Why Birmingham Water Works needs to replace 380 miles of galvanized steel pipes

Time: 2018-08-17

Why Birmingham Water Works needs to replace 380 miles of galvanized steel pipes



Age is catching up with part of the infrastructure of Birmingham Water Works.


Age is catching up with part of the infrastructure of Birmingham Water Works.

Out of the 6,000 miles of pipe BWW maintains, 380 miles are galvanized steel that need replacing, according to T.M Jones, Assistant General Manager for Engineering and Maitanence.

Jones says there's a plan in place to replace 15 miles of pipe each year. The plan, expected to take about 25 years, is estimated to cost $200-$300 million in all.

Thursday, the board voted on the newest phase of the plan. It approved about $2 million to replace pipe in Homewood, an area identified as one of the worst spots for breaks. It also approved $746,000 to replace pipes in Center Point.

Replacing galvanized steel pipe is expected to increase water quantity and pressure and also cut down on the amount of leaks and breaks.

Chris Donald works at a law firm off 29th Court South in Homewood, a street identified as one where old pipes will be replaced.

"I have noticed water coming out of the ground in multiple places in the street," said Donald.

Donald says he's watched as lines break and are repaired.

"It would be better if the pipes were replaced to prevent further waste and to prevent the erosion of the road which gets in bad shape every now and then, said Donald.

Jones says galvanized steel became popular during World War 2, in an effort to save steel for the war. Many continued with the pipe because it was cheaper. But, it only has a life span of 40 years. In Birmingham, that's caused problems.

"Some of it is 70 and 80 years old which is well outside its life," said Jones. "We have a program going where we are goign to replace all 380 miles of two inch galvanized steel with a larger six nch ductile iron pipe product that will have life of 125 years."

Jones says not only will that mean fewer leaks, "it will reduce the downtime on their street having to be, our crews come out and work on leaks on that old galvanized steel."

Another Homewood street slated for upgrades is 19th Place South, where Margeret Davis owns creative dog training..

"I have seen water main breaks and i know what they can do so prevention is a good thing, i'm all for it," said Davis.

Jones acknowledges this is just the beginning of a long road ahead
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