City crews to replace water pipe using eco-friendly method

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The Rochester Department of Public Works is working to replace an aging water main, above, that has broken multiple times over the last few years. (Courtesy Photo Rochester Department of Public Works)

ROCHESTER -- The city of Rochester is beginning an environmentally friendly process to repair an aging water main, according to Director of City Services John Storer.

Rochester relies primarily on surface water for its public water supply from Berrys River Watershed, which includes three reservoirs: Rochester Reservoir, Round Pond and Tufts Pond.

The three reservoirs are connected to the Berry River by a 24-inch transmission pipe, which dates back to the 1930s and has broken four separate times in the last few years. To best ensure continued functionality, Rochester will be replacing a 2,000-foot section of the pipe.

Over the last week, crews have been onsite preassembling the replacement pipe and preparing for the project. Starting on Monday the Department of Public Works will work with Ted Berry Company to excavate three small access points at the start, midpoint and end of the critical 2,000-foot section to replace a portion of the 24-inch pipe.

Conventional excavation repairs are temporary and damage the environment, so Rochester will be using a "trenchless" process that prevents the entire excavation of the 2,000-foot section. Rochester has opted to employ a relatively new method of pipe replacement called "pipe-bursting," instead of mobilizing digging equipment in the swampy wetland area.

Pipe-bursting was initially developed for replacing a pipe of the same size, but recent advances allow it to be used to expand the carrying capacity of a pipe by replacing smaller pipes with larger ones. In Rochester, a "bursting head" will be placed into the old 24-inch pipe and forced through it, "bursting" the pipe apart. Then, a machine set at the end of the 2,000-foot section, will pull a new 30-inch main pipe into the line and replace the old pipe with a modern plastic one.

"The reason the project is so critical, is that the 24-inch main is the main artery that supplies long-term water to the city, so we knew we needed to implement a more permanent solution to prevent breaks and leaks," Storer said. "We can operate off the water that is currently stored in Rochester Reservoir or Round Pond, but we needed the main to be fully operational to replenish those sources. The best way to ensure this happens is by replacing the pipe, rather than making patchwork of the old one."

Rochester has allocated $600,000 for the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of March.

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