Thursday, October 25, 2012

Orangeburg Pipe

Orangeburg pipes
Orangeburg pipes are main waste lines that typically join to cast iron.  The connection is done underground so you will not be able to see it.  The pipes are made of paper and tar and formed into a pipe connecting to the city waste line.  Used in the 50’s and 60’s (when iron was re-directed to the war effort), the material breaks down over time.  This can be accelerated by various products that run through the drain (including chemicals, nail polish remover, etc. that are put down drains) and snaking or cleaning these pipes can also cause more damage.

Bituminized fiber drain and sewer pipe (a.k.a. Orangeburg pipe; Bermico pipe).

Manufactured in Orangeburg South Carolina, the pipe later adopted this name
Orangeburg pipe was used in the 1950’s and 1960’s when all cast was being used for the war effort.  The joint for these pipes is below ground and therefore, you will not be able to see it and it was used with interior cast drains. The pipes are now failing and need replacement, as they tend to collapse over time.  Some companies will line the existing pipe, but this will not always be possible as the pipe in many cases changes to an oval shape as it weakens and before it collapses completely. 
Excerpt from the following site:
In the early 1990s, the City of Waterloo began experiencing premature failures of Black Fibre Pipe (also known as Orangeburg or Bermico pipes) sewer laterals that were in-service for less than 20 years. Black fibre pipes, 51 to 200 mm (2 and 8 in.) in diameter, are compressed paper fibre tubes that are vacuum impregnated with bituminous coal tar pitch to form a pipe composed of approximately 25% fibre stock and 75% bitumen.

During World War II, governments mandated limited domestic use of steel to aid the war effort. This and the lower manufacturing cost of black fibre pipe as compared to steel, clay, and concrete pipes led to the rapid usage of black fibre pipe for sanitary laterals, drains, and conduits. Black fibre pipe remained a popular choice for sewer laterals following the end of the war, until the late 1960s, when plastic pipes were introduced. During the 1950s and 1960s, a period of rapid growth at the City of Waterloo, approximately 4,000 residential sewer laterals consisting of black fibre pipes were installed.
Soon after the installation of those black fibre laterals, home owners began experiencing sewer back-ups due to the collapse of pipes. Initially the failed house laterals were replaced by new pipes using open-cut excavation from the houses to the streets. The open-cut construction took several days to complete, was disruptive to both homeowners and city residents, and cost approximately $6500 per lateral. Since the homeowner owned the lateral, the construction cost was shared between the home owner and the City. Due to the large number of premature failures and construction issues, the City of Waterloo decided to assume the full cost of replacing failed black fibre pipe sewer laterals. As a result of this decision, the City of Waterloo had to assume $26 million dollar liability.
There are a few videos available on YouTube showing the product.  The following link is from a plumbing contractor that has worked with the product in the US..

Lining the pipe – an easy fix, but only possible if the pipes are still round

Potential Solution

One inspector mentioned that whenever a house is over 50 years old, he recommends they have a plumber scope the main waste line – costs vary but are typically around $300.  Considering the potential damage and increased chances of root damage, blockages and the impact on a family when these and other older drains fail, it is a recommendation to take under consideration.  We do not have any statistics on where they are used, except in the Waterloo region, Orangeville and Toronto.

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