News: Inspectors dive under bridges, look for cracks
Story by Airman Sean Crowe
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - A team of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers divers inspected two of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst’s bridges May 30, 3013.
A licensed inspector has to inspect every bridge on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., every four years as Federal Highway Administration law directs. The law makes no exceptions for bridges which reach under water.
“A qualified diver has to inspect bridges with foundations submerged in 3 feet or more water,” said Stephen England, USACE Philadelphia hydraulic engineer.
USACE divers are specially qualified to perform structural inspections in proximity to water or submerged. The divers inspect bridges and other structures which reach under water such as seawalls, jetties and dams.
The USACE Philadelphia and USACE Buffalo divers worked together to inspect a bridge on Cookstown Hockamick Road in addition to a bridge on Range Road. Both bridges have foundations far enough under water that require a diver to inspect them.
They inspected the bridges for degradation to the original structure including concrete cracks, exposed rebar, wood rot and foundation damage.
“I didn’t find anything troubling when I was under the bridges,” said England. “The structures seemed fine aside from the random debris I had to climb over to perform inspections.”
England uses specialized equipment to perform his dive and check for damage.
He used a surface-supplied-air diving suit which utilizes surface communication capabilities via radio. The suit uses an air tube to provide the diver with oxygen and is wired for verbal communication while below surface.
England also used sonar equipment to measure the distance from the foundation to the surface of the water to compare to past results determining if the structure had shifted since the last inspection.
The USACE is also responsible for inspecting the deck and support of the bridges, not just the subsurface foundation.
“We are looking for anything that could decrease the weight capacity or structural integrity of the bridges we inspect,” said Phillip Sauser, USACE Minnesota structural engineer.
Air Mobility Command leadership coordinated the inspections through Sauser down to the inspectors from USACE in Philadelphia and Buffalo.
The inspectors file their findings with the FHA which then appropriates some funding alongside AMC to fix bridges as needed.
“AMC contracted us to do general inspections, nothing abnormal,” said Sauser. “We simply want to ensure public safety and avoid potential disasters.”