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Corrosion – not age – is the problem with Australia’s water pipeline infrastructure

The majority of water piping installed in the 20th century in Australia is cast or ductile iron, which was expected to provide water utilities with 50 to 100 years of trouble-free service. Unfortunately, these pipes are susceptible to corrosion and subsequent breakage.

Most people believe that old age is the primary contributor to iron water main breaks. However, the problem isn’t age. It is corrosion.fb-02a-corrosion chloring inst.gif-5a Indeed, in South Australia some water mains installed in 1872 have continued to perform well.

A University of Newcastle, Australia report from Centre for Infrastructure Performance and Reliability had the below conclusion.

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Cast Iron Pipe Corrosion causes burst water main and massive sinkhole

A corroded section of cast iron pipe the size of a tissue box in Sydney’s northern beaches is to blame for the flooding of a mansion-dotted hillside and a sinkhole that caused part of the road to collapse and a fire truck to crash.5449008-16x9-512x288

Ninemsn reported that Sydney Water confirmed that a cement-lined water main running through The Serpentine gave way due to a minor defect in the pipe's protective coating.

They said investigators had found a corrosive patch measuring 20cm by 10cm, slightly smaller than the size of a standard tissue box.
As a result of the defect, the pipe became corroded by soil, causing a section of it to break away.

Both here and overseas, several cases have been reported where ground surface collapsed leading to sinkholes near aging pipes prone to corrosion. Factors causing pipe deterioration and the effect of corrosion pits on the structural performance of pipes have been investigated by several researchers with emphasis on cast iron pipes. It was concluded that corrosion was the main factor influencing pipe deterioration. Cracks initiated at corrosion pits lead to progressive circumferential and longitudinal cracks in addition to blown-out holes.

Unlike metal piping, PVC pipe won't rust or corrode over time because it does not react with air and water the way metal does, which results in a significantly longer lifetime of the pipe.

Consequently, PVC pipe is the most cost effective and sustainable solution in applications where soil is aggressive. PVC pipe can be expected to outlast alternative pipes without the need for protective coatings or liners. PVC pipe is a proven and extremely durable alternative to traditional corrosion prone pipe materials.

Recognised by state, national and international agencies and standards organisations, it has been a benchmark since it was introduced in the sewer, water and drainage markets.

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Council recognises that replacing old pipes with PVC have seen water pipe breaks drop by half

A local council in the US has recently reported that replacing city water lines with PVC pipes has cut the number of pipe breaks in half – with pipe breaks already down 90% in 2014 over same time 2013.

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Corrosion No 1 reason for burst water mains

One of the issues that Think Pipes Think PVC has tackled over the past three years is that of iron corrosion in Australia water due to outdated Iron pipe systems degrading water quality. As well as being a substantial health hazard to the community, corrosion is also the number one reason for burst water mains across the country.

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Nine News Special Report on Water Waste

A recent Nine News special report highlighted the billions of litres of water that is lost due to old pipes and infrastructure not being updated.

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