Pipe Dream: Huntsville Maintains Sewage Lines With Cutting Edge Technology

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – No one wants to talk about the subterranean tunnels that whisk our waste away – but they’re very important.

SAK Construction, Inc. crews refurbish an old pipeline with the CIPP technique near Lakewood Elementary School in northwest Huntsville. (PHOTO: David Wood, WHNT)

SAK Construction, Inc. crews refurbish an old pipeline with the CIPP technique near Lakewood Elementary School in northwest Huntsville. (PHOTO: David Wood, WHNT)

It’s easy to lay a new sewer line through a cotton field. It’s a lot more difficult to replace a line in an established neighborhood without damaging trees, roads and expensive landscaping.

“When there’s a need to fix sewage problems, we tear up the streets and we tear up backyards, “says Huntsville City Council member Richard Showers.

Huntsville uses two “trenchless” techniques to rehabilitate old sewer lines with minimal excavation.

The first is pipe bursting –  a trenchless method of replacing burned pipelines (such as sewer, water, or natural gas lines) without the need for a traditional construction trench. A “launching pit” replaces the trench needed by conventional pipe-laying. The old pipe is broken in place as a brand new pipe is pulled through. Huntsville uses this method to replace smaller lines connected to homes.

“What you’re really seeing is the work they put into going out, looking to se where we have issues where we need to replace infrastructure and make sure the city stays in working order and stays a modern city,” explains city administrator John Hamilton.

The second trenchless method is known as cured in place pipe procedure (CIPP). CIPP is a method of lining an existing pipe resulting in a pipe-within-a-pipe. A resin-impregnated felt tube made of fiberglass cloth saturated with a resin is pulled into place and heat cured with steam or water. Huntsville uses this method to replace carrier lines, 12 inches or larger.

The resulting clay pipe cures in about 3 hours and can last up to fifty years with leaching.

“You have no root intrusions in the future or any opportunities for your water to come in or out,” says Jack Boatman, SAK Construction Vice President of Governmental Affairs.

“We end up with a solid unit from manhole to manhole” says Shane Cook, the city’s water pollution control director.

Cook says Huntsville’s $1.5 million contract with SAK will pay for just under two miles of new resin sewer pipes in 2014.


  • Chris

    That’s real nice and all but I think they should be spending more time on solving some of these murders we’ve been having in North Huntsville instead.

    • Anon

      Oh yeah a guy that does plumbing definitely knows how to solve murders. Why didn’t someone think of this sooner!

    • Werk Twerk

      Which murders exactly, Chris? Why “some” and not all? Do you think that there is a connection between this sewer technology and Huntsville homicides? Is your last name Holmes?

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