Pitch fibre pipes were used in the UK for drainage and sewerage particularly between the 1940's and 1970's and since 1900 in North America. They were cheaper than their clay counterparts and are commonly encountered in UK private sewers / lateral drains that may shortly be transferred into Sewerage Undertakers' ownership.
Pitch fibre material has poor structural strength / jetting resistance and these pipes form a large portion of private sewer / lateral drain repair insurance claims. A 2003 DEFRA paper also states that 'pitch fibre pipes can be expected to have a design life of up to 40 years', which means many laid pipes have reached or passed their design life expectancy.
There is North American research on material performance which would help assess UK ownership implications. At least one UK manufacturer is also understood to have used asbestos fibre to reinforce pitch fibre pipe until 1965, with implications for owners, insurers and repairers under the "Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations". Finally, information may exist on pitch fibre pipe location which would be of great value to potential new owners of these assets.
This project has addressed these issues and has provided best practice guidance on: asbestos concerns; ownership; asset life and cost-effective rehabilitation / replacement. WRc worked with the University of Waterloo, Canada, the former Pitch Fibre Manufacturers Association, the private drain repair industry and insurers on the project.
- Confirmation of the existence of pitch fibre drains / sewers containing asbestos, and assessment of risk and regulatory implications on ownership and repair / replacement
- Better understanding of the location of pitch fibre drains and sewers
- Cost effective pitch fibre pipe rehabilitation / structural designs, to support capital / operational policies required following change of ownership
- Reduced risk of failure of pitch fibre pipes.