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Trenchless Sewer Repair   Pipe BurstingThe Situation:

As the cityofsacramento.org website proudly reminds their visitors, the Sacramento sewer system boasts over 1000 miles of pipelines that convey 8.83 billion gallons of waste water. The water pipe system for Sacramento consists of another 1,500 miles of pipelines and brings 46 billion gallons of water to the Sacramento area.

With so many miles of pipes conveying so much water, it is an unfortunate inevitability that there will be structural failures in the two systems from time to time. When these faults happen, they have to be fixed quickly and efficiently, before damage can be caused to surrounding property. Any pipe failure is a serious matter, as faults in a water main can allow contaminants into the drinking water of local homes and businesses, and sewer failures can cause backflows or allow raw sewage to collect in the street.

How can the City of Sacramento go about repairing a broken pipe?

Traditionally, the process of repairing a busted sewer or water main under a street involved closing the street while the pavement and earth are removed to expose the line before the repair could even start. Then, once the line had been dug up, work could begin on the line proper. Once the actual repair to the pipe was completed, then the city would have to repair the damage done to the street during the trenching process. This would usually include hiring another contractor to fix the damage done by the first, raising costs beyond the initial sewer repair estimate. Worse yet, the road would have to be closed during this process, inhibiting the flow of traffic, and businesses on the street may be forced to close temporarily, creating the possibility that these businesses may bill the city to recoup their lost income.

Even when the broken pipe is not located directly underneath a busy city street, the act of ripping up the ground to reach the pipe may involve the use of heavy earth-moving equipment and can damage both public and private property. Trenching to repair and replace pipes is a practice that is quickly losing popularity as homeowners, businesses, and municipalities turn to an alternative solution to their water and sewer main repair needs.

What is the Alternative to Trenching?

Thankfully, recent advances in technology have created alternatives to the costly, time-consuming, and destructive method of trenching for pipe repair. These new alternatives to trenching include:

  • Lateral Lining - Put simply, the process of lateral pipe lining involves cleaning out or flushing the old pipe, then inserting a new lining inside of it and curing it in place. This new lining replaces the original pipe, fixing all cracks, fissures, bellying, and breaks and even prevents root intrusion.
  • Manhole-to-Manhole Lining - Much like lateral pipe lining, manhole-to-manhole lining is a minimally-invasive method of re-lining the interior of a pipe, but designed for larger municipal pipe lines.
  • Sectional Point Repair - In many cases, the damage to a pipe is only in one specific spot. Instead of going to the expense of excavating and replacing the entire length of pipe, sectional point repair techniques employ a small camera to determine the exact location of a leak, and then inserting a small piece of lining to patch the problem area. This saves both time and material, reducing the overall cost.
  • Pipe Bursting - This unique method of pipe line replacement sends a drill-like device called an expander head down the existing line, breaking it into small pieces. A brand-new line is dragged into place behind the expander head to take the place of the old line. This technique is usually reserved for replacing extremely damaged lines, or for when a pipe needs to be upsized.

These new technologies are revolutionary, even though they are not "ground-breaking." Yes, these procedures do not require the use of massive earth-movers to rip through concrete, soil, and property in order to fix an issue with a pipe.

Advantages Of Trenchless Technology

  • No Digging Up City Streets - For a municipality with busy streets full of taxpayers who just want to get from point A to point B at a reasonable pace, preventing the digging up of city streets and disrupting traffic can be invaluable.
  • Better Environment Friendliness - The process of trenching can unearth toxic materials trapped in the ground, which can then be carried into the air and even the local water supply as runoff.
  • Durability - Another benefit of the cured in place pipe lining technologies is that they are highly durable, lasting a minimum of fifty years or more. This means that a municipality will not have to perform more repairs for a long time, saving money in the long run.
  • Speed - With a trenchless solution, you do not have to wait for days as the trench area is marked off and excavated before the pipe can be worked on, then wait days more as the excavated trench is re-filled and the damage to the area repaired. Trenchless repairs only need to identify the problem using a sophisticated camera, determine the best repair method, do it, and then they are done.
  • Money Savings - In a study found on UIMonline, a group of researchers calculated the relative cost of open-cut, or trenched, sewer repair versus the cost of using trenchless pipe bursting to restore the pipes of Troy, Michigan. The study found that, even without taking the time required for trenching or the disruption of traffic into consideration, "the cost for sewer pipeline replacement in Troy using the open-cut method is about $408 million… using the trenchless pipe-bursting method is about $304 million." Traditional pipe replacement methods would cost about one-third more at a base cost. Such savings, especially for a large city, can greatly increase how much work the city can have done.

Overall, the advantages of trenchless technology over the older, outdated methods of digging up lines and destroying property cannot be understated. Municipalities such as Sacramento can save their taxpayers time and money by:

  • Not clogging up the roads
  • Not destroying public property and having to pay to replace it
  • Not paying for extra earth-moving equipment
  • Not paying for extra contractors to operate said equipment
  • Not paying for local business' loss of revenue
  • Not having to re-do the whole process again and again because new pipes keep breaking down.

Save your taxpayers money now and later by using fast, effective, and long-lasting trenchless technologies to solve your sewer and water pipe problems today.

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Topics: Trenchless Technology