Pre-emptive Signs of Pipeline Failure
Friday, June 4, 2021

Pre-emptive Signs of Pipeline Failure

Best practices for the management of buried assets

Spring has sprung, and as temperatures rapidly fluctuate, water mains across North America are at increased risk for leaks, cracks, and sudden failures. Frost coming out of the ground and increased moisture in the soil presents a double threat to mainlines that may be moved around by the melting and have their outer coating against corrosion compromised. If left undetected soil-side corrosion puts cities at risk of leaks and catastrophic failure. As one of North America’s leading providers of water line inspection, PICA Corp has compiled a shortlist of what to stay on the look out for when it comes to spotting the early signs of pipe failure. Read on to learn more!

Defense is Your Best Offence

The old saying is true: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, especially where corrosion is concerned. Water lines have to deal with many changing conditions that can pose a risk to their serviceability, including ice treatments (salts) from roads accelerating the graphitic corrosion of pipe wall. Simply put, whether your line is buried or easily accessible above ground, prioritizing routine inspections that involve regular “once overs” as well as detailed inspections are your best defense against unexpected failures. Actively looking for corroded thin spots before they have a chance to corrode through allows you to be proactive with mitigation. Key signs of existing damage that you need to be aware of include:

Poor, or Inconsistent Water Pressure

In cities which have "hard" water, the minerals in the water can scale-up the inside of the distribution pipes and reduce flow. In some cases, the flow can be choked off completely. This condition may not lead to leakage but it can certainly lead to a need to replace the pipes prematurely. Inspecting the pipes with CCTV, from hydrants, will provide an early warning of pipes that are becoming congested with scale.


Is your once clear water now yellow, red, or brown? There’s no time to waste when it comes to booking a more detailed inspection. Why? Reddish or brown-tinted water can be a sign that there is significant internal corrosion going on. It can also indicate that ground water is getting into the drinking water pipeline at places where the pipe has corroded through and external ground water pressure is higher than the internal pressure. This calls for emergency action as ground water leaking into drinking water can cause gastro-intestinal illnesses and/or death.


Finally, if you know you have a leak, never take the risk of leaving it for later, regardless of the size or scale. It may not take long for a small leak to become a large one, leading to sink-holes and major water damage, even from small distribution mains. Failure to address a small leak as soon as possible can lead to massive repair costs, loss of service and even fines from the environmental protection agency. Never leave a small leak for later.

Inspect With PICA Corp

Internal inspection using PICA's in-line inspection Tools makes it easy to shine a light on developing issues early on. This translates to saving money on repairs, enhancing productivity, and reducing risk for everyone involved. For nearly three decades, PICA Corp has dedicated ourselves to developing technology and practices that allow you to stay on top of corrosion.

PICA Pipers Acoustic In-Line screening technology (powered by INGU) is one of our or newest additions to our in-line offerings, and provides advanced inspection capabilities in a tennis ball sized tool! Enclosed in a small diameter sphere the Pipers devices are designed to travel freely with product flow through most pipelines ranging from 2”-78”. In addition to reliable and accurate screening for leaks, the Pipers offer valuable insights into internal deposits, gas pockets, geometry and pressure that enhance inspection quality and reliability. Benefits of Pipers Acoustic Tools Include:

  • Screening for bulk wall thickness changes in metallic pipes and identifying magnetic features
  • Detection of leaks and air pockets
  • Location of deposits, blockages and debris in the line
  • Accurately measuring pressure differentials.

All of this information can be gathered without interruption of your line’s operation, allowing for maximum convenience. Learn more about this technology, as well as our other services by contacting our team today.


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