Cured-in-Place Pipe: Sinkholes in the Desert Create Chaos

Category: Engineering

Written By: Michael Ramirez, PE

Date: August 22, 2022

Cured-in-Place Pipe: Sinkholes in the Desert Create Chaos cover image

The El Paso Water 48-Inch Emergency Repair was a fast-track project following an emergency phone call from a driver in an SUV that had fallen into a sinkhole associated with corroded and deteriorating pipes. Cured-in-place pipe and a trenchless rehabilitation method were used to repair the aging infrastructure. With close coordination with the City of El Paso, private businesses, and residents, this method reduced the potential impact of vehicle traffic on the city street and was faster than an open-cut method typically used.

This project started at 5:27 p.m. MST on July 22, 2017, with a frantic 911 call from a driver in her SUV that had just sunk into an enormous sinkhole in a city street.

While the sinkhole that swallowed the car was the largest one that appeared, other sinkholes developed over the next couple of days on La Placita Drive. The tremendous amount of rain that El Paso received was a major contributing factor to the sinkholes. Little did anyone know there was another major problem hiding beneath the surface. After the rains had stopped and we started assessing the damage, the team identified the alarming condition of the Corrugated Metal Pipe (CMP).

Aging infrastructure is a growing problem across the U.S. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes “The Infrastructure Report Card, 2017,” rating the current state of the national infrastructure with a grade of A through F. This report covers 16 specific items, and in 2017, this report rated the combined items of the infrastructure in the United States with a grade of D+. It has since risen to a C-. 

Investigation and Emergency Repair Design

Having one of the current on-call contracts with El Paso Water and technical expertise with large pipes, Parkhill met with El Paso Water to develop a scope of work. El Paso Water wanted some options for repairs and to investigate the condition of the pipe from the intersection of La Placita and Villa Hermosa to the outlet concrete drainage structure at the intersection of Villa Hermosa and Belvidere Streets.

Parkhill coordinated with multiple manufacturers and provided El Paso Water with several options for the repairs.