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A ruptured pipeline in Maplewood, Missouri yesterday, created a large, obtrusive sinkhole in the middle of a busy intersection. Last month, a pipeline break in an old cast iron water pipeline in San Diego also caused a huge sinkhole, closed roads and caused water damage to nearby homes and apartments. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, these types of water main breaks are daily occurrences as America’s infrastructure continues to age. Today thousands of similar pipes are vulnerable to failure due to corrosion over time, and the spending required to repair and replace these structures exceeds our budgets.

The total infrastructure spending over the next decade is estimated to be around $3.6 Trillion dollars, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in their 2013 report card. America received a grade of D+ overall for its infrastructure, as the spending gap between the cost for repair and replacement exceeds the budgets to do so. In Missouri alone, $7.1 billion is needed for Drinking Water infrastructure needs, and another $5.8 billion is needed for wastewater. Nation-wide, there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the U.S. (657 per day!) that would cost more than $1 Trillion to replace in the coming decades.

maplewood ruptured pipeline
Maplewood ruptured pipeline creates sinkhole in busy intersection. Photo courtesy of Laurie Skrivan – lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

The Maplewood pipeline is “a 42-inch corrugated metal pipe”, according to Allen Muehlher, program manager for the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District’s (MSD) construction group. The pipe was laid in the 1930’s, and has corroded over the years until it inevitably broke. Underground pipeline repair in Missouri would require a threefold increase of proposed spending by 2020, or $126 billion. To prevent similar breaks from occurring more frequently, Missouri American Water Co. has invested in prevention, especially in the winter and summer months, when pipes tend to rupture. Missouri American has replaced 141 miles of aging water mains over the last 5 years in St. Louis County and parts of St. Charles County, spending some $138.5 million.

underground pipeline repair
This underground pipeline repair in San Diego this past February created a gigantic sinkhole, damaging businesses and homes nearby.

What if America could repair its water and wastewater infrastructure at a fraction of the cost of replacement? Underground pipeline repair options, such as HJ3’s carbon fiber repair systems, save 80% on average compared to replacement. These systems require less material and less labor for repairing underground pipe and other steel and concrete infrastructure. Furthermore, the costs associated with road closures, water damage, debris removal and pipe replacement are even higher during emergency repairs. How can we cut costs and increase efficiency?

HJ3’s CarbonSeal underground pipeline repair system was used to reinforce this water main in Miami, FL.

It starts with maintenance, and doing more with less. MSD spokesperson Lance LeComb knows that failures like the one seen here are frequent occurrences throughout the year, and, he says, “make the case that we have to be on top of this.”