The Cleaning of Water Mains

The Cleaning of Water Mains

Within a few years an important industry has come into existence that has resulted in great efficiency of water supply through lengthening of the service of water mains. This desirable result is effected by the cleaning of the pipes by mechanical means, thus removing the incrustations and accumulations and reducing the necessity and expense of laying new mains by more than half. Several methods of performing this important work are now in use.

On this page are two illustrations of the recent operation of cleaning the water mains of St. Louis, Mo. The smaller picture shows the condition of the discharge from the main at the beginning of the process of cleaning, and gives a very good idea of the condition that the work was intended to rectify. The second and larger illustration shows the end of the operation, with the machine ejected from the main and the water that is pouring out practically pure. This contract called for the cleaning of approximately fifty miles of mains, ranging in size from six to twenty inches in diameter. The work is thus described by Water Commissioner Edward E. Wall, in his annual report:

“Due to prompt house-to-house inspections, before and after cleaning, consumers were inconvenienced but slightly from choked service connections. The incrustation removed in the cleaning process is composed of lime, silt and mud mixed with an iron deposit which adheres firmly to sides of pipe. In addition to this natural incrustation, rocks, sticks and sundry other articles were removed during the cleaning process. A fair estimate of the amount of deposit removed can be gained from the following: 150,500 lineal feet of various sizes cleaned, shows an aggregate dry volume of 7,187 cubic feet, amounting to 143 wagon loads, or a little over four wagon loads per mile cleaned. The cleaning has been of vast benefit to the department in increased water volume and should be continued until all mains 6 to 20 inches in diameter in service previous to 1906 have been cleaned.”

Cleaning 20-inch Water Pipe, St. Louis Note condition of water flowing from pipe. While cleaning, machine is moving through main.Showing Machine Ejected from Cleaned Main and Clear Water Flowing

Following is a tabular statement of the work accomplished in cleaning the mains up to the time the report was issued by the commissioner:

Water Main Cleaning, 1917-1918

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The Cleaning of Water Mains

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The Cleaning of Water Mains

The National Water Main Cleaning Company of New York has recently issued a very interesting booklet entitled “The Cleaning of Water Mains.” The book is profusely illustrated, showing among others things, streams from fire hose before and after the mains were cleaned, incrustations removed from water mains, etc. Another interesting feature of the booklet, is a table showing the results obtained in several cities by awter main cleaning. This table gives the name of the city, size of the pipe, discharge in gallons before and after cleaning, frictional loss before and after cleaning, the actual percentage of increase in discharge, the actual percentage of increase in carrying capacity, nature of stoppage, when pipe line was laid, and source of water effecting pipes. The following brief history of water main cleaning is given in the booklet: “Probably pipe cleaning is as old as are pipes themselves, and without doubt has been tried many times, but water main cleaning as a practical and economical operation has been carried on in the United States for only about ten years. The Hudson Contracting Company was formed in the year 1905 for the purpose of water main cleaning contracting. Some actual work and experimenting were carried on by this company, and as the future for this kind of work looked promising, a larger corporation, the National Water Main Cleaning Company, was formed in November, 1906. The latter company purchased from the Hudson Contracting Company its patent rights, equipment, etc. Since that time the development of pipe cleaning apparatus and methods has been very gratifying. The first machines used were rather crude. Scrapers with blades and cutters were sometimes so stiff that damage to pipe coatings was to be looked for. Scrapers are still used, but in such a way that coatings are not injured, although every bit of dirt and foreign matter is removed. Methods of propelling the scraping devices through the mains have also been improved. In 1912 the patent covering the turbine type of water main cleaner was purchased, and there seems to be no deposit too hard for this machine to remoe. Improvement in machinery is by no means the only accomplishment of the last few years, for the work of preparation and making up, of keeping the machines under control of the operator, and many other features of water main cleaning have been constantly receiving attention, so that after ten years of costly, but on the whole successful experience, we now feel we have a very practical and economical method, suitable for any awter works, whether municipally or privately owned.”