Home News Local News Riverhead tries innovative approach to trench-less underground pipe repair

Riverhead tries innovative approach to trench-less underground pipe repair

Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson, left, inspects the equipment used by National Pipe Cleaning Co. to repair underground pipes. Photo: Peter Blasl

The Riverhead Highway Department recently completed repair of an underground pipe without opening the road above it.

New Jersey-based National Water Main Cleaning Company handled the repair of a pipe under Fanning Street in Riverhead that connects a pond to a stream. The repair was done with an innovative fiberglass pipe-lining technology developed in Germany, said Ralph Sergio of National Water Main Cleaning Company. The underground pipe is lined with fiberglass material that is cured in place using ultraviolet light.

The end result is an underground pipe that’s like new without the cost and headaches involved in excavating and replacing an existing pipe, Sergio said.

The pipe under Fanning Street that connects a pond to a stream. Photo: Peter Blasl

The Fanning Street project, completed on Aug. 21 at a cost of about $15,000, was something of a demonstration project for Highway Superintendent George Woodson.

“I wanted to try it because all the pipes in town are probably 30 years old or older,” Woodson said. “We’re starting to look into the older parts of the drainage system,” he said. “I’m trying to be proactive.” When underground pipes leak, eventually the asphalt above it can collapse.

The contractor examines and tests the interior of drainage pipes using instruments and small video cameras that travel inside the underground pipes. The instruments are inserted into the drain pipes through storm drains.

Woodson said avoiding road excavation, especially in downtown streets, is a big deal. Not only will he avoid road closures required when pipes must be physically dug up and replaced, he said the department avoids the risk of damaging other underground utilities beneath the asphalt. This is a particular concern downtown, where water mains, electric and gas lines, phone lines and drainage pipes all share a narrow roadbed. The location of the utilities, many of which were put in place decades ago, is often poorly mapped, Woodson said.

“That’s why even National Grid hit one of their own gas mains downtown about five years ago,” Woodson said.

Workers had to de-water the underground pipe before the fiberglass lining material could be installed. Photo: Peter Blasl

The UV-cured fiberglass lining repair is strong, and it’s safer and quicker to complete, Woodson said. The lining is only about an eighth of an inch thick, so it doesn’t affect the functionality of the pipe, he said. 

The highway superintendent said he plans to have the New Jersey contractor perform drainage system inspections with cameras in areas of town where the new technology would be most useful for making repairs.

“I believe we’re the first municipality on Long Island to utilize this,” Woodson said.

The technology can also be used for repairing sewer pipes, he said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.