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Safe Water Supply in All Weathers: Replacing Asbestos-Cement Water Main Under Challenging Conditions

20. January 2023 | 4 min read

The potable water supply line connecting the town of Järvenpää and the Paippinen village in Finland was installed in the 1970s. Like many pipes at that time, it was made from concrete and contained asbestos. As the local community has grown considerably, the aged pipeline could no longer fulfill the increased demand for potable water and posed potential health risks. Following half a year of challenging construction works, the outdated water main has been replaced with a modern PE piping system meeting the highest hygiene and safety standards.

An excavator arranging several Robust pipes in line for installation | Pipelife

Asbestos Pipelines: Risks and Replacement Strategies

Järvenpää is a town and municipality center located in Southern Finland, just 37 kilometers away from Helsinki. Since the 1970s, it has been relying on water supply from the neighboring Paippinen area via an asbestos cement pipeline. At that time, the material was widely used in construction, only to be completely banned in Finland two decades later, following the growing concern of associated health risks.

Over time, asbestos pipelines degrade and can contaminate the water with asbestos fibers; conditions like harsh weather, corrosion or construction works in the area can speed up the deterioration processes. While more research is needed to fully assess the risks of asbestos ingestion, countries across Europe have been focusing on gradually replacing asbestos-containing materials in infrastructure and buildings. In 2021, the European Parliament also called for setting up minimum requirements for national asbestos removal strategies.

Six rolls of Pipelife Robust pipes lying on a snow-clad field next to a forest | Pipelife
Frost-clad Pipelife Robust pipes lying next to a road at the installation site | Pipelife

Meeting a Growing Community’s Need for Water

Apart from posing potential health risks, the old water main also could no longer support the needs of the thriving community north of Helsinki. Since the 1970s, the population of Järvenpää has more than doubled, reaching more than 45,000 inhabitants, while the Paippinen vicinity currently houses around 1,600 inhabitants.

A higher-capacity water supply network was needed to support further development in the area. In October 2021, the replacement of the old 200-millimeter pipeline between the Paippinen water intake and the Järvenpää measuring station began. The project was headed by the water utility Keski-Uudenmaan Vesi Kuntayhthtym and carried out by the experienced contractor Lakeuden Maanrakennus Oy.

“In total, we had to replace 5.2 kilometers of cement water supply pipes containing asbestos, as well as 40 household connections. The new line was made with a larger, 250-millimeter pipe to allow for higher water flow from Paippinen,” comments Ossi Laaksonen, operations manager at Keski-Uudenmaan Vesi Kuntayhthtym.

A pile of seven Pipelife Robust pipes next to a roll of PE water supply pipe | Pipelife
An excavator digging out a trench to install the new water line | Pipelife

State-of-the-Art Piping System Resolves Installation Challenges

The soil in the installation area ranges from silt to bedrock, which complicated the works. Furthermore, the installation continued throughout the winter when temperatures in Järvenpää can drop below -10 °C.

A highly durable and adjustable piping solution was needed, and Pipelife Robust PE 100 RC water supply system was up to the many challenges the project posed. Pipelife Robust pipes feature an additional coating, ensuring high resistance to point loads and cracks as well as reliable performance even under the toughest installation conditions. In addition, Pipelife supplied PE pipes for house connections, together with the necessary fittings and wells to complete the network.

“With renovation projects, you never know what will be uncovered underground, so a good supplier can save the day,” says Juha-Matti Päivärinta, site manager at Lakeuden Maanrakennus Oy. “Pipelife’s solutions offered exactly what we wanted in terms of installability. Furthermore, the team always had the products we needed available, and they were delivered directly to the installation site within a week.”

A technician drilling into the bedrock at the installation site | Pipelife
A black well connected to the new water main and partially covered by ground | Pipelife © Keski-Uudenmaan Vesi Kuntayhtymä

Devising Water Supply Solutions That Last a Century

The Paippinen-Järvenpää project was successfully completed in May 2022. The new PE water supply network meets the highest drinking water standards and is expected to serve for at least 100 years.

“This project required careful planning, as the construction phase lasted for six months,” says Jesse Järvinen, key account manager for water supply at Pipelife Finland. “Even though there were some minor challenges, I am proud to say that we were always able to find solutions and stayed well on schedule.”

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