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They sniff out leaks with technology

Jim and Jeanne Marinak like to think of themselves as the leak busters.

After 10 years in the same business in the San Francisco Bay area, theyrecently moved to Medford to open a local office of American Leak Detection.

They apply technology instead of willow wands to locate leaks in everythingfrom household plumbing to water mains.

We find hidden plumbing leaks in any system without doing any digging,Jeanne Marinak explained. We'll pinpoint it before somebody takesa jackhammer to your ceramic tile or aggregate pool deck.

About 95 percent of the time, I can pinpoint the location of aleak within three inches, Jim Marinak said.

They use a combination of acoustic and electronic devices that amplifya leak's sound. A helium detector can help locate leaks hidden by dirt orasphalt.

They use a miniature video camera to diagnose problems with utility lines,bringing back a picture of cracks in a pipe or roots obstructing the flow.

For municipal systems and other large-scale applications, they can usea correlator. Linked to two points along a line, perhaps two fire hydrants,it provides a series of computerized tools to determine the exact distanceto a leak.

Because we were already in the business in California, we haveall the equipment to start out here, she said.

The Marinaks have been coming to Southern Oregon to visit for the past15 years. They considered franchise opportunities in Salt Lake City andReno before a study of demographics and such things as swimming pool densityled them to Medford.

Their territory spans Oregon outside of a seven-county Portland area.

American Leak Detection, based in Palm Springs, Calif., was founded in1974 and has nearly 300 franchises worldwide. Marinak was the company'sfranchisee of the year three times.

Over the years, we have saved our customers millions of dollarsand conserved billions of gallons of water, she said.

They charge $75 an hour with a two-hour minimum to find leaks in householdwater systems; the minimum is higher for commercial or municipal customers.Their telephone number is 779-7222.

Since opening the Oregon franchise, they've worked with city water departmentsin California and in Sisters and Klamath Falls.

In the Bay area, a huge part of our business was with insurancecompanies, she said. Somebody would have a buckled bathroomfloor and they'd send us out to see if it was caused by a leak.

It's almost like the old water witchers, she said. Butthat's not the kind of thing we'd do. There's got to be a plumbing systemthere already.

Jim Marinak demonstrates leak detection equipment that uses technology rather than a willow wand to find underground leaks. - Photo by Bob Pennell</P