HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – Most people don’t think about water mains until they fail.
There are thousands of miles of water mains all throughout the area. One of those mains broke and closed schools in Wellsville Thursday.
In Hermitage, work is wrapping up on a water main replacement, including the replacement of a nearly 80-year-old line.
“We analyze all of our lines and determine which ones need to be replaced based on maintenance history, and also our hydraulic capacity for our customers and our future plans,” Aqua PA Senior Engineer Raymond Byrom said.
It’s extremely expensive. Replacing just 2600 feet can cost more than half a million dollars.
If an area breaks too often, it’s a sign it needs replaced. Most older pipes are made from cast iron, and over time, pipes get clogged up with rust.
“You can have corrosion that starts from the inside out. You can have corrosion that starts from the outside in. You can have it either way,” Youngstown Water Chief Engineer Gene Leson said.
Cast iron pipes can last a hundred years or more. But the metal is also fragile.
“When the ground moves, it just snaps like a pretzel stick,” Leson said.
To solve that problem, engineers now use a new metal called ductile iron. And they’re looking at high-tech plastics.
“We have had some runs where we put in some test parameters for some PVC pipe, just to see how it would react in the climate,” Leson said.
In many cases, water crews don’t know how old a pipe is until they dig it up to replace it.