Environmental Protection through Water Loss Reduction

cave-cityCave City, Ky., Uses PE 4710 to Upgrade Water System

By Steve Cooper

The Caveland Environmental Authority (CEA) in Cave City, Ky., has found the solution to reduce its 40 percent unaccounted water loss and protect the area’s sensitive subterranean ecology by replacing aging and leaking water lines with high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe. Completed in May 2016, the project used more than 3.5 miles of PE 4710 pipe.

“During the past five or six years they’ve been replacing old water lines,” explains Roger Boyers, P.E., of Water Management Services, LLC, the Nashville, Tenn.-based firm that designed the project. “This includes replacing PVC, some cast iron, asbestos concrete and even clay pipes. Everything they’ve been putting in now is HDPE. Our company first started working on this years ago with the Mammoth Cave National Park project, which was replacing all the water lines in the park with HDPE pipe. They were concerned with chlorinated water possibly getting into the cave structures and causing a problem down there.”

Cave City went with HDPE pipe to have a fully-restrained and joint-free pipe system.

Cave City went with HDPE pipe to have a fully-restrained and joint-free pipe system.

Cave City operates and maintains the Mammoth Cave National Park water and sewer system.

“When all of the water mains were replaced within the park, the National Park Service required CEA to install only HDPE pipe as this was the best choice for preventing water leaks and line breaks,” Boyers continues. “Prior to this, the water loss was very high. Now the park’s unaccounted water is less than 10 percent, and most of this is due to air release valve failures, not the pipe itself. HDPE pipe systems have a zero allowance for water loss per AWWA M55 Manual which is part of the design with these improvements.”

For a karst area such as Cave City, finding water leaks is difficult because the water usually does not come to the surface but goes down into one of the sinkholes. For this reason, the Cave City system went to HDPE pipe to have a fully-restrained and joint-free pipe system. Heat fusing the HDPE sections makes a monolithic pipeline, which minimizes water loss and means that the pipe will not separate at the joint if there is ground movement or a seismic shift.

“With bell and spigot joined pipe systems this is not the case unless restraints are used,” Boyers says. “Fused HDPE pipe is just about impossible to pull apart. This has been proven in numerous earthquakes around the world. Once again this is part of the design for this project. The fused HDPE pipe also significantly reduces any chance for water loss from the joints and prevents separation of the pipe due the karst nature of the topography.

The Cave City project used 18,500 ft of 8- and 12-in. PE 4710 pipe from WL Plastics.

The Cave City project used 18,500 ft of 8- and 12-in. PE 4710 pipe from WL Plastics.

“We based our design on a working pressure of 160 psi which requires a DR 13.5 HDPE (PE 4710 with Pressure Class, PC 160) pipe,” Boyer continues. To meet the same design requirements, PVC C900 DR 14 pipe with a PC 305 would be required to handle working pressures, surge pressures and the 100 year fatigue life.

“While PVC pipe has a higher static hoop stress capability, our focus was on the pipe’s dynamic strength and not its static strength,” he says. “In our design, we had to take into account the proposed water booster station. While we were trying to minimize the pumps turning on and off, there was the potential for water hammer and therefore, the overall long-term fatigue of the pipe had to be taken into consideration. This resulted in increasing the PVC pipe pressure class to account for the flow velocities and number of cycles from the booster station.”

According to the Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. (PPI), the major trade association representing all segments of the plastic pipe industry, PE 4710 is the highest performance classification of HDPE piping material for potable water applications.

Installation was done using open trench, cut and cover. Jack and bore was also used to install under several state roads and railroad tracks.

Installation was done using open trench, cut and cover. Jack and bore was also used to install under several state roads and railroad tracks.

“PE 4710 compounds offer utilities and designers a greater level of performance,” says Camille Rubeiz, P.E., F.ASCE, director of engineering for PPI’s municipal division. “This translates to the ability to utilize HDPE with increased flow capacities plus increased resistance to surge pressure, fatigue and slow crack growth when compared to previous PE 3608 compounds. The updated ANSI/AWWA C906-15 standard includes PE 4710 for sizes up to 65 in. and recognizes the increased durability and reliability of HDPE pressure pipe used in water systems.”

