Pipelines are necessary for transporting vital resources, such as gas and water. However, neglected pipelines can break down and cause other, more extensive issues. Closed roads, damaged property, and expensive repairs are just a few of the possible problems. To help you understand why this happens and why regular municipal pipeline maintenance is so important, let’s examine the top causes of municipal water main breaks.
Pipe Material and Aging
Nothing is immune to the wear and tear of time. So, naturally, older pipes are likely to break, especially because they don’t have the improved materials we use today. For example, many pipes from before 1980 are cast iron. As the cast iron pipes get older, they become more brittle, thus becoming more likely to break and cause a leak in the water main. For that reason, it’s crucial that maintenance occurs regularly to allow for timely reinforcements or replacements of these materials.
Another major cause of municipal water main breaks is human error. By not keeping track of your pipelines through maintenance, it’s easy to forget that they run under your feet when taking up a project like excavation. Excavation has been the cause of many water mains bursting, as industrial excavators have accidentally dug into pipelines without surveying the land first.
Water mains operate under consistently high pressures as water, energy, and more surge through the pipelines. Changes to this pressure can put just enough stress on them to cause them to burst. Most commonly, this occurs when the temperature changes. As the ground around pipes freezes or heats up, the pipe material contracts or expands accordingly, sometimes causing a rupture. A similar phenomenon, called a “water hammer,” occurs when people open or close a fire hydrant too quickly. The rapid change in pressure causes the pipes to burst.
Lastly, the ground shifting can put extra weight and stress on pipes. As the ground continues to settle, the stress on the pipes beneath increases until they finally break. As such, water mains must be in areas with a sturdy foundation that won’t easily move.
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