Sunday, June 16

High-Tech Plumbing Comes to Small-Town America

People don’t tend to think of plumbing repairs as being particularly high-tech. But the use of “trenchless” sewer and pipe rehabilitation is slowly starting to revolutionize the plumbing industry.

In the beginning of August, that paid off for the town of Adrian, MI, where a trenchless repair of a stormwater sewer averted what could have been an emergency in the small city, located about an hour outside of Ann Arbor.

“We had a collapse on this line just over a month ago and found this concrete pipe to have significant deterioration,” City Administrator Shane Horn told the Adrian City Commission Aug. 3, highlighting the need for an immediate solution.

To fix the line, a special liner was inserted into about 1,000-foot length of the pipe, which runs beneath Michigan Avenue. The pipe thickness in that stretch had dwindled from 2.5 inches to just three-eighths of an inch. It was categorized as an emergency repair due to imminent potential for catastrophic failure of the key sewer line, since it handles about 400,000 gallons of flow on an average day.

The pressing repair need was brought to light by a June rainstorm; on June 27, the daily flow for the sewer was about 1.3 million gallons, and on June 28 it was about 980,000 gallons. The ensuing collapse caused a sinkhole and prompted a temporary repair.

“Replacing the section of pipe was not an option as the deterioration extends well beyond the limits of that collapse and would have resulted in a very large scale project,” explained Adrian Utilities Director William Sadler, according to Adrian’s local newspaper, the Daily Telegram.

The new liner may sound like a temporary fix as well, but it actually falls under a category known as cured in place pipe. CIPP liners are flexible, meaning they can be inserted from a single access point (eliminating the need to dig a trench along the length of the pipe, a boon especially when a pipe is buried underneath a busy thoroughfare). But once in place, they are hardened and can last for about 50 years, the same as an average replacement pipe.

Despite the obvious advantages it offers in cases such as these, trenchless, or “no dig,” sewer technology isn’t widely known publicly; a poll conducted by Angie’s List found that 78% of respondents had never even heard of it.

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