3 Underground Pipes Sanitation Workers Don’t Want To Find


Failing or leaking sewer pipes take up a lot of time in the sewer and sanitation industry.

Experienced technicians know that some types of leaks are easier to repair than others, just like some types of pipes are better than others. Old or poorly constructed pipes can turn what looked like a routine job into a much more intensive and frustrating project.

These underground pipes sanitation workers don’t want to find are usually projects from 40 or 50 years ago, before PVC and other current standards were created. Modern tools like cameras and other equipment specifically designed for manholes and sewer lines make it easy to detect problem areas and repair these pipes – or replace them entirely.

3 Underground Pipes Sanitation Workers Don’t Want To Find

1) Orangeburg Pipes

Orangeburg pipes, named for the town of Orangeburg, New York, were common in the construction industry until the 1970s.

Also known as “fiber conduit,” this bituminous fiber pipe is made from layers of wood pulp and pitch pressed together with asphalt – basically an upgraded form of tar paper.

Credit: Kim Kruse/Flickr

Orangeburg pipes were commonly used during and after the second World
War as a substitute for
cast iron pipe, since cast iron was heavily taxed during the war. PVC pipe arrived to replace Orangeburg pipes in the 1970s.

Sanitation workers who find fiber conduit pipes today can expect a bigger job than they had anticipated. While they were in use, engineers believed Orangeburg pipes could last as long as 50 years.

Unfortunately, this lightweight and brittle piping absorbs moisture and deforms under pressure. Pipe failure is common after just 30 years, however, and sometimes happens in less than a decade.

Since the last Orangeburg pipes were installed in the early 1970s, any building or sewer system that still has these pipes in place will need them replaced by a professional.

2) Clay Pipes

Unlike the more modern (relatively speaking) Orangeburg pipes, clay pipes have been part of human history for about 6,000 years, dating back to ancient Babylonia.

Credit: Draincom

Clay pipes, however, are similar to fiber conduit pipes in their lack of resistance to nature. While newer clay pipes are stronger and fit tighter than the sewer lines of old, they are still vulnerable to leaks and the invasion of tree roots.

Once tree roots reach the inside of a clay pipe, either through a leak or loose joint, the roots will grow and expand until the pipe breaks apart.

While clay lines typically outlive Orangeburg pipes, crumbing clay pipes continue to plague homes and businesses across the country. The heaviness of new clay pipes makes it difficult to bring to the job site easily, and has led to PVC replacements in most cases.

3) Cast Iron Pipes

Credit: Jeremy Brooks/Nevada Preservation Foundation

Cast iron is the most reliable piping material on this list. Water continues to pass through cast iron pipes today, including in cities with cast iron water mains more than 100 years old.

However, cast iron pipes used to move waste – commonly installed beneath concrete slabs until the early 1970s – are less dependable than those that carry water.

Residential and commercial cast iron sewer lines are vulnerable to corrosion and “channeling,” where the bottom of a horizontal pipe wears away under the flow of water until the soil beneath is exposed. The subsequent erosion of the soil can create voids that threaten the structure of the entire pipe system.

Sanitation professionals are turning to Southland Tool for the equipment they need to work safely, quickly and efficiently. Click here for our 2015 product guide, and call (714) 632-8198or visit our Contact Page with any questions.


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