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Warm weather brings increased water usage across the country. It also brings dynamic soil shifts and freeze-thaw cycles, all of which are problematic for underground pipes. The Department of Public Works in Milwaukee, WI is no stranger to the pipe corrosion and cracking issues brought on by weather change, as a deteriorating water pipe is causing closures in local water treatment plants while racking up a nearly $2 million repair bill for an emergency repair.

Last month, a 72-inch diameter PCCP pipe started leaking water between the Texas Ave and Howard Ave treatment plants in Milwaukee, WI. The leak required that the Texas Avenue plant be shut down, and closure of the Howard treatment plant followed shortly behind because it relies on the water that comes from the Texas Ave pumping station. The leaks were caused by two 5/8-inch cracks, which have since been repaired. Further analysis of the pipe, however, revealed many similarly-eroded areas along the 250-foot pipe. After much deliberation, the city has decided to repair all 250 feet of corroded pipe with a carbon fiber lining, as the carbon will be corrosion-resistant and much more permanent than other repair methods.

A cracked pipe floods Milwaukee’s streets
Credit: Fox6now.com

It has been estimated that leaking pipes lose about 7 billion gallons of drinking water every day in the United States alone. As our infrastructure ages, our pipes corrode and weaken, becoming less and less reliable. But while routine pipe maintenance and replacement is both expected and planned, emergency repairs can cost up to 300% more. The ASCE gave America’s drinking water infrastructure a “D” on the 2013 Report Card because “much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life.” From coast to coast, it seems that every state is dealing with emergency PCCP leak repairs. Considering the extreme financial costs to replace America’s aged and corroded pipelines, and the lack of funding for it, Milwaukee isn’t the only region turning to solutions like carbon fiber as a repair alternative.

Corroded PCCP pipes leak trillions of gallons of water every year
Credit: www.waterworld.com

In Florida, one county’s water and sewer system required emergency repair after a large-diameter PCCP pipe corroded and started leaking. The three 54-inch diameter sections and four 48-inch diameter sections of pipeline had been previously repaired with a composite product that had delaminated, allowing moisture to penetrate the concrete and supporting prestressing steel wires within. The severe corrosion had weakened the pipe, preventing its ability to manage an operating pressure of 150 psi. HJ3’s carbon fiber pipe repair system was designed to restore the pipe to its original design strength and prevent further corrosion. First, the corroded pipe sections were abraded so that they were free from all loose concrete, dust, and coatings. The pipelines were then primed, and CarbonSealTM carbon fiber was saturated and applied to the interior of the pipe, terminating at the joints.

Corroded pipeline interior
Corrosion at failure point of previous repair attempt
An installer applies CarbonSeal to the pipe’s interior

The CarbonSealTM system repaired the damaged pipe within a few days, preventing the county from costly downtime expenses. The pipeline was restored to its designed operating pressure, and the carbon fiber repair has eliminated the necessity for further maintenance. The client saved more than $1,000,000 over replacement costs, while also preventing 5 tons of concrete waste and 1 ton of steel waste from going to landfills. 12 tons of CO2 emissions, 50,000 kWh of energy, and 60,000 gallons of water were also saved by repairing the pipe instead of replacing it. If you have PCCP that needs repair and would like to learn more about HJ3’s carbon fiber systems, contact our project managers today at info@hj3.com.