Plastic can be good for the environment


Findings from a study of testbeds installed more than 30 years ago have shown that plastic pipes used in 90% of new water mains “will last for longer than the current 50-year design life,” according to researchers at UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR).

And the project confirmed that “installation issues” were the cause of “most of the joint failures on polyethylene (PE) pipe, underlining the need to monitor and improve workmanship,” according to UKWIR.

The test pipes and joints at two Midlands pumping stations were lifted last winter and results from the project – funded by Severn Trent Water and UKWIR – were published last week.

The test beds were installed in in the early 1980s and 1990s and have been under operational conditions since then. Latterly, UKWIR reported, they have been subjected to tests to determine the impact on the pipes’ performance of exposure to chemical and mechanical conditions – in  particular to predict when the pipes degrade and fail. Other findings showed new, high-pressure pipes such as PE100 could have a useable life of 160 years.

Technical Lead at Severn Trent Water, Jo Claronino, said the findings were “ground-breaking for the water industry.” He looked forward to the possible creation of “a national database of companies’ analysis showing the life expectancy of water supply networks across the UK and Ireland.”

UKWIR project manager, Rebecca Haylock, said the project provides the water industry with “a methodology to apply to their asset databases to better understand the ageing process of PE pipes and predict their remaining service life. They can then use this information to plan and target future investment in their water supply networks.”