Back-to-back collapses of old brick piping in Indianapolis shut down busy intersections last month, prompting the company that owns the infrastructure to change its inspection schedule.
Top officials from Citizens Energy Group stood before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to present their findings of a “rapid condition assessment” performed after sewer failures in July. The results of the assessment are prompting the company to change its inspection schedule from every decade to ever five years.
The move comes after a 100-year-old brick pipe collapsed underneath Pennsylvania and Ohio Streets, which shut down the intersection for over a week. Shortly after the intersection reopened, inspectors found a collapsed brick manhole under Maryland and Ilinois Streets, which shut down that intersection for days. The closing came during a busy weekend and Indiana’s Black Expo’s Summer Celebration.
Officials from Citizens Energy Group said the pipe underneath Pennsylvania and Ohio Streets had been inspected in 2014 and was tagged for repair, which would have occurred before 2021.
The company purchased the city’s water and sewer systems in 2011. The aging system experiences over 80 sewer failures and 500 water main breaks each year.
Many of the pipes in the downtown area were laid prior to 1950 and many are made of brick.
Company officials say they have spent between $15-$20 million a year in sewer rehabilitation. Over 80 miles of piping have already been repaired, but an additional $150 million in repairs is needed to address issues.
The issue isn’t unique to Indianapolis. The U.S.’s aging water and sewer infrastructure is costing cities across the country millions of dollars in repairs and maintenance.
The traditional repair process can be lengthy and inconvenient to residents, forcing the city to shut down major intersection while repairs are carried out.
One town in New Jersey is taking a different approach. The Riverhead Highway Department is testing out trenchless sewer repair methods, which do not require workers to dig up streets and highways, which cause traffic delays.
To fix the pipe, fiberglass pipe-lining technology was used. The pipes were lined with fiberglass material, which was cured in place using ultraviolet light. The end result is a pipe that’s like new, but without the excavation and headaches.
The small project was a test to see how well the method would work for larger pipe projects. Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson said the pipes in town are 30 years old or older and are in need of rehabilitation.