According to Rubeiz, many engineers select the pipe’s pressure class based on the system’s working pressure and on the pipe’s static hoop stress capability. However, and as noted by Boyers, Water Management Services provided its client, Cave City, with solutions and accounted for the static and dynamic strength of each pipe material.

To simplify these preliminary calculations, eTrenchless Group developed and maintains a web- based calculator called PPI PACE. The free program allows users to complete pressure pipe designs including water distribution lines, transmission main systems and force mains in accordance with existing AWWA and ASTM published standards.

Since PPI PACE compares HDPE, PVC and ductile iron pipe, relevant standards used include AWWA C900, AWWA C901, AWWA C905, AWWA C906, C150/151 along with AWWA manuals such as M23, M55 and M41. PPI PACE also contains extensive information on the selection of design parameters and typical input valves for all three major materials used in water systems.

Rubeiz discussed this essential and major difference in industry standards for pipe.

“The AWWA defines pressure class differently for all three of the different materials,” he says. “For example, the pressure class for PVC and ductile iron pipe is not equivalent or relevant for HDPE pipe. For this project and to meet the design requirements of 160 psi, the required flow velocities and fatigue life, PVC pipe with a DR 14 and pressure rating of 305 psi would be required, while PE 4710 pipe with a DR 13.5 and rated at 160 psi met the project design requirements. For a project like this it would be common for a PVC pipe with DR 25 (PC165) or DR 18 (PC 205) to be specified to satisfy the 160 psi design pressure requirement. If this was done, the system would be under-designed by having a fatigue life that is less than 100 years. For ductile iron pipe, the fatigue life calculations are not available in AWWA C150/151 and M41.”

The Cave City project used 18,500 ft of 8- and 12-in. PE 4710 pipe from PPI member company, WL Plastics, Inc., based in Fort Worth, Texas. Installation was done using open trench, cut and cover. Jack and bore was used to install under several state roads and railroad tracks. According to Boyers, any new lines will also use PE 4710 pipe.
Steve Cooper has reported on a variety of water, conduit and gas pipeline projects for several decades. Throughout his career, he has conducted news interviews with professional engineers, contractors, government officials and representatives of major companies supplying the industry.


About the Author

steve-cooperSteve Cooper | New York-Based Reporter
Steve Cooper has reported on a variety of water, conduit and gas pipeline projects for several decades. Based in New York, he has travelled extensively to conduct on-site news interviews with professional engineers, contractors, government officials and representatives of major companies supplying the industry.

One Comment

  1. As a manufacturer of many different types of pipe (including HDPE and PVC) I would say that while HDPE seems like a good choice for this project, I would caution that relying on a computer program from a trade association for design may not always be in the best interests of the design engineer or their client (the Plastic Pipe Institute is the trade association for PE pipe manufacturers). It is not a surprise that the PPI’s program found that HDPE was the only suitable alternative, as PPI PACE is more of a marketing tool than a design program. Trade associations are very well qualified to give guidance on the pipe materials they represent, but can be biased and unreliable when attempting to give guidance on alternative materials.

    For example, the PACE program typically recommends that the designer use unrealistic parameters when calculating surges and cyclic load, which has the effect of eliminating other pipe materials from consideration, or artificially inflating their requirements so that HDPE may appear to be the most competitive option.

    Strangely enough, the PACE program does not make any allowance for the temperature and chlorine level of the water in question, and given that some disinfectants have the ability to seriously damage or destroy PE piping you would think that the PPI would be interested in giving designers some guidance in this regard. This alone should make designers reconsider using this flawed program as a design tool.

    I would recommend that designers contact the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association (www.ppfahome.org) for guidance on designing all types of plastic pipe

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