Infrastructure: Toronto Votes for Alternative Materials in Water Mains

Toronto council voted decisively to open up its material specifications to include alternative materials like PVC pipe for large diameter transmission water mains. Allowing a broader range of piping materials in its water system will enable Toronto to realize significant cost savings. A staff report noted that this approach ?promotes competition and realizes potential capital cost and construction time savings while ensuring system performance needs are met.?

Since the 1950s only cement mortar lined steel pipe encased in concrete was used in Toronto for water infrastructure, requiring 24-in. diameter pipe or larger. The new decision will allow PVC pipe in sizes ranging from 20 to 48 in. to be included in bids for water projects. Since pipelines typically represent up to 60 percent of the capital investment for water and wastewater infrastructure projects, the new measure will enable Toronto to achieve significant cost savings.

?Spending taxpayer dollars in an open and competitive manner and allowing all pipe technologies to be considered in bids drives innovation and results in more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable water systems,? said Bruce Hollands, executive director of the PVC Pipe Association.

Toronto?s move could not come at a better time. Like other cash-strapped municipalities in North America grappling with crumbling infrastructure, the city needs to find better ways to stretch every dollar. The impetus for change came from a report by Cole Engineering Group Ltd., which concluded that ?future construction tenders allow multiple pipe materials which meet performance specifications, such as polyvinyl chloride pipe.? ?This is a benchmark and best practice that should be studied and replicated by all cities in Canada and the United States,? said Hollands.

PVC pipe is one of the safest and most tested materials used in North America. It meets or exceeds all required health and safety standards and regulations governed by the U.S. and Canadian Safe Drinking Water Acts and other international statutes. Over 40,000 North American water utilities use PVC pipe today, and more than one million miles are in service.

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