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It's a Jungle out there. Underground Utility Detection & Inspection Services

Western Washington’s Leader in Utility Locating and Ground Penetrating Radar Services

Western Washington’s Leader in Utility Locating and Ground Penetrating Radar Services


The process of underground utility locating involves the identification and labeling of underground utility mains and services, which may encompass a wide range of infrastructure, including telecommunication lines, electricity distribution systems, natural gas pipelines, cable television networks, fiber optic cables, traffic signals, streetlights, storm drains, water mains, and wastewater pipes. In certain areas, significant oil and gas pipelines, national defense communication lines, mass transit systems, rail networks, and road tunnels are also situated underground, vying for space alongside other utilities.

Underground utilities offer several advantages over their overhead counterparts, making them a popular choice in many urban and suburban areas. They have the ability to withstand weather-related events such as storms, high winds, and heavy snowfall. Unlike overhead lines, which are vulnerable to damage from falling trees, ice accumulation, and other debris, underground utilities are protected from the elements, making them more reliable and less susceptible to outages.

In addition, underground utilities are less intrusive than their overhead counterparts, which can be visually unappealing and detract from the surrounding environment. It can be particularly important in densely populated areas, where the visual impact of overhead utilities can be significant. By placing utilities underground, cities and towns can improve the aesthetic appeal of their streets and neighborhoods, making them more attractive to residents and visitors alike.

Another aspect of underground utilities is their reliability and low maintenance requirements. Because they are not exposed to the same risks as overhead systems, underground utilities are less likely to require repairs or maintenance, making them a cost-effective choice for municipalities and utility companies. In addition, because they are not subject to the same wear and tear as overhead lines, underground utilities tend to have a longer lifespan, further reducing maintenance costs.

Although underground utilities have many benefits that are mentioned above, they are not easily detected unless a professional underground utility locating service company is hired to identify them. CNI Locates offers a wide variety of services to identify and inspect underground utilities (e.g., GPR, concrete scanning, metallic line detection, nonmetallic line detection, video pipe inspections, magnetic detection, plastic water locates, and more). Our expert staff averages 8+ years of experience and participates in quarterly educational classes to retain knowledge and keep up with new technologies/industry standards in the utility locating and utility inspection industries.

We encourage all our technicians to have strong values that include growth mindedness, integrity, mutual respect, safety, and teamwork, and to have a willingness to constantly adapt, learn, and improve. If you have underground utilities in your work area, we recommend calling 811 for public utility locating services and a professional private utility locating service like CNI Locates Ltd. to protect the integrity of your work area.

Why We Strongly Recommend Using Ground-Penetrating Radar

Standard electromagnetic (EM) locating equipment is generally able to locate conductible utilities that it has access to send an EM signal through. Any non-conductible utilities, inaccessible utilities, abandoned utilities, unknown utilities, storage tanks, unknown objects, etc., are typically undetectable with standard electromagnetic equipment. That is why ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology has become a valuable tool in subsurface detection and assessment. Generally, GPR contains a transmitter and receiver antenna linked to a signal processing unit via wires or wireless connections. The equipment operates by emitting electromagnetic pulses, commonly called radar pulses, with a specific central frequency to probe the subsurface medium. The receiver antenna captures the reflected waves from subsurface targets, which may include metallic utilities, nonmetallic utilities, storage tanks, graves, buried artifacts, unexploded ordinances (UXO), bunkers, tunnels, weapons, hidden objects, contraband, rebar, conduits, voids, landfill, valves, septic tanks, abandoned utilities, etc. Depending on the frequency of the EM pulse and dielectric/conductive properties of the area being scanned, the GPR can detect targets at various depths, making it a versatile solution for subsurface utility locates.

The GPR scanning process can be performed in a linear scan array or an area scan. The latter combines multiple line scans collected in two perpendicular directions to provide slice maps of the subsurface. In general, to achieve high-resolution scanning, an antenna with a high frequency is required; however, this comes at the cost of lower-depth penetration. Conversely, lower frequencies are required when targets are located at deeper levels at the expense of a decrease in resolution.

Overall, GPR technology provides a non-invasive and efficient means of subsurface investigation and monitoring, helping professionals to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subsurface environment. With its range of capabilities and ease of use, it is no surprise that GPR is becoming a popular choice for various applications, including utility locating, civil engineering, geology, environmental assessments, archaeology, forensics, military applications, etc.

Modern ground penetrating radar (GPR) equipment has become a vital tool in subsurface detection due to its numerous perks that make it a popular technique. These instruments are designed to offer self-contained and quiet operations, making them ideal for use in sensitive areas where noise can be a concern. Let’s look at all the advancements one by one.

  • Non-Destructive Testing: GPR technology is a non-destructive testing technique that does not require drilling, excavation, or any other invasive method, making it ideal for a range of applications, including archaeological studies and the investigation of underground utilities.
  • High-Resolution Imaging: GPR can detect even small variations in subsurface materials, providing high-resolution images of buried objects and structures. Thus, makes it an ideal tool for identifying defects or structural reinforcement in concrete structures or detecting underground pipes and utilities.
  • Versatile: Ground penetrating radar utility locating, and concrete scanning devices can detect both metallic and nonmetallic objects, making them versatile tools for a range of applications. They can be used to locate pipes, cables, rebar, etc., in interior/exterior work areas, and they can also detect voids, cavities, and soil changes.
  • Data Visualization: GPR scanning technology can generate detailed visuals of subsurface materials, providing users with a clear and easy-to-interpret representation of what lies beneath the surface. These visuals can be sliced to provide information on the depth and location of subsurface features.
  • Improved Technology: Recent advances in ground-penetrating radar utility locating and concrete scanning technologies have improved their accuracy, depth penetration, and resolution, making it easier to collect and interpret data. For example, newer GPR systems use dual frequency antennas, tri-frequency antennas, hyper-stacked antennas, etc., that have both high-frequency and low-frequency antennas, which provide higher-resolution images, deeper penetrations, and better accuracy. This means that the GPR system can detect smaller objects and features underground, making it easier to locate utilities with greater precision.

