A water-bomb or a time bomb - either way we get "soaked" one way or the other?
Dear Beagle Editor, In light of Allan Brown's letter drawing our attention to the predicted hike in water prices as a result of a "need" to inject considerable funds in bringing to standard poorly maintained water infrastructure I take the opportunity to inform the newly elected councillors and to remind Eurobodalla ratepayers that we have our own "water infrastructure time bomb" looming in the not too distant future that, if what follows is correct, will see a spike in water rates to cover the premature renewal of a substandard, yet key component of our water supply system.
Remember the Moruya to Batemans Bay (Deep Creek) pipeline story?
I alleged that council had substituted the Public Works specified (drinking water grade) plastic/ fibreglass pipeline for a Chinese made steel Gas/oil grade pipeline (that is not drinking water grade or approved)
The evidence was overwhelming and eventually Minister Constance publicly stated he would get it properly investigated. But yet again that did not actually happen.
Instead articles were simply published in the Bay Post (by council and public works jointly) with all sorts of denials and assurances that the steel pipeline (council admitted was substituted) was: - not this Chinese Gas/Oil pipe, - and that it complied to all requirements, - and was assessed and approved by WSAA for water quality, and met warranty conditions.
All this was false, with their own documents showing it was false. However the Bay Post/ Narooma News Fairfax newspapers would not allow me to respond, or show the documents (even in online posts) But I can now show you here on the Beagle.
You may recall that council and public works admitted that the pipeline was imported Chinese steel pipe, but they just refused (even under freedom of information) to identify what type of steel pipe it was. Saying it had no identifier?
Not that they needed to do that anyway, because the imported pipe is repeatedly identified in the WSAA document as API 5L (Gas/ Oil pipe)
(below the imported pipe (which was rejected by WSAA) is compared to the Australian one on the left, which was approved. (Note that the imported API 5L has no approval under AS/NZS 4020)
Council publicly claimed the pipeline (and system used) was ‘assessed and approved’ by WSAA (Water Services Association of Australia) but WSAA did not ‘assess’ or ‘approve’ it. In fact their appraisal document specifically states that they were not assessing or approving any imported pipes and it was rejected by WSAA.
I also spoke to WSAA directly by phone, and they were vehement that they had not ’assessed or approved’ the imported pipes council used. Just a ‘system’ using Australian made pipes for Orrcon.
Council later admitted to me that their pipeline was not assessed or approved by WSAA (contrary to their public claims) and admitted they did not even use the Orrcon ‘system’ which was approved.
This is contrary to a council spokesman in the Bay Post advising “The pipeline system was accredited by WSAA on February 6, which allowed Orrcon to submit and meet the conditions of Council’s tender.” https://www.batemansbaypost.com.au/story/2995895/council-releases-pipe-paperwork/
Above: In that article a shire spokesman confirmed the image was that “of a pipe bend procured for the Moruya to Deep Creek Dam by Council following an open tender process that closed on 22 February 2007” and also said of the rust in the above "the pipe lining met the Australian Standard for water and has degraded due to exposure to ultraviolet light". The Shire spokesman said: “In 2005, Orrcon sought to supply steel pipes to the water industry and submitted their product to the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) for assessment under the WSAA Product Appraisal Scheme. “The pipeline system was accredited by WSAA on February 6, which allowed Orrcon to submit and meet the conditions of Council’s tender.” "The pipe used had an external coating also used in gas and oil pipelines, but the internal coating, Scotchkote was widely used for water pipes. “The pipeline internal coating has been used extensively by many water authorities around the world for decades, with no sign of deterioration or breakdown of the corrosion protection performance,” “Orrcon provided Council with a 50-year warranty on the pipes. “The other tenderers were not willing to provide this warranty.” Bay Post APRIL 8 2015
From another Bay Post article. APRIL 10 2015 ‘Pipeline sound’: Public Works backs council on Deep Creek water supply This time attributed to another un-named “spokesman” for Public Works.
“He said an extensive technical assessment of the pipeline was conducted by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), and all standards were met.”
False again. Not only was the pipeline not ‘assessed’ at all by WSAA (just a system using Australian pipes for Orrcon, which council didn’t use), but Public Works had already admitted that the pipe used did not comply with the required drinking water (potable water) standard AS/NZS 4020. Council and Public works then tried to claim that it didn’t need to comply because the water was going through the deep creek storage dam and filtration first, but the standard itself states that any infrastructure that comes in contact with water destined for human consumption must comply with AS/NZS 4020.
This has now also been confirmed to me by several pipeline experts, who also say only rubber joints are allowed (apparently only some bends council used had rubber joints)
(I can’t legally publish the standard as its user pays, but here is a reference stating this from another State)
What actually happened was Public Works designed the whole pipeline system and produced the very detailed design and specifications (and did a proper job of it) even giving council some cheaper alternative (drinking water compliant) pipe options they could have used instead. It was revealed that council had decided NOT to install the pipe that was specified by Public Works in tender documents, and instead decided to purchase “a much cheaper alternative!”
