Valve Operation Maintenance Program

Summary: Specialty Pipeline Services (SPS) recommends any property owner, water system owner/operator and/or property management companies to implement a valve operation maintenance program. Every water system has valves that were designed and installed to regulate, stop, or start the flow of water in the distribution lines. Being able to operate these valves at a moment's notice is extremely important (as is evident with any water main break).
In an emergency, sections of a water main system may need to be shut down without delay. However, if a valve is not used over a period of time it can seize-up from corrosion and get stuck, making the valve inoperable. This can present a very serious problem! Utilizing SPS to implement a valve exercising program can help you maintain the useful life and operation of your water system valves. Many owners are reluctant to take on a valve exercising program mainly because of the costs associated, the fear of needing expensive tools and/or not having the experience or resources to start such a program. In addition, when valve locations are not known, it makes the task of exercising valves more difficult and more troublesome. These are NOT good reasons for NOT implementing a valve exercising program. SPS has the tools, experience and resources to design and maintain a valve program for your company. Surely implementing a valve exercising program is going to cost money, especially if you have to replace valves that are no longer functional. However, the benefits of such a program far outweigh the negative. A freezing winter night water main break has the potential of incurring many costs that can add up very quickly (some documented cases show upwards into the millions of dollars). After all, system valves are there for a reason and if they aren't working, shouldn't they be fixed or replaced?


Some of the benefits of fully operational valves include:

  • Most importantly, being able to isolate a water main break is the key. This means less water loss, easier repairs, and less property damage.
  • Knowing where the valves are, can help locate the rest of the distribution system, (through utility location ‚ mark out) which is often an issue, particularly with older utilities (we recommend a complete system mark out).
  • Obtaining detailed information on the valve type, size and location can give any property owner, water system owner/operator and/or property management company the information, power and confidence to respond and handle a water main break efficiently.
  • Having confidence the valves work and will last much longer
  • Paying less overtime to employees/subcontractors/etc. If you can't isolate the leak or find the valves you can run into significant labor costs repairing those leaks in an emergency.

Getting Started

A good first step in a valve-exercising program is to prioritize the valves. The most important valves are usually those near critical "customers" or do not work. Other factors to consider will include the amount of flow traveling through the valve. Are there any valves broken in a partially closed position? Are they fully open? We will exercise diagnose one valve at a time based on the priorities you establish. The main components of our valve exercise program are:
  1. Find and map out your water distribution system We will utilize any distribution maps and information you have available and use utility locators to find and mark out your water system.
  2. Document the valve locations. This can be done a few ways. We can mark the precise location using global positioning system (GPS) equipment (expensive), by traditional surveying (expensive), or by triangulation (measurement based on two or more objects ‚ very affordable option). We will take a digital picture and video showing the valve and surrounding area for each valve.
  3. Operate the valves. We will exercise each valve at least one full cycle or until the valve operates freely with little resistance. This may take several full cycles. (A more detailed discussion on the actual exercising is found below.)
  4. Log, keep and maintain detailed records for each valve. Detailed records are very important in a valve maintenance program. Each valve will have a time and date found, exercised, number of turns, triangulation, special notes, schedules, repairs, etc. We will submit both, electronic and hard copies.
  5. Schedule and perform needed repairs. Often times, valve boxes are out of alignment, so much so that a valve key will not be able to operate the valve. Valves are also sometimes broken during the exercising program because they have not previously been used. It is more cost efficient to find and/or break a valve during a valve maintenance program than to break a valve during an emergency water main break. Fixing the broken valves in a timely manner is very important.
  6. Repeat these steps on a routine basis. Experts recommend exercising