conscious, civic-minded men and women. I can’t think of a better pool from which to draw from than the dedicated men and women who risk their lives for the safety and security of our country.” 

“There is a big difference in who I was before I went overseas, and when I came back,” says Ryan Crabtree, Former Head of Operations for a motor transportation unit while serving in the United States Marine Corps, now a Supervisor in Operations at Chesterfield Power Station for Dominion. “My military experience helped me realize what I wanted to do when I returned home. And because of the Troops to Energy program, the energy field is helping me get to where I want to go.”

Dominion’s commitment to helping military personnel get their boots firmly established on the ground in a rewarding energy career has not gone unnoticed — having been named a “Top 100 Military Friendly Employer” in three consecutive years. “The recognition isn’t our motivation,” says Farrell. “Dominion is honored to stand behind the dedicated men and women who have served our country so bravely. There’s no better qualification than that.”

For more information about the Troops to Energy Jobs program, visit