Epoxy Pipe System Allows for Improvements Without Disruption

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lee County officials welcomed the September completion of a plumbing retrofit project at the medium/maximum security jail in downtown Fort Myers that utilized pipe-lining technology to solve chronic plumbing and sewer system problems associated with the facility’s aging infrastructure.

The patented pull-in-place system, designed by water piping company Nu Flow, was used to restore approximately 200 feet of plumbing, about half of the 451-bed facility’s pipes. The retrofit project was completed without impacting jail operations or moving inmates.

The cast iron pipes of the county’s main intake facility, which was built in 1983, were in rough shape, according to Jack Whitmore, operations manager for Lee County.

“We were having a lot of problems,” Whitmore says.

Corrosive build-up in the piping system was causing backup and water flow problems. Inmates were adding to the difficult situation by flushing trash, fabric and other materials.

With the facility at near capacity, installation of a completely new piping infrastructure would have been difficult, Whitmore says.

“I would have liked to have dug it up and replaced the pipes but it just wasn’t feasible,” he says.

The solution: a $200,000 piping overhaul using the Nu Flow pipe-lining system.

During the project, which was completed in September with minimal excavation and no displacement of inmates or staff, both 6-inch and 8-inch pipes were restored to near-new condition over a period of three months.

“There were minimum amounts of time that the water was off to allow the epoxy to harden. Other than [that], the job was completed with all systems functioning normally,” Whitmore says.

The pull-in-place epoxy-saturated felt liner was dragged through the pipes through several dug access points. An internal bladder within the liner was inflated to form to the host pipe and then removed, leaving a new pipe inside the old pipe.

The technology allows technicians to line 45- and 90-degree bends, pipes as small as 1/2 inch in diameter and multiple branches in the pipeline. The new piping is close to the existing pipe’s diameter, so the host pipe remains intact and in place.

The process “cleans out” debris and deposits in the existing pipes, says Sven Haynie, marketing manager with Nu Flow. The solution also clears out any tree or bush roots that have grown into the piping system.

“One of the true benefits is we can do all this work without ripping out the existing system,” Haynie says. “Often the only alternative is to tear up walls and replace them.”

As an added benefit, the technology, which is engineered to provide a highly durable and long-lasting solution, can also span missing sections of pipes, Haynie says.

The system has been used to replace multiple pipeline types, including fire suppression systems, gas pipes and heating and chiller lines in a range of facility types, including high rise buildings and industrial facilities, U.S. Navy vessels, oil rigs, airports and schools.

Lee County operates three facilities: the downtown jail, a core facility on Ortiz Avenue and a compound community programs unit. In November of 2008, a 768-bed, 173,042-square-foot tower was added to the core jail, boosting the county’s inmate beds to 2,003. As of October, the county had 1,950 inmates.

The county is in the preliminary stages of developing plans for a 300-bed community corrections center for inmates preparing to transition back into the community. County officials are evaluating construction options to decide if a new facility will be built or whether an existing building can be used.