Breathing new life into aging cast iron waterlines is not a pipe dream

Before and After Tomahawk™ System Rehabilitation on Scott Street in Huntsville


Water main before cleaning (left), the same pipe after cleaning (centre), and then lined with Tomahawk BluKote™.

Municipalities across Northern Ontario and around the globe are grappling with the problem of poor water quality and flow associated with aging cast and ductile iron waterlines. Typically, the practice has been to dig up the roadway and affected sections of pipe to replace them, which is a costly, time-consuming and disruptive venture.

However, Envirologics Engineering has developed an innovative solution that is offering communities a lower cost alternative. Its patented cleaning method uses abrasives (stones) in a high-volume, low-pressure airstream to simultaneously clean and dry a pipe, and then line it, ensuring decades of leak-free performance.

FedNor’s pathfinding efforts were instrumental in enabling Envirologics to demonstrate its water main rehab technology by setting up and overseeing a pilot with several municipalities in June 2018. The Bracebridge company, whose patented Tomahawk Cleaning and BluKote system had been accepted into the Build in Canada Innovation Program, required a federal testing partner to assist with proof of product as part of the company’s pre-commercialization phase. When no federal department could be found, FedNor stepped in and took the lead negotiating third party agreements with five municipalities, including Huntsville and North Bay. This non-monetary support is yet another way FedNor is helping Northern Ontario businesses grow and create jobs.

Impressed by what Marcus Firman witnessed first-hand during the demonstration project on Scott Street in Huntsville, the Director of Water and Wastewater Services for the District Municipality of Muskoka says the technology is a big leap forward.

“Up until this time, our default method has been to replace a problem pipe, an approach that is cost prohibitive,” declared Firman. “As a municipal officer, it’s my duty to find the most safe and economical way to do things. I have to ask whether replacement is really necessary. What if I could clean and line the pipe? Would it then last another 50 years?”

Envirologics’ lining system is designed for pipes 100 mm, 150 mm and 200 mm in diameter, which make up roughly 75 percent of the distribution pipes in North America. To line a pipe, technicians pour the mixed, two-part BluKote liner resin into the pipe at one end and a vacuum truck at the other end pulls the coating and lining device through the pipe, creating a continuous liner while filling pits and joints, and wrapping around service connections along the way. Referred to as a trenchless process, Envirologics’ General Manager, Brian Thorogood, says one of its advantages is minimal surface disruption.

“We dig 1.5 x 3 meter access pits every 100 metres so we don’t block traffic or driveways,” explained Thorogood. “It takes anywhere from a few days to a full week to complete most jobs involving 200m to 500 m  of watermain.”

The Director of Public Works for the City of North Bay was also pleased with the results of the pilot project on Graham Drive in his community.

A Trenchless System


Access pit causes little traffic disruption and inconvenience for property owners on Scott Street in Huntsville.

“The water main that was the focus of the project was a problematic area where we’ve been experiencing water quality issues and difficulty in maintaining chlorine residual due to pipe deposits,” recalled Nic Schiavone, Director of Public Works for the City of North Bay.

“The line was being flushed 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep quality water flowing. Following the lining, we were able to drastically reduce that, and in time, hope to discontinue it altogether.”

Since the pilot project, Envirologics has entered into discussion with a number of interested communities across the province and in Quebec. The company’s plans for 2019 include the launch of its assessment probe that will measure the thickness of a pipe wall to determine its structural integrity, and whether rehabilitation would be a viable option.

“Over the years, we have developed a lifecycle cast iron replacement schedule,” revealed Firman. “We are now developing a program that will establish an evidence-based asset management plan. This program will include detailed cleaning, assessment and relining, and determine which pipes, if any, need replacing. Determining which pipes to do and when will be the key to effective use of taxpayers’ dollars.”

Thorogood says his firm is setting its sights on continuous improvement with an eye on further innovations to optimize processes and increase capability.

“We enjoy building our business right here in Muskoka,” stated Thorogood. “Right now, we’re looking for licensees to perform the contract work using our technology and processes. We will grow as we hire more people to build the equipment, train users and continue to innovate. I expect that the majority of new jobs created will be with our in-field contractor base.”

FedNor’s role in this project is another example of the services it provides to enhance small business growth and support the federal Prosperity and Growth Strategy for Northern Ontario. Learn more about PGSNO.