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Pipe vs. pipe

Pipe vs. pipe

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    Large-diameter concrete pipe is commonly used in wastewater applications, including storm sewers and roadway culverts. Photo: American Concrete Pipe Association

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    Centrifugally cast, glass-fiber-reinforced plastic pipe can handle high-flow corrosive effluent. Photo: HOBAS Pipe USA.

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Material Issue

What will your pipe be made of? High-density polyethylene (HDPE) might sound good if you need your pipe to carry waste-water. Concrete might sound better if you've got a need for large-diameter pipe.

According to a market study by Cleveland-based research firm The Freedonia Group, five basic pipe types rule the large-diameter field. In 2005, 103 million feet of concrete pipe were installed in the United States. Plastic pipe came in a distant second with 36 million feet, then steel (28.8), cast-iron (25.7), and clay (less than 3).

However, these five basic pipe varieties are not the only players on the field. There are many other materials—and many sub-varieties within those categories.

A Tale Of Two Pipes

Oklahoma City and the surrounding metropolitan area is growing rapidly—a situation not at all unique to an American municipality. The city also is still working to recover fully from the 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, with efforts to reinvent itself into a cultural, educational, and business mecca.

As a result, high demands have been placed on Oklahoma City's infrastructure, including the Chisholm Creek sewer-shed basin, which incorporates wastewater in the north central part of the city and neighboring communities. A study found the hydraulic capacity of the 33-inch main interceptor couldn't handle peak flows and needed an overhaul to handle future growth. City specifications for large-diameter sewer pipe allow for reinforced concrete, fiberglass, and PVC pipe. The local contractor, United Trenching Inc., opted for PVC.

“We are a long-term installer of PVC pipe because of its ease of installation and service record,” says United Trenching president Tony Ellison. “Because of their vast experience with PVC, the city has a lot of confidence in it.”

The interceptor sewer system in Chattanooga, Tenn., includes eight combined sewer overflow storage chambers situated below grade. In 2005, the city decided that one combined sewer in its downtown area required replacement. The city had relied on concrete pipe in the past, but, due to the corrosive composition of the effluent and high demands placed on infrastructure in a heavily used area, engineers were concerned about the material's longevity in such an installation.

When the time came to order materials, local contractor Mayse Construction opted for 72-inch-diameter reinforced concrete pipe, protected with Xypex Admix X-1000. The waterproofing material consists of portland cement, silica, and other materials and chemicals added to the concrete. The additive helped increase the pipe's resistance to corrosive wastewater and ensure its longevity.

For More Assistance

Associations. Nearly every type of pipe material is represented by one or more associations. Granted, the staff of each group has a vested interest in putting the pipe it represents in the best light—the manufacturers, contractors, and other businesses in the membership back the groups for that very reason—but these associations are more than just cheerleaders.

“Understanding the best use and application of piping products is very important,” says Al Hogan, eastern regisonal engineer for the American Concrete Pipe Association. “Their decisions affect our industry on a daily basis, and we are most interested in making every effort to be a resource of truthful, no-spin information and facts.”

Government. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spends a great deal of taxpayer money on studies that can help you figure out the ins and outs of pipe work. Each year, the agency releases a number of guidelines on facility design, infrastructure improvements, and other areas of interest to water and wastewater system managers. For more information, visit www.epa.gov.

Contractors. If you're hiring from the outside on a pipe job, look for a contractor with a decent track record of pipe installations. Local contractors might be the best—odds are they know your area better than companies from outside the region. Therefore, they're familiar with which kinds of pipes work for your climate and site conditions, and what code issues you have to tangle with.

Neighbors. Don't be afraid to turn to the public works departments of the towns around yours. Networking about past experiences—success stories and tragedies—could provide you with helpful background to draw upon.

Finally, you can downloads PDF of the pipe chart that is designed to offer basic overview of what's out there. Get the first half here and the second half here. The wealth of pipe information could not be contained in these few pages; rather, this is enough to get you started on your journey. The rest is up to you.

Read on for our guide to the latest products on the market to help you get your pipe job done right.