Watermain Replacement Services: What to Expect

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Watermains are pipes that supply drinking water to homes and businesses. As they age, they become corroded and can break, causing problems for communities. Fleis & VandenBrink’s (F&V) water system experience is extensive and includes the design and construction of 6-inch to 42-inch supply and distribution mains, booster stations, treatment plants, and filtration improvements. We also specialize in energy and water efficiency evaluation, asset management, water reliability studies, and water system security planning. F&V has designed over 500 miles (and counting!) of watermains.

Reasons for Replacing the Watermain

Watermains need to be replaced when they are old, leaking, the piping is corroding or rusting, water demand has increased due to more homes and businesses in the area, or to be proactive and fix the watermain before problems occur. Occasionally, if you know the watermain will need replacing in a few years and a community is redoing the roadway above, it’s best to replace both at once for cost and time-savings.

Lead Service Line Replacement

Before 1960, it was normal to use lead pipes to connect homes and businesses to watermain systems. It is now known that it can cause serious health problems. The new Lead and Copper Rule requirements, set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), went into effect nationwide in December 2021. Michigan’s lead and copper rules are more stringent than US EPA rules when applied to cities with lead pipes. Water utilities in Michigan have 20 years to change every lead service line in their system, along with galvanized steel service lines that are or were once joined with a lead line.

The new rules:

  • Require public water systems to replace all lead service lines.
  • Reduce the lead action level from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 12 ppb by 2025.
  • Require a second water sample collection at sites served by lead service lines.

Watermain Repairs

The watermain can be repaired and not replaced if the break area is small. It is generally fixed by putting a repair collar around the broken area. The repair collar is like a big clamp which fits right around the watermain.

Watermain Replacement Methods

Trench Digging Replacement

Trench digging of watermain replacement involves digging a narrow ditch in the ground for installation, maintenance, or inspection of pipes. Trenches for watermains usually range between 5 and 7 feet in our region. The main concern when digging the trench is making sure it is below the frost line for that area. This is the most economical and common method for watermain installation.

Trenchless Watermain Replacement

Trenchless watermain replacement involves drilling in the ground and pulling the new pipe into place. The benefit of this method is it will not cause significant damage to the landscaping or the road above. This is ideal for watermains near congested areas, bodies of water, and railroads.

What to Expect for Your Watermain Installation

The following list shows the process of replacing and installing a new watermain:

  • Obtain grant funding for the project, if possible. Many cities and towns can’t afford to pay for the repairs on their own. State or federal grants can help.
  • Design the project. Choose a company with years of experience designing replacement watermains, like F&V.
  • Obtain permits.
  • Excavate the area where the new pipe will be installed, keeping in mind trench depth and width.
  • Install sand bedding in trench for placing the pipes.
  • Lay the new pipe (inspect the pipe for damage, clean the pipe, lower the pipe into the trench).
  • Join the pipes together to provide proper functionality.
  • Connect the new pipe to the existing mains.

Watermain Replacement Cost

Factors that affect the cost of replacing a watermain include:

  • Materials used and the size of the replacement watermain
  • Soil and groundwater conditions
  • Roadway condition and watermain location
  • Trenched or trenchless installation
  • Labor cost
  • Project length of time
  • Grants and loan availability

Choosing Your Watermain Replacement Contractors

When hiring a watermain replacement team, look for companies with decades of experience. F&V engineers have years of experience and designed hundreds of miles (and counting!) of watermains in their careers. Browse our project experience if you’re interested or give us a call.

Reliable Watermain Replacement with Fleis & VandenBrink

Let F&V assist you with your watermain replacement. Contact us today.