Detecting Underground Piping Leaks

by Todd Schwendeman, Dir. of Storage Systems, Management Services; Groundwater Technology, Inc., Annapolis Junction, MD,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1987, Vol. 57, Issue 8, Pg. 56-58

Document Type: Feature article


Most leaks from underground liquid storage systems occur in the piping rather than the tank itself. The piping system is the most vulnerable component of the system, requiring great care during installation and protection from vibration, temperature fluctuations and ground movement such as frost heaves. Continual monitoring for leaks is essential. Liquid flows in a piping system when some form of pressure, positive or negative, is applied. Thus, a change in pressure can indicate a loss of liquid. Several systems monitor system pressure for losses and a successful leak detection system may incorporate several techniques, including continuous mechanical line pressure monitors, continuous electronic pressure monitors, direct and indirect tightness testing, vapor monitoring, and cable systems. In addition there are a number of containment technologies for reducing the contact of a leaked substance with the environment.

Subject Headings: Cables | Pipes | Leakage | Underground storage | Storage tanks | Vibration | Temperature effects | Ground motion

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