Since introduced a decade ago, more than 1,000 miles of Fusible PVC—the trade name for manufacturing and installation processes patented by Underground Solutions Inc. (UGSI) of Poway, Calif.—have been installed in North America.
Five million feet in 10 years is tremendous market acceptance. One reason is that government agencies had already installed a lot of bell-and-spigot PVC. Roughly two-thirds of water and sewer pipeline is polyvinyl chloride; 30% is ductile iron and other materials; and the remaining 5% HDPE.
Another is that the material is highly compatible with ductile iron, which facilitates connections and extensions. According to the trade association that represents PVC pipe manufacturers, the two have the same outside diameter regimen and use the same slip-on or mechanical joint fittings, valves, and appurtenances. Customers often conveniently get everything they need from a single supplier.
Fusing creates a monolithic pipe, eliminating the possibility of future leaky joints, that can be pulled into an alignment via pipebursting, sliplining, and horizontal directional drilling (HDD). Trenchless methodologies like these comprise 80% of PVC installations. Micro-tunneling and pipe jacking are also feasible, according to www.undergroundsolutions.com.
UGSI President and CEO Andrew Seidel describes the patents as “pipe-and-fusion joint technology intended for conveying compatible liquids under pressure and gravity flow conditions. The fused joint properties provide a robust tensile capability for installation, as well as a long-term pressure capability comparable to the pipe itself.”
Theoretically, anyone can fuse PVC. However, only UGSI-licensed entities are permitted to install Fusible PVC. The company trains installers and warrants their work for a year. Most of the nation’s 100 or so third-party installers are contractors, but government agencies have been trained as well.
Last year, Consolidated Mutual Water Co. in Lakewood, Colo., was named Rehabilitation Project of the Year by Trenchless Technology magazine. The user-owned utility is a nonprofit entity that serves roughly 85,000 people within 26 square miles. Large sections of its 325-mile network is old 4- and 6-inch cast-iron pipe that’s been failing with alarming frequency.
To avoid open-cut replacement, utility managers looked at various equipment and methodologies and decided to self-perform trenchless. Crews use TT Technologies Inc.’s 800G static-pull pipebursting system and McElroy Manufacturing Inc. thermal butt-fusion equipment to install UGSI’s DR 18 Fusible C-900 PVC pipe.
This replacement methodology was twice as fast as open-cut. Typical runs are 500 to 800 linear feet, but crews have done several that are more than 1,800 linear feet long—something not many contractors can say. Since 2010, writes Editor Jim Rush, “Consolidated has quietly become one of the best pipe-bursting entities in North America.”