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FAILURE MODES IN PRESSURISED PIPELINE SYSTEMS

The following tables summarise field failure modes in water supply mains and pressure sewers and associated fittings and
appurtenances. The table has been developed specifically for Australian pipes, environments and operating conditions and is
designed standardise the reporting of field data for entry into Water Agency failure databases.

Failure Mode SCL DICL PVC PE CICL AC GRP Copper Comments

PIPES
¾ Common in cast iron pipes
Piece blown out a a a a a a
¾ Perforations in PVC and PE pipe are usually small splits
Perforation a a a a a a
Broken back ¾ Common in cast iron pipes
(Circumferential a a a
break)
¾ Longitudinal fractures are also possible in PE pipe but are very
Longitudinal split a a a uncommon
¾ Ductile pipe wall ruptures are also possible in DICL pipe but
Pipe wall rupture/tear a a a are very uncommon
¾ DICL pipelines experienced localised corrosion adjacent to
uninsulated copper property service connection points
Associated with or
a a ¾ PVC-U pipelines have experienced failures during tapping
during tapping
operations under pressure where the pipe fractures from the
tapped hole
¾ Pipelines with non-elastomeric seal joints e.g. lead, lead
compound are more likely to experience joint leaks. Flange
Leaking joint a a a a a a a a gaskets are also prone to leakage especially at higher operating
pressures
¾ Third party damage should not be considered a pipe failure as
Third-party damage a a a a a a a a such.
¾ More likely to occur in electrically continuous pipelines
Lightning strike a
Environmental ¾ Heat from UV radiation , bushfires etc
damage a a a a a a a a

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FITTINGS AND OTHER APPURTENANCES
Mechanical Stop valves - Plastics- Metal- Tapping
Tapping
Failure Mode Fittings couplings - Gate, Air valves Hydrants bodied ball bodied ball bands and
ferrules
Gibault butterfly etc valves valves saddles
Leak at seal or gasket a a a a a a a

Split / Cracked body a a

Perforation a a

Bolt/nut failure* a a

Spindle failure* a a

Coating failure a a a a

Seized ball/mushroom a a a

Jumper valve failure* a

Internal corrosion a a a a a a

External corrosion a a a a a a a a
Degradation of
material apart from
corrosion and coating a a a a a a a a a
2
failure
3
Failure to operate a a a

NOTES a Represents likely/common failure mode for this product


1 Failure may include fracture, distortion, corrosion, erosion and other mechanisms
2 Often involves degradation and/or attack of plastic, elastomeric or other non-metallic components
3 Failure to operate may be the result of one or more of the above failure mechanisms and may lead to pipe
failure

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Predominant Pipe Materials
SCL–Steel Cement (Mortar) Lined. Highly ductile material, usually coated externally and internally. Pitting and perforation is the most common
failure where coating has been breached/damaged. Where extensive wall thinning has occurred ductile rupture and tearing of the wall are possible.
This category is also applicable to “wrought” iron pipe, which is often used to describe riveted or locking bar steel pipe. Prone to leaking joints prior
to use of elastomeric seals (rubber rings).

DICL–Ductile Iron Cement (Mortar) Lined. Ductile material lined internally and often externally sleeved with loose fit polyethylene, behaves
mechanically in a similar manner to steel pipe. Most failures are associated with corrosion as a result of coating system damage and/or galvanic
corrosion associated with copper property (house) service connections.

PVC–Polyvinyl Chloride. Polymeric material not affected by corrosion but often fails in a brittle manner. Failures often associated with mechanical
damage, point loadings induced during construction, material/manufacturing defects or during under pressure tapping operations. At this stage there
is no differentiation in terms of failure modes for PVC-U, PVC-M and PVC-O.

PE–Polyethylene. Polymeric material, relatively new to the water reticulation market in Australia. Failures to date have mainly been associated with
butt welded joints, electrofusion joints and fitting problems.

CICL–Cast Iron Cement (Mortar) Lined. Brittle material lined internally and externally protected from corrosion by bitumen coatings, behaves
mechanically like all brittle materials with catastrophic failures common. Most failures are associated with corrosion by contact with the water
internally which occurred prior to cement mortar lining of pipes and externally by the soil environment and galvanic corrosion associated with
copper property (house) service connections. Prone to leaking joints prior to use of elastomeric seals (rubber rings).

