SAWS News: Pipe Bursting: It’s Not Just for Sewers Anymore
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3/22/19 - Official

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Pipe Bursting: It’s Not Just for Sewers Anymore

There’s an old proverb that says you’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet. In the water and wastewater world, sometimes you have to crack a few pipes to improve underground utilities.

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SAWS has used pipe bursting for years as a cost-effective and less disruptive way to replace old sewer mains. Here’s how it works: A bulletshaped steel “bursting head” is pulled with a winch through the old pipe, breaking it into pieces as it goes. The replacement pipe, which is attached to the back of the bursting head, is pulled into place, destroying the old pipe and installing the new one in a single motion.

Crews recently put their sewer pipe bursting experience to use on the water side of the business for the first time ever when they replaced a 1932-era, 6-inch cast iron water main on the city’s South Side.

“It’s not only a faster way to replace water mains, but it’s also longer lasting and it significantly reduces costs,” said Lance Rothe, project manager.

From start to finish, the project took just nine days to replace 674 feet of pipe — and that included careful excavation around three gas mains to avoid damaging them.

Traditionally, crews would have cut a deep trench along the entire length of the main to replace it. Another option: They could dig a brand new trench for the new pipe and just abandon the old one, Rothe explained.

Pipe bursting, in contrast, can be done with just a small excavation at each end, avoiding the need to remove and replace hundreds of feet of topsoil, concrete or asphalt. “We significantly reduced the amount of surface restoration with the pipe bursting method,” Rothe said.

The next water pipe bursting project is scheduled to start soon on Brooklyn Avenue near Alamo Street downtown where a 10-inch cast iron main, originally installed in 1884, will be replaced.

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