Under FOI I was formally advised (Source: http://bit.ly/1bM0YJP ) that the tenderer (Eurobodalla Shire Council) proposed an alternative product (extract above). But councils engineer abandoned these comprehensive plans and produced new specifications himself (with some disastrous consequences) like not knowing that pipelines need special baffle systems on hills and air bleed valves (that had to be retrofitted later) An ex councillor who actually took notice of the unfolding mess told me that the engineer was “out of his depth”
Where public works had specified the latest fibreglass/plastic pipeline with a 100 + year life span, and approved for drinking water (potable water) under the required AS/NZ 4020 standards, Councils engineer ordered Chinese made Oil/ Gas pipes and just had the inside sprayed with one coat of paint by Orrcon (now a subsidiary of BHP)
According to a shire spokesman Orrcon just added 1 very thin coat of Scotchkote to the inside of the pipes (the documents stating the outside paint being the standard Oil/ Gas coatings the pipes came with)
Council publicly claimed the pipes were modified to a system assessed and approved by WSAA (Water Services Association of Australia) for Orrcon, apparently in order to claim the pipeline complied with health requirements, and was fit for purpose and covered by a 50 year warranty. But all this was also false. Once again from the Bay Post article: “In 2005, Orrcon sought to supply steel pipes to the water industry and submitted their product to the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) for assessment under the WSAA Product Appraisal Scheme. “The pipeline system was accredited by WSAA on February 6, which allowed Orrcon to submit and meet the conditions of Council’s tender.” The pipe used had an external coating also used in gas and oil pipelines, but the internal coating, Scotchkote was widely used for water pipes. “The pipeline internal coating has been used extensively by many water authorities around the world for decades, with no sign of deterioration or breakdown of the corrosion protection performance,” From its information sheet: The product Scotchkote Epoxy Coating 162PWX has been specifically developed as a 100% solids lining for the internals of pipes, tanks, vessels and other equipment in contact with potable water. It combines good application characteristics with excellent corrosion protection and chemical resistance and is designed for application in a single high build coat by plural feed hot airless spray and has international approvals for contact with potable water.” The council provided a copy of an independent report to the Bay Post confirming the material met the Australian Standard for contact with drinking water.It also provided the product appraisal of the piping system from the WSAA.
Normal steel water pipe has a thick internal layer of a cement like substance to protect against corrosion and extreme abrasion (which cheap gas/oil pipes does not have) and standard water pipe is expected to last 100 years or more. So council publicly claimed they had just used a cheaper alternative with a 50 year (very conditional) warranty. The ’Orrcon system’. Which was also false.
The Orrcon system relies on one extremely thin coat of epoxy paint inside the pipe, and relied on a ‘no weld’ system where the pipes are joined together with rubber joints, not welded (as welding them together would burn off the thin coat of paint inside) so to comply with this system and warranty the pipes had to be reshaped by ‘cold pressing’ with bulges etc to installed the rubber joiners (as you can see in this diagram)
However the pipes were not reshaped and the Orrcon system was not used (contrary to the many public claims by council and public works) Council's contractors simply used Chinese Oil/Gas pipe (added 1 coat of internal paint) and welded the vast majority of the pipeline.
Again from the Bay Post…
Yesterday, a Eurobodalla Shire Council spokesman said council had followed correct procedures.
“It was assessed by the Water Services Association of Australia, who approved it.”
and another… "The spokesman said there was no basis for concerns the pipeline would require more maintenance, have a shorter life or perform below standards. “All aspects of pipeline suitability associated with the offer of Orrcon were addressed through a detailed technical appraisal by the WSAA,” he said.”
Later I had a long (2 hour) phone conversation with the council staffer who wrote the public answers, and he actually admitted that the approved system was not used and the warranty was breached, but thought there may still be some warranty left on some pipe bends that were not welded?
(Here is a picture of the actual pipe being played from councils final report)
As a pipe line engineer/ designer (who designs and installs whole water networks for a company based in Sydney) explained to me, this substandard system has been tried many times oversees, and usually begins to fail after around 20 years.
But as council did not even use the approved system (and welded most of the pipeline) he estimated failures would beginning after around 15 years (at best)
The $30 million dollar pipeline was opened in 2010.
Even the WSAA document questions the much reduced lifespan...
He and other pipeline engineers also easily identified the pipes from pictures as standard oil/ gas pipe, and explained how council contractors would have had to bodge the welded joins by trying to re-paint inside and out after welding (despite the pipe being also classed as “ non man-entry size” with an outside diameter of just 610mm!)
I was then contacted by one of the welders who welded the pipeline and also one of the labourers (who did the patching). The contractors used small labourers to apparently illegally shimmied up inside these long pipes with tins of paint and brushes, to try and cover the damage (just as the engineer described) The labourer said they were nicknamed ‘pipe rats’ on site.
