Polyolefin Plastic Water Service Line Performance

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by Richard E. Chambers, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc, Arlington, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Materials: Performance and Prevention of Deficiencies and Failures

Abstract: Polyolefin (PO) plastic piping made from polyethylene (PE) and polybutylene (PB) materials have been used in diameters of about 1 in. for water service lines for buildings. Both PE and PB installations have encountered significant performance problems, which in some cases have threatened continued use for water service. This record has led to a concerted and continuing efforts by the industry including American Water Works Association (AWWA) to determine the reasons for these performance problems. In 1983, we conducted a comprehensive investigation into the reasons for the problems with plastic water service lines and then worked with standards committees to effect indicated improvements. This paper describes this study and the changes in the standards that were made as a result. In our investigation we evaluated ongoing AWWA surveys of user's experience, we made first-hand observations of leaking and broken pipe in the field, we interviewed some 23 users and also discussed the problems with manufacturers, and we designed laboratory tests conducted Plastics Pipe Institute members on pipe that we obtained from the field. We found that the major causes of failure were splits due to kinking of PB tubing and rupture of brittle PE pipe supplied throughout the southern U.S. by one manufacturer. Other significant causes of leaks were holes resulting from rock impingement and cuts through the wall caused by bends in pipe at fittings with insert stiffeners that were too long. Many of these problems were neither addressed in then existing standards nor recognized by either users or suppliers, but they have subsequently been addressed in revisions to AWWA and ASTM standards.

Subject Headings: Plastics | Field tests | Pipe leakage | Water pipelines | Water supply systems |

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