The cause of flooded subway tunnels, collapsed roads and underground pipes leaking sewage and chlorine is something most people will never have the chance to see. Brian Mergelas wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks to his groundbreaking pipe-inspection technology, he’s both preventing such catastrophes and saving taxpayers millions.
Mergelas launched Mississauga, Ont.-based Pressure Pipe Inspection Co. (PPIC) in 1997 to commercialize valuable technology he’d developed with his university physics professor. “There was a big need for quantifiable assessment technologies in the water sector,” he says. Today, PPIC’s patented Remote Field Transformer Coupling products use electromagnetic impulses to test pipes for weaknesses, which allow for spot repairs instead of whole-pipe replacement.
Mergelas’ biggest challenge has been steering a slow-moving sector into the fast lane. But, with the help of grants from Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, PPIC has been able to deliver on its commitments, building credibility and attracting more funding in the process. In March, PPIC received an $800,000 grant from Sustainable Development Technology Canada to develop its Pipe Diver technology, which will allow the inspection of full pipes. Besides keeping the pipes in service, Pipe Diver could save the equivalent of 1.5 Olympic swimming pools full of water for every mile of pipe that’s not drained.
Currently, PPIC enjoys annual sales of more than $10 million, employs 70 and continues to expand its reach from offices in the U.S. and Mexico. With completed jobs in Latin America, Asia and Africa, Mergelas believes PPIC is ready to conquer the world: “We want to — no, we will — be the global leaders in infrastructure management.”