Additionally, the latest GPR systems use digital signal processing techniques to filter out noise and interference, resulting in clearer and more accurate data.

  • Integration With Other Technologies: Ground penetrating radar (GPR) can now be integrated with other technologies, such as GPS and electromagnetic locators, which provide more precise location data. GPS technology allows GPR scanning to be georeferenced, meaning that the location of the utilities can be plotted on a map with high accuracy. Electromagnetic locators can be used in conjunction with GPR to confirm the presence of utilities and differentiate between different types of utilities.
  • Faster Data Analysis: New software and data processing techniques allow for faster analysis of GPR data, reducing the time needed to locate underground utilities. Advanced algorithms can analyze the GPR data and generate 2D and 3D maps of the subsurface, making it easier to identify and locate utilities. Additionally, the software can be used to overlay GPR data with other information to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the subsurface.
  • Increased Safety: GPR utility locating, used in conjunction with electromagnetic locating and our other services, offer a safer alternative to traditional methods that only use electromagnetic equipment, which can be risky and costly if underground utilities are accidentally damaged. GPR is a non-invasive technique, meaning that it does not require any excavation or drilling. GPR scanning can be used to locate utilities in areas where traditional methods may be difficult or dangerous. Additionally, this reduces the risk of accidents or damage to underground utilities and minimizes the potential for costly repairs. To increase safety, C-N-I Locates Ltd offers quality services, which deliver results with higher than 99% accuracy in Western Washington from our Tacoma, WA, Renton, WA, Everett, WA, and Seattle, WA locations.

What Steps Need to Be Taken Before Performing GPR Services in Western Washington?

Before performing utility locating, GPR scanning, or any other utility detection and inspection services, we recommend determining your project needs, choosing a reputable service provider (e.g., CNI Locates), obtaining necessary permissions, marking the work area, and clearing the work area of any obstructions, and discussing safety measures. Let’s take a further look at the steps that need to be taken.

  • Determine Your Project Requirements and Specifications: Before a service provider can provide underground utility locating services, it is important to identify the specific area that needs to be scanned and what you hope to accomplish with the utility locating. For instance, if you are planning to install new utilities or excavate, you may need ground penetrating radar (GPR), used in conjunction with electromagnetic locates and other utility detection and inspection services offered by CNI Locates to identify the location of underground utilities, pipes, cables, and other potential hazards. Additionally, if you are planning to conduct archaeological or environmental research, we recommend using GPR in conjunction with various utility detection and inspection services to identify buried structures, soil conditions, and other relevant information. Understanding your project needs will help you select the right service provider and services that are required for the job.
  • Choose A Reputable Service Provider: If you are looking for GPR scanning services, it is important to choose a utility detection and inspection service provider with a good reputation, experience, and expertise in your particular field. You can start by doing research online, reading reviews, and checking the company’s credentials and certifications. If you are looking for a service provider in Western Washington, C-N-I Locates Ltd has field offices in Seattle, Washington, Tacoma, Washington, Everett, Washington, and Renton, Washington that have a proven track record of delivering high-quality GPR surveys and an array of other services that are suited for multiple industries or applications.
  • Obtain Necessary Permission: Before beginning utility locates, GPR surveys, or any other underground utility detection and inspection services, it is essential to obtain the necessary permissions and permits if the work is going to be conducted on private property or in public areas. However, this may involve obtaining written consent from property owners or obtaining permits from local authorities. Failure to obtain the necessary permissions and permits may result in legal complications, delays, and fines.
  • Mark The Area: Before any utility locates or utility inspections take place, it is important to clearly mark the area where the work is going to be performed. This will ensure that our experts are focused on the right location and will help them to provide more accurate results. Use spray paint, flags, or other markers to indicate the boundaries of the survey area.
  • Clear The Area: It is important to clear the work area of any debris, obstacles, or other materials that could interfere with our utility detection or utility inspection services. This includes removing rocks, tree roots, vegetation, vehicles, and any other objects that could obstruct the GPR scanning equipment. A clear work area will help ensure that the utility locates, GPR survey and other services are more accurate and efficient.
  • Discuss Safety Measures: Before a utility locate or utility inspection begins, it is important to discuss safety measures with the service provider. This includes identifying any potential hazards, such as underground utilities, that could pose a risk to personnel or equipment. The service provider should have a plan in place to ensure the safety of all personnel and equipment during the survey. And for that, personnel may need to wear protective gear (PPE), use barriers or signage to mark the work area, and take other necessary precautions to minimize risks.

Get Reliable and Accurate Utility Locating Results in Western Washington!

If you are looking for precise and reliable results for your residential, construction, environmental, archaeological, etc. projects in Western Washington, CNI Locates has field offices in Tacoma, WA, Everett, WA, Renton, WA, and Seattle, WA that serve all of Washington State. Our experienced and certified technicians can accurately locate and map underground structures, utilities, and hazards.

By utilizing electromagnetic locates used in conjunction with GPR and various other services (e.g., video pipe inspections, nonmetallic pipe detection, magnetic detection, utility mapping, leak detection, fault detection, private utility locating, public utility locating, etc.) that are offered by CNI Locates, you can save time, money, and resources, while also minimizing the risks associated with subsurface work. You can connect with qualified professionals from C-N-I Locates LTD for better results at an affordable price. Call us today for more details, and navigate through our website and service pages to explore our services.