AC–Asbestos Cement pipe is a brittle material that is degraded by contact with the water internally and by the soil environment externally. The rate
of degradation is dependant on water quality and soil conditions. Common failures are longitudinal splits associated with general pipe deterioration
and broken backs associated with soil loadings or movement

GRP–Glass Reinforced Polyester. A thermoset polymer material and is not affected by corrosion but usually fails by pipe wall rupture. This is
commonly associated with damage to the pipe during construction or at tapping points.

Copper: Copper is mainly used as a service pipe from mains-to-meter or for fire services. Copper can suffer from both internal and external
corrosion and in some cases, cracking. Cracking is usually circumferential.

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Failure Type Brief Description Example Photographs of Pipe Failures
Piece blown Out Removal of a piece of pipe wall.
This form of failure is brittle in
nature. Size can an vary
depending on pipe material but
generally greater than 100 cm2 .

Cast iron DICL GRP

PVC-U
Perforation Small holes usually less than 10
mm2
In sewer pipes internal erosion
from grit can result in perforation
of CML pipes

DICL PE - small split PVC (rare) - note water spurt


Broken back A single crack extending part or
(Circumferential full way around the pipe
break) circumference

Cast iron
Copper

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Failure Type Brief Description Example Photographs of Pipe Failures
Longitudinal A crack along the pipe axis. The
split length can vary from a few mm to
the full length of the pipe.

AC Cast iron
PVC
Pipe wall A rupture to the pipe wall where
rupture/tear the material tears and creates an
opening in the pipe wall. This
form of failure is ductile in nature

Steel
GRP GRP failure with delaminated flap

Steel – extensive pipe wall thinning


due to corrosion
Associated with Failure of the pipe by a
or during perforation through the wall
tapping adjacent to or underneath the
tapping saddle or a longitudinal
split and blow out. The latter can
occur during the tapping
operation.

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Failure Type Brief Description Example Photographs of Pipe Failures
Corrosion adjacent brass tapping Blow out at PVC tapping Fracture of PVC-U pipe adjacent to
ferrule ferrule connection tapping point

Ductile iron corrosion underneath


tapping saddle
Leaking joint Water leakage through the joint.
Often a result of a displaced
rubber ring joint or debris left in
the ring groove during installation
of RRJ pipes. Lead jointed steel
pipe can also leak.

Displaced rubber ring in PVC pipe Debris under elastomeric joint seal
(rubber ring)

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Other Pipe Examples – Photographs and brief description

Ductile iron splits - note water spurts


Failure in PVC-U socket due to excessive Copper pipe perforation from external Manufacturing defects in PVC-U
angular deflection of spigot in socket corrosion pressure pipe
inducing excessive stresses in socket,
cracking and erosion by leaking water
under pressure

Cracking in the internal gel-coat layer of


Failure of PVC-M pipe due to excessive GRP pipe Steel pipe that has suffered incipient Closer view of incipient melting of steel
hydrostatic pressure. In this case below melting due to a lightning strike. The pipe due to lightning strike
specification pipe wall thickness was the current may travel a significant distance
cause of the pipe being over-stressed from the lightning strike along the
during hydrostatic acceptance testing pipeline. Melting occurs where the
current leaves the pipeline

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Other Pipe Examples – Photographs and brief description

Transportation damage to socket of PVC Surface damage (gouging) to PE pressure Fire damage to an above-ground steel Heat degradation of PVC-O pipe due to
pipe pipe being installed using directional pipeline incorrect storage in direct sunlight
drilling leading to pipe reversion

End view of previous photogtraph


showing PVC-O reversion; note wall
thickening along area exposed to sunlight

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Fittings Failure Examples - Photograph and Description
Tapping
ferrule,
connection
fittings,
insulation
bushes

Leaking joint and erosion Leaking brass elbows Section through leaking brass elbows
of brass fitting
Tapping band
and clamps

Crevice corrosion under adhesive label on SS Corrosion of 304 SS repair clamp Cast copper alloy stud failures
clamp

Erosion of tapping band subsequent to band Fracture of moulded plastics tapping band due to
casting failure porosity

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Fittings Failure Examples - Photograph and Description
Valves

Badly corroded and fractured uncoated valve Badly corroded and fractured uncoated valve Reflux valve failure due to corrosion of shaft
component
PE Fittings

Split adjacent to butt weld Leakage from electrofusion fitting


Couplings

Corroded bolts, incorrect material, should be


stainless steel
Copyright
Copyright 2012 Water Services Association of Australia Limited. Subject to the provisions of the Copyright Act (1968), no part of this document may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any
means (electronic, graphic or mechanical including photocopying, recording, taping, micro copying or otherwise) or reproduced or used in connection with any information retrieval system or
transmitted by any means, without the prior written permission of WSAA.

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