May 13, 2022

Summer Weather Causes Water Main Breaks

When changing weather meets corroded pipes, water mains break. HJ3's CarbonSeal carbon fiber repairs old, corroded pipes for less than replacement costs.

Combatting Water Main Breaks with Carbon Fiber Solutions

As the summer season approaches, many cities in northern regions are grappling with the aftermath of a particularly harsh winter. The frigid winter brought record lows and significant snowfall, and now the warmer weather is bringing its own set of problems, including snow melt runoff and pipe bursts. This period, often referred to as "water main break season," is a recurring challenge in many parts of the world. In Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, a persistent water main break has been inundating the streets for over a month.

The Culprits Behind Water Main Breaks

Freeze/thaw cycles are a common cause of water main breaks. As the warmer weather melts the frozen ground, differential settlement occurs, leading to shifts in the soil beneath the pipes. The majority of water main breaks this time of year are attributed to a combination of extreme weather conditions and aging pipes, some of which are nearly a century old. In Prince Albert alone, there have been 19 water main breaks this season, and several more are expected in the coming weeks. City officials are actively developing a plan to address these water main breaks, acknowledging that "the extreme cold last winter has placed significant stress on the underground infrastructure system."

Addressing the Widespread Issue of Corroded Pipes

Corrosion of pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipes (PCCP) costs the United States water and wastewater systems more than $50 billion annually, as revealed in a 2002 study. North America contends with 850 water main breaks daily, resulting in an annual repair expense exceeding $3 billion. Leaking pipes are responsible for the loss of approximately 2.5 trillion gallons of drinking water each year, equating to around 17% of all water pumped in the US. Remarkably, 90% of this loss can be attributed to corrosion-related issues linked to aging pipes. In a 2012 study conducted by Utah State University, it was found that 43% of water mains in America are between 20 and 50 years old, while 22% have surpassed the 50-year mark.

Regrettably, almost half of the one million miles of pipelines running beneath American streets are nearing the end of their serviceable life. Replacement costs are projected to exceed $1 trillion over the next 25 years, but given the lack of available funding, we urgently need a solution to extend the life of our PCCP infrastructure.

HJ3's CarbonSeal Carbon Fiber Solution

HJ3's CarbonSeal carbon fiber emerges as a viable solution for repairing these challenges. A striking example is a cracked water pipe at a coal-fired power plant. The internal concrete lining of a 120-inch diameter pipe, used to convey water to the plant's cooling towers, had developed cracks. Water that seeped into the pipe penetrated the damaged concrete, causing corrosion of the pre-stressed wires within. As these wires deteriorated, the pipe lost its ability to withstand internal hoop stresses. Faced with the formidable cost of complete replacement, the power plant opted to use HJ3's CarbonSeal system for the repair of the 750 feet of pipe.

The Repair Process with CarbonSeal

The repair commenced with an abrasive blast on the pipe's surface, followed by the injection of polyurethane foam into the leaks. The pipe surface was primed, and the saturated CarbonSeal carbon fabric was meticulously applied. A protective topcoat was added until achieving a pin-hole free surface, rendering the system impermeable. Remarkably, all 750 linear feet of pipe were fully repaired in just 11 days, restoring its capacity to withstand internal hoop stresses. This approach resulted in savings of 50% compared to other repair methods, a substantial 65% reduction when compared to replacement costs, and the prevention of six tons of concrete from ending up in landfills. Impressively, the system has been in place for eight years, delivering performance that meets expectations. The client expressed satisfaction with HJ3, emphasizing the valuable support provided in design calculations, engineering drawings, termination details, and on-site supervision throughout the project.

Exploring CarbonSeal Reinforcement Systems

If you are confronted with the challenge of repairing an underground pipe and wish to learn more about HJ3's CarbonSeal reinforcement systems, don't hesitate to contact HJ3 at

Corrosion inside an underground water pipe

Installing HJ3's CarbonSeal fabric

HJ3 installers apply top coat to the carbon fabric

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