Piping Up: DIPRA Builds on Strong History of Iron Pipe in America

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ductile iron pipe is a 100-percent recyclable material.
Made from 95-percent recycled content, ductile iron pipe is a 100-percent recyclable material.

By Jon Runge

Sixty years ago, Time Magazine ran a full-page advertisement calling cast iron pipe "Public Tax Saver No. 1." With images of a well-preserved, 100-year-old section of pipe, the ad said iron pipe "…has saved, and is now saving, millions of tax dollars because it serves for centuries." To quote an oft-used phrase, history does repeat itself. Accordingly, modern ductile iron pipe still "serves for centuries," is used all over the world and continues to save the public millions of dollars.

"Since those ads, the pipe materials have improved, but the message remains true," said Gregg Horn, executive vice president of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA), a group dedicated to providing reliable and essential information about cast iron - and now ductile iron - to water and wastewater utilities and consulting engineers.

What's more, ductile iron pipe is an environmentally and financially responsible product. Made from 95-percent recycled content, ductile iron pipe is a 100-percent recyclable material. Due to its larger-than-nominal inside diameter and smooth cement-mortar lining, it also requires less energy to pump water through it than other pipe materials. This means less electricity is used, reducing water utility bills and lowering the utility's carbon footprint. Further, it is low maintenance, strong enough to withstand even the most difficult laying and handling conditions, and is designed to last at least 100 years, even in aggressive soils.

"DIPRA is leading the way in sustainable products for our water and wastewater infrastructure," said Mike Italiano, founder of the US Green Building Council and president & CEO of Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS). "DIPRA and its member companies can be proud of their commitment to ensuring the health and safety of their employees and the public." With its many sustainable attributes, MTS awarded ductile iron pipe a Gold level SMaRT certification in 2012. Often referred to as "LEED for products," SMaRT is a national consensus standard that recognizes products best for the environment, economy and social equity over the supply chain.

Polyethylene encasement has become the most popular method to effectively and economically protect ductile iron pipe from external corrosion.
Polyethylene encasement has become the most popular method to effectively and economically protect ductile iron pipe from external corrosion.

On the innovation front, DIPRA continues to improve the cutting-edge corrosion control methods recommended for ductile iron pipe. To prevent internal corrosion of cast iron pipe, DIPRA and its member companies began using cement-mortar linings in the 1920s, which is now the standard for ductile iron pipe. Thirty years later, DIPRA began research into polyethylene encasement, which became the most popular method to effectively and economically protect ductile iron pipe from external corrosion.

In 2003, DIPRA partnered with Corrpro Companies Inc. to develop the Design Decision Model™, a risk-based matrix that weighs the likelihood of corrosion along a pipeline against its potential consequences. The model provides recommendations designed to protect ductile iron pipe from corrosion for a minimum average service life of 100 years. Those recommendations range from relying on the corrosion resistance of the pipe in non- aggressive soils to the addition of polyethylene encasement to the application of cathodic protection. While this encasement has been the most successful - and the wisest economic option - for corrosion control of cast and ductile iron pipe, DIPRA didn't stop there. It is now introducing V-Bio, an enhanced polyethylene encasement that builds on the product's 55-year history of protection.

Like polyethylene encasement, V-Bio is an unbonded film that isolates the pipe from the surrounding soil and provides an inert environment beneath. V-Bio is installed the same way but enhances polyethylene encasement by adding a corrosion inhibitor and a biocide. V-Bio is a co-extruded three-layer film, with the inside layer infused with a corrosion inhibitor that mitigates galvanic corrosion, as well as with a biocide to prevent microbiologically-influenced corrosion (MIC). V-Bio meets all the requirements of the standard on polyethylene encasement jointly issued by the American National Standards Institute and the American Water Works Association (ANSI/AWWA C105/A21.5).

Since its inception 100 years ago, DIPRA has provided critical, accurate and up-to-date information about cast and ductile iron pipe to utilities, engineers and local decision makers. "V-Bio is an evolutionary innovation for the iron pipe industry," said Horn. "DIPRA is proud to introduce this new product."

About the Author: Jon Runge is president of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA). Runge has more than a quarter-century of marketing and management experience, having served in senior positions at both MillerCoors and the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

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