DC Fire Underscores Need to Replace Aging Water Pipes

Fire destroyed a condominium last week in the Adams Morgan section of the city as fire fighters were unable to draw enough water from the local hydrants to fight the blaze. The hydrants were connected to narrow, antiquated water mains, some dating from the late 1800s.
"This incident underscores the crisis of the nation's aging infrastructure," said Tim Burns, president of the Arlington, Virginia- based Vinyl Institute. "It's not just a question of replacing pipe to keep pace with growth and to avoid excess leakage; it's a question of public safety. PVC pipe is part of the solution."
The old pipes in Adams Morgan were six inches in diameter; pipes of at least 12 inches were needed to pump the 3,500 gallons per minute needed to extinguish the fire. (Eventually, the firefighters unfurled hoses 3,000 and 4,000 feet to reach mains with 20-inch pipes. No one was seriously injured in the blaze, although property damage was estimated in the millions.)
Al Roberson, director of security and regulatory affairs for the American Water Works Association told the Washington Post that efficient flow of water depended not only on size but also on the amount of corrosion on a pipe.
Burns pointed out that, unlike other pipe materials, PVC does not corrode or become brittle. Further, he said, "Low-maintenance PVC pipe does not have to depend on special linings or coatings, or on a certain level of water quality."
More and more, local governments are choosing PVC replacement pipe. Bob Walker, executive director of Dallas-based Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association, said that, according to a study of buried piping completed in 2005, "On a linear basis, PVC pipe now accounted for over 78 percent of all new drinking water pipe being installed in North America and more than 81 percent of all new wastewater piping."
For further information on PVC pipes and water issues, visit www.uni-bell.org or www.vinylnewsservice.com.

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