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Letter: Let’s consider all options when replacing water pipes

Let’s consider all options when replacing water pipes

Western New York is seeing a rash of water main breaks. Much of this is due to increased water pressure during high-demand times, combined with the area’s aging water infrastructure. But water mains aren’t the only aging part of our national infrastructure.

Just look around: The interstate highway system is 60 years old; parts of the electrical grid – especially in the Northeast – were designed by Thomas Edison; and the first commercial railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio, was chartered for service in 1827.

All that to say, as we begin to rebuild our infrastructure, engineers, planners and political leaders must consider just how long overhauling our infrastructure will have to last.

Considering that water main lines can be more than 5 feet in diameter and carry hundreds of thousands of gallons of water to homes, schools, hospitals and businesses around the clock, their durability and reliability are incredibly important.

There are two primary methods to carry potable water currently competing with one another: PVC pipe and ductile iron pipe. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. PVC is cheaper on the front end because it is lighter and easier to handle, while ductile iron has environmental benefits and can last more than twice as long as PVC.

The University of Michigan has recently released a study that includes a tool for planners to use when determining which pipe is the best choice for a particular project.

When building new infrastructure, local leaders must consider all the ramifications involved in replacing the water pipes that are causing so much exasperation today, and not necessarily choose a quick and easy fix that will simply move the problem to the next generation.

Brigham McCown

Chairman and Founder, Alliance

for Innovation and Infrastructure

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