Not only did this not fix the damage properly, but for anyone who has used epoxy paint, it is very dangerous to use in such confined spaces.
To make things worse the pipeline builders later went broke.
Another problem with Chinese oil/ gas pipe is that the Chinese are notorious for bulking up their steel with other waste metals (like lead) Bay Post APRIL 10 2015 THE NSW Department of Public Works refutes claims gas pipe was used in the Moruya to Deep Creek waterline and spokesman said there was no basis for public concerns. "Orrcon Operations Pty Ltd manufactured and fabricated raw steel pipe in China specifically for the project. It was shipped to Port Kembla where spigots and sockets for the rubber ring joints were formed and internal and external corrosion protection was applied. "There was no basis for concerns the pipeline would require more maintenance, have a shorter life or perform below standards. “All aspects of pipeline suitability associated with the offer of Orrcon were addressed through a detailed technical appraisal by the WSAA,”
Council also claimed Orrcon oversaw their production in China but this was also seemingly contradicted by Orrcon admitting to using an outside man to source pipes for them! I chased up his name and number and spoke to him by phone in Queensland. He became very nervous after I told him my name and that I was from the Eurobodalla Shire. Apparently he mistakenly thought I meant shire council, and later said he thought I was some sort of investigator for council. He kept nervously repeating that “council supplied the specifications”. I didn’t understand at the time why he kept repeating this but now I understand.
Like council and public works, he would have known that the pipe itself and welding done does not comply with AS/NZS 4020 standards for human consumption, and that the Orrcon system was not used. So those who produced the specifications (i.e. council management) and those who oversaw the construction (i.e. Public works) are the ones most liable.
Council's final report also claims that only $1 million of the $30 million cost of the pipeline was saved by changing to this apparently inappropriate and noncompliant pipe. But from what pipeline experts tell me the real water pipe originally specified was far more expensive. So a real independent investigation is now needed.
(extract from councils final report)
The water from this pipeline is pumped to deep creek dam, which then feeds homes mostly in Batemans Bay and the north of the shire, but also the southern shire at times. When asked in October 2015 after the pipe line had been in operation for five years at what intervals periodic internal inspections were carried out on the pipe and if results were availble from the last inspection Council publicly stated "Council does not internally inspect any of its water supply network, nor is this required" So some question remain for our more astute Councillors: Will the Moruya River to Deep Creek Dam pipe meet its 50 year life expectancy? Can Council advise what the remaining life of the pipe is as required by their annual asset audit? What is the current depreciation of the asset in real terms i.e how much is required in today's $ to bring it to satisfactory? What is the current annual maintenance budget on the pipe line? What have been the primary repairs to the pipeline in the last year? Will Council continue to NOT conduct internal inspections of this pipeline? Is the determination NOT to conduct internal inspections of water mains in the best interest of asset? When repairs are required will they be under the 50 year warranty? Has Council made carried out any works under that warranty in the last 9 years? Damien Rogers Moruya Addendum: So lets finish with a few of the PUBLIC statements made by Council and Public Works, which are now proven or admitted to have been false and misleading. This in the Bay Post. Attributed to a council “spokesman” “The pipeline system was accredited by WSAA on February 6, which allowed Orrcon to submit and meet the conditions of Council’s tender.” FALSE- WSAA did not accredit the pipe council used, and specifically rejected accrediting it. Council also did not follow the approved Orrcon “system” and therefore the report did not play any part in the tender process (as claimed above) “Orrcon provided Council with a 50-year warranty on the pipes.” FALSE- as council did not comply with the system or warranty conditions. The council writer of this claim has now admitted it was false. Another Bay Post article. This time attributed to another un-named “spokesman” for Public Works. “He said an extensive technical assessment of the pipeline was conducted by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), and all standards were met.” FALSE- There was no “assessment” of the pipeline by WSAA, and WSAA vehemently denied the pipeline was ‘assessed’ by them. The spokesman said there was no basis for concerns the pipeline would require more maintenance, have a shorter life or perform below standards.“All aspects of pipeline suitability associated with the offer of Orrcon were addressed through a detailed technical appraisal by the WSAA,” he said. BOTH FALSE- Council now admits that the System was not followed, and may fail prematurely. Even if council had used the approved Orrcon system, the WSAA assessment of this system pointed out that such systems have been tried for many times, but consistently have very short life spans. Where the industry expects life spans of 100 years, these pipeline systems only last for around "10-20 years" Council has now also admitted that “All aspects” of the pipeline’s suitability were NOT addressed by the WSAA appraisal. Council did not use the pipe assessed, or follow the system approved. Another council false statement in this Bay Post article. Yesterday, a Eurobodalla Shire Council spokesman said council had followed correct procedures. “It was assessed by the Water Services Association of Australia, who approved it.” Again FALSE- It was not “assessed” or “approved” and normal “procedure” is to comply with warranty requirements. But these were breached at the direction of council management. Compromising any warranty. Damien Rogers Moruya