We're in Coralville, Iowa. They're in the process of doing the pilings for a water tower that will be going up, a 1.5-million gallon water tower for the city of Coralville. This is the very first step.
On this job, they're doing 90 of these 18-inch diameter piles. Usually in Iowa they do bigger-sized piles and fewer of them, but because of soil conditions they're actually doing more and having to go down a bit deeper than normal. I'm just here in case something goes wrong and they've got to go deeper or they don't go as deep and keeping track of which holes they're doing and when.
When they do the next step, which is more foundation work, then I play a bigger role in it from the standpoint I've got to make sure they've got the right sized reinforcing bars in it, that they're spaced properly, the wall is the right thickness. If it's a circle, I've got to calculate that from the diameter of the actual circumference of the circle.
Iowa is kinda unique because we have all different types -- from ground storage to stand pipes to elevated towers. Within the system, there's a pump that pumps the water up and fills the tank. Once it's full, the pump shuts off and the water is fed throughout the system from the tank. Since it's elevated, it's under pressure. That's exactly how most of the area actually gets their water.
The water may be clean coming out of the water plant. You can do all the testing at the water plant, but once it gets into -- whether it's an elevated or ground storage tank -- if the tank is in poor condition, your water isn't in the greatest condition.
On the outside, I'll be looking for the coating they've applied. There's two coats of paint on this tank now, and I'll check to make sure they have the proper thickness. If it's too thin, it won't do the job. If it's too thick, it won't do the job. They have a range to look for: anywhere from 3 to 5 on the inside, 4 to 8 on the outside. I have this special gauge that can actually read that through the coating to the steel. It's a magnetic gauge.
To be a water tower inspector, you have to have some good people skills because you've got to work with contractors and some of them that don't want to do the job right. You have to be able to negotiate with people. You have to work well with public officials. You have to be willing to climb. You've got to be willing to go through a lot of classes, such as OSHA, confined space, because you've got to wear all the safety equipment when you enter tanks.
At the painting end of things, I have to look at their blast, see how clean it is, see if they have a profile. Prior to priming the steel, I must look at the prime coat, make sure it's thick enough, it's the right paint. Due to the fact that most tanks are round and not square, that makes it more difficult to figure out your surface area, so you do a lot of math calculations.
Records is the most important part of the job. Basically, my entire job is keeping track of everything that goes on in the field, any phone conversations or decisions that are made. If something doesn't work right, they want to know why, and everybody points fingers at the inspector because he should have caught it. With my records, I can show either I did or something didn't get done properly. When you write specifications, then you need writing skills.
Back in high school, I decided I liked drafting. From drafting, I went into architectural school and got my bachelor of arts degree in architecture, technical option. I started out in architectural design work, and that led into specifications. Since we do water and wastewater plants, that led into a different type of protective coating or industrial coatings, which then led into water tower coatings. That led into repair work and new construction of water towers.
You get to see a view that very few people ever get to see other than if you're flying a plane. I'm not quite that high, but I can see the countryside. If I'm in this particular area of Iowa, I can look at tanks that I've inspected that I know are in good condition because I've done a good job for the various cities and I can go to any of them and drink the water.