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PVC pipe has lowest overall failure rate, study shows

April 24, 2012
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LOGAN, Utah — PVC pipe has the lowest overall failure rate when compared to cast iron, ductile iron, concrete, steel and asbestos cement pipes, according to a comprehensive study on water main break rates for the United States and Canada published by The Utah State University (USU) Buried Structures Laboratory.

USU, located in Logan, Utah is also home to the Utah Water Research Laboratory and has significantly contributed to water and wastewater research internationally for the last 50 years.

The Buried Structures Laboratory is one of two locations in the United States that has a large scale testing facility for pipe materials and structures.

Dr. Steven Folkman, co-author of Buried Pipe Design, has completed the pipe materials study in which 188 utilities representing approximately 10% of the nation''s installed water main pipe network responded.

Water main break rates are calculated for all pipe materials used in the transport of water to create a measurement to judge pipe performance and durability.

A major finding of the study is that PVC pipe has the lowest overall failure rate when compared to cast iron, ductile iron, concrete, steel and asbestos cement pipes.

Another major finding includes corrosion is a major cause of water main breaks: 75% of all utilities have corrosive soil conditions and combined with a high portion of old cast iron and ductile iron pipes, corrosion is ranked the second highest reason for water main pipe failure in the United States. When comparing between older cast iron and newer ductile iron, thinner-walled ductile iron is experiencing failures more rapidly.

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