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City Of Norman Rehabilitates Faulty Sewer Line

by Drew L. Wilson

"As long as there is clay and concrete pipe in the ground, it's going to have to be replaced, and the best pipe to replace it with is polyethylene," said Ron Pool, Superintendent of Jordan Contractors of Tecumseh Oklahoma. Pool is replacing 9,000 feet of a clay sewer line in Norman Oklahoma. The project is the fourth phase in the city's efforts to rehabilitate failing infrastructure.

Sand has infiltrated a line located in a new housing edition that is only about 17 years old. The rubber gaskets at the joints have deteriorated allowing sand to fill the clay pipe restricting flow. "By going in with polyethylene, that is joint free, we should never have a problem with sand entering the system again," said Pool. A polyethylene pipeline is impermeable as a result of being joined together with heat fusion and then allowed to cool. The resulting joint is as strong as the pipe itself. Pool uses McElroy Manufacturing's 412 fusion machine to fuse the 10" pipe. McElroy has been building heat fusion machines since 1969.

As long as there is clay and concrete pipe in the ground, it's going to have to be replaced

Ron Pool

Polyethylene was first used in the gas distribution industry and is becoming more prevalent in the water and sewer industries.

Jordan Contractors has been using pipe bursting methods to rehabilitate failing sewer lines for the last three and a half years and has been the low bidder on the last three jobs in the city of Norman.

"Pipe bursting is a wide open field," said President of Jordan Contractors, Jimmy Jordan. "The business has been very active nationwide and in the last three years has been growing strongly in Oklahoma. The future looks to be even better."

Pipe bursting was developed in Europe to replace deteriorating gas lines. In the U.S. it has become a preferred trenchless method of replacing sewer lines and is gaining popularity in the water market.

Other forms of trenchless replacement include pipe splitting, slip lining and in reaming. Pipe splitting is performed to a large extent in the same way except a metal cutting wheel is used to slice open the host pipe instead of bursting the existing pipe. In-reaming uses a head that crushes up the host pipe and implements a vacuum to suck out the crushed material. Slip lining is used when the replacement pipe is smaller than the host pipe and there is no need to enlarge the host pipe.

No matter what method is used, polyethylene is the ideal material for installation with trenchless technologies because it is flexible and tough enough to withstand the force placed on it during the pullback. In some cases slip lining is implemented because even though the replacement pipe is smaller, it is made of polyethylene, which has no buildup from corrosion, and the flow is as high as other pipes with larger diameters that have acquired corrosion over time restricting flow.

The pipe bursting process entails digging an access at each end of a failed line and running a steel stem through the host pipe and hooking it to a bursting tool. The replacement PE pipe is connected to the back of the bursting tool. A horizontal hydraulic rig is used to pull the bursting tool back through the host pipe breaking and expanding the existing pipe into the surrounding soil while simultaneously replacing the line with the new pipe.

Working with four crews, Jordan Contractors has been swamped with work and has three opportunities for pipe replacement jobs that are on hold while work is being completed on separate projects.

Part of the reason for Jordan's demand is the attention they give to the property owners they are servicing. Jordan's top priority is making sure they have as little affect as possible on the home-owner's property.

For service hookups to the houses, Jordan uses small track excavators and enters and exits the property on a plywood path to prevent damage to the lawn. A three by six foot hole is all that is needed to reach the main. They pile the excavated dirt on plywood and after the connection is made, refill the hole and re-sod the area that has been disturbed. This attention to detail further enhances this already un-intrusive manner of pipe replacement. "If this was an open trench operation there would be a lot of damage to peoples back yards," said Pool. "Not to mention all of the extra work involved in taking down fences and moving storage sheds."

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