In this business you just never know what’s going to happen when you get a call. In this case it was a call from Leo Wescott from GSE Construction in California. They had been awarded the job to do the upgrade on the wastewater treatment plant for the Phantom Ranch located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon AZ. The work consisted of some new larger tanks to replace the old existing ones, as they were nearing 100 years old. Now with the number of visitors each year the old system couldn’t keep up and needed replaced. The challenge he was facing with the project was there was a lot of rock, in fact the whole Grand Canyon is all rock and they had to dig trenches for the new pipeline to install the waste water pipeline from the Phantom Ranch to the Treatment plant miles away. This meant digging through the rock. The ground in that area of the canyon isn’t all solid bedrock, it is a mixture of sandy dirt and boulders.
The real difficulty was that being at the bottom of the canyon there was no access. The only way in and out was a 5 hour hike, donkey, or helicopter. This meant that everything we did had to be small and light enough to be flown in by helicopter. Leo then hired me on as a consultant and had me supply all of the expanding grout materials, drills and tools and had me come down and do some on-site training of the crews. It has been said that 5 million people per year visit the Grand Canyon but only 1% of them take on the adventure to the bottom. The bottom of the canyon is literally like its own unique part of the world. With the remote access being the main point of this job it meant that much of it had to be done by hand. The air compressor we flew in could run 2 drills at a time but it all had to be done with small diameter holes (1.5″) and it was time-consuming, but at the end of the day it all worked out well
We started off by flying in everything we needed. a CAT 301.7 mini excavator, a Bobcat, 185 CFM Air Compressor, Screening deck, even a 1,000 Liters of fuel. Then the NexPRO expanding grout and drills.
Preparing to move in. After Helicopter Flight Safety and Rescue training, we prepare to jump in the helicopter for the flight into the Phantom Ranch. Having your own pilot and co-pilot to take you where you want to go and explain all the ins and outs of the National Park Service and all they do for people was great. Heather my pilot was an amazing pilot. You can see where training and experience comes in to play. All of the rescues of hikers that need medivac and the fire fighting services they provide is so essential. You can see why the State has its own helicopters for the park.
Such an amazing flight into the canyon. As you fly over the top of the forest the land just falls away and the canyon opens up. It is truly the most amazing sight.
This is where we landed the helicopter and hiked in from there. A couple kilometer hike to the Rangers Cabin we stayed at.
We flew in a pallet of 50 boxes for the job along with all the drills, bits etc. everything needed to do the rock breaking as it was needed.
Overall a successful job. GSE was able to break all the rock out of their way and get the new pipeline installed as needed. Even the toughest of jobs are all doable with proper planning.
The Air Compressor was used to run the drills and the screen deck was used to screen and separate the medium-sized rock from the fine sandy material. The large rocks were drilled and broken and then put aside for later use. Anything that was small enough was blended with the fine sandy material and used for bedding material for the pipe and backfill.
For remote access work our Heli Air Compressor rocks. We will use it on future work in the canyon and other jobs as well. The nice thing about it is that it is only 900lbs The standard 185 shown above is 2,800 lbs. The weight difference means that it can be flown in with the smaller helicopter saving thousands of dollars.