ACPA Says HDPE Pipe Failure at Texas Fish Hatchery Offers Costly Lessons
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recently learned a very costly lesson when it was forced to replace two miles of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe with reinforced concrete pipe (RCP), after portions of the plastic drainage system collapsed at the new John D. Parker East Texas Fish Hatchery near Jasper.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recently learned a very costly lesson when it was forced to replace two miles of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe with reinforced concrete pipe (RCP), after portions of the plastic drainage system collapsed, and 11,000 feet of pipe was determined to have questionable structural integrity, at the new John D. Parker East Texas Fish Hatchery near Jasper.
The $3.3 million repair bill – $3.2 million of which was paid by fish hatchery design firm HDR/FishPro – came after months of legal jockeying. As a result, the project completion date was delayed by more than a year, and is now scheduled for Spring 2011.
“This design and installation failure was completely avoidable,” says Dr. Patricia D. Galloway, CEO of Pegasus Global Holdings Inc., and a noted authority on drainage pipe systems. “For some reason, HDPE pipe was specified for an application that was much more suited to reinforced concrete pipe. It was an accident waiting to happen from the very beginning.”
The failure was originally discovered in April 2009 when inspectors found two sections of 60-inch and 48-inch diameter HDPE pipe that had collapsed under 10 to 17 feet of earth fill.
“Because corrugated HDPE pipe is a flexible material, and not an independent structure like RCP, up to 90 percent of an installation’s success is driven by the soil envelope that surrounds it,” explains Galloway. “It’s imperative that the design firm and the installing engineers to account for a wide range of pipe-soil variables when dealing with HDPE, ranging from material properties to installation conditions to external loads, any of which can lead to catastrophic failure. It would appear that the first and biggest mistake was in specifying HDPE instead of RCP for a project like this.”
“And as we’ve seen in Jasper, when something goes wrong, the liability almost always rests with the designers and/or engineers, and not with the manufacturer,” continues Galloway. “That explains why most specifiers and drainage design firms research and analyze a number of factors and conditions for the intended application before specifying the type of pipe to be used, as is required by the industry’s standard of care.”
The $27 million hatchery, funded by the sale of freshwater fishing stamps, was designed to raise roughly five million Florida bass, blue catfish and bluegill every year.
As Todd Engeling, TPWD’s chief of inland hatcheries, said after the corrugated plastic material was replaced with reinforced concrete pipe, “We came out of this deal with a drainage system that is much more rigid and robust than what we originally had, and that’s a good thing.”
“It’s a shame they had to learn their lesson the hard way,” concludes Galloway.
For more analysis by Dr. Galloway and other experts on drainage pipe design and installation failures, please visit the American Concrete Pipe Association at http://www.concrete-pipe.org/cp_vs_hdpe.htm, or contact Dr. Galloway at email@example.com.
Champion Management is the public relations agency of record for the American Concrete Pipe Association