Sewers are vital infrastructures in urban settings. These structures direct rainwater to rivers and streams and serve as flood control measures. Pipelines can also function as wastewater channels from homes and businesses and into wastewater plants. Sewerage systems also play a role in the control of water-borne diseases, making cities and communities safe.
Pipelines are generally found underground. Thus, they degrade over time due to deposits that can clog sewer lines and restrict water or waste flow. Tree roots can also intrude and cause cracks. Increased traffic and human activity can also cause pipes to crack or even burst. Low maintenance can also cause pipelines to collapse.
Broken pipes and clogged sewers can be hazardous. Repairs are immediate and necessary; however, these can be costly and time-consuming. It may even require digging up streets or front yards to replace sewer lines. The repair and even installation of new pipelines can disrupt homes and businesses.
Thanks to innovations in the plumbing industry, old and damaged sewer lines can now be repaired without digging. Cured in place pipes or CIPP serve as cost-effective alternatives for pipe repair and replacement. Yet while CIPP is a practical solution, it has been observed that its installation poses several health and safety concerns. Regulating agencies, contractors, and the entire plumbing industry need to address these issues to prove CIPP’s usefulness for homes, societies, and nations.
What is CIPP?
Cured in place pipes or CIPP are plumbing modernizations that don’t require extensive excavations. Instead, it features combining felt and fiberglass into a liner and filling it with polyester, vinyl ester, or epoxy to create a resin.
The cured in place sewer pipe liner is inserted into the cracked pipe and then bombarded with hot steam, pressurized water, or ultraviolet light for several hours for it to cure. Once the resin hardens, the pipe liner is removed. CIPP is often called a ‘pipe within a pipe’ because it creates a seamless tube that covers cracks and breaks in aging lines.
Benefits of CIPP
Cured in place pipes offer several advantages, such as:
- Trenchless: Pipeline repair is done without digging and is mostly done underground. Workers access maintenance holes to lay down cured in place sewer lines within existing sewer systems. In homes and businesses, CIPP works to repair smaller pipelines through sectional repair.
- On-site installation: Cured in place sewer pipes are constructed in the same place where repairs are needed. It does away with manufacturing plants and only entails using specialized equipment.
- Cost-effective: CIPP is an inexpensive alternative to pipe repair. It reduces costs by eliminating excavation and restorative landscaping costs.
- Safety: Cured in place pipes retains the strength of floors and walls in buildings. It also maintains the integrity of roads and sidewalks to keep residential and business areas safe.
Health and Safety Issues
Studies have found that the ‘steam’ emitted during the curing phase of CIPP contains more than water vapor. A report from the US Center for Disease Prevention (CDC) states that the cloud had carcinogens, air pollutants, and endocrine disruptors, among others. Styrene, which is also included in the mix, is listed as a cancer-inducing substance and a hazardous air pollutant. Styrene exposure can cause headaches, hearing loss, eye, mucus membrane irritation, delayed reaction, and concentration difficulties.
Inhaling or skin exposure to these substances can severely impact workers’ health and those in surrounding areas. Workers observed to be handling resin without using gloves or masks risk such exposure that could lead to health issues and even death. A report published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health also identified that styrene levels in CIPP sites exceeded the worker safety threshold.
Public complaints didn’t come from isolated installations but rather from several locations where pipe repairs were performed. A study headed by Andrew Whelton and Purdue University documented more than 100 incidents in 29 US states in which residents and business owners felt dizziness, nausea, burning eyes, and nostrils. In the UK, Birmingham, Cornwall, and Manchester residents also felt the same symptoms. Some were so severe that they compelled emergency responses and building evacuations.
Environment authorities also observed alarming concentrations of particulate substances and water pollution from seepages during culvert installations. One study reported that styrene levels from water collected at CIPP sites were toxic for water fleas and rainbow trout. CIPP worksites also produced dangerous styrene emission levels that ranged from 250 to 1,070 ppm.
The preliminary findings of these studies compelled government agencies and industry players to undertake investigations on their own. This also prompted contractors to perform adjustments in installation procedures to ensure that workers were protected and worksites won’t severely impact people in surrounding areas. Some of the measures put in place include:
- Written notices to home and business owners before the CIPP installation
- Mandatory use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for installers
- Use of fans to ensure ventilation during curing periods
- Containing equipment for emitted gases, catch basins for curing waters and vapors as well as receptacles for resin scraps and other wastes
- Ensure worksite monitoring
- Recommend the use of masks and gloves to affected or concerned individuals near or at the site of installation
Cured in place sewer pipe liners and the CIPP technology are cost-effective solutions for pipe repair. It allows companies to install pipes within pipes without the need for extensive excavation or restorative landscaping.
However, such innovation requires stringent compliance to health and safety protocols to ensure that workers, home and building owners, and the environment, benefit from the trenchless pipe technology.