3 Trenchless Sewer Pipe Repair & Rehabilitation Solutions

By: William Penworthy


In our increasingly demanding and busy urban environments, sewer pipe repair & rehabilitation has had to come of age, developing new means to refurbish, repair and replace existing, worn-out or damaged sewer pipes. The trenchless sewer installation & replacement systems now being used have revolutionised the means by which underground pipe work is maintained, minimizing the disturbance and disruption above ground.

Many of our existing sewer pipes were laid over fifty years ago, and are coming to the end of their life expectancy. In some inner cities the sewage system is significantly older, and contains an increasing number of fractures, leaks and displaced pipes. Although it might seem that the ground beneath our feet is static, over a period of fifty years there may be massive changes to the density and position of the soil underneath roads and buildings. A single tree could be seeded, and grow into a mighty structure with a root system stretching thirty or forty feet underground, and this is certainly likely to cause shifting ground densities.

As many of the old pipe systems were made from concrete or clay this means that they are brittle, not giving way to soil movement. Over time the pressure from the outside, combined with the water pressure, pH or temperature inside results in damage, movement or fractures which impair the integrity or sanitation of the sewage pipes.

But in spite of the fact that it is clearly necessary to replace or repair the existing, aging sewer pipe system, most people are unhappy about having lawns, gardens, driveways and roads dug up and destroyed to make way for a large open trench. In many cases the road network has grown and expanded far more rapidly than the sewage network, and so pipes which may have been laid alongside relatively quiet roads may now occupy an area which is a major traffic artery in town. Blocking off the road so that a large trench can be dug up is simply not a convenient option.

Additionally it is important to bear in mind two other factors - time and expense. To replace a sewer pipe takes relatively little time. However, what takes the majority of the time is bringing heavy plant machinery on site, excavating a large open trench, and then filling it in again afterwards. Whenever heavy machinery is required, and additional labour time, the costs rise. So with the combined need to replace or repair sewer pipes, and the need to minimize disruption, damage and keep costs and time to a minimum, the only real solution lies with sewer pipe repair & rehabilitation systems which incorporate trenchless sewer installation & replacement methods. But how do these work, and what are the options available?

There are three basic scenarios. The first scenario is that a new sewer pipe needs to be laid. This may be the case if a property is being turned into two properties, a new property built on unused land or a property is being enlarged to create a multiple occupancy building with greater demands for water and sewage supply. The second scenario is that an existing pipe needs to be replaced because it has broken, fractured or sagged significantly. The third scenario is that the sewer pipe is basically sound but is in need of re-enforcing to guard against imminent breaches through the natural wear and tear which comes with age.

In the third scenario, the simplest of all, the technique of repairing a sewer pipe involves one of two main methods: either coating the interior wall of the sewer pipe with a resin or coating, typically an epoxy resin, or alternatively inserting a sleeve or collar inside the pipe - effectively creating a pipe inside a pipe. In both of these cases a trenchless solution is all that is required. With a small bore hole dug at either end of the sewer pipe, a machine is lowered which then works its way along the inside of the sewer pipe. This machine either coats the inside with an epoxy resin, or draws a polyethylene pipe in behind it which fits snugly inside the existing sewer pipe.

If the pipe is too damaged to allow for this solution, particularly in cases where there are severe fractures, penetrations or sagging of the pipe, the next best trenchless pipe replacement solution is to use what is referred to as pipe bursting - literally breaking apart the existing pipe as a new pipe is fed through by machine. A very similar machine can be used to burst or tunnel through the soil, drawing in a new pipe behind it for instances where no existing pipe has previously been laid.

Using solutions such as these for sewer pipe repair & rehabilitation it has been possible to employ trenchless sewer installation & replacement solutions which decrease damage, decrease inconvenience, and decrease time, labour and costs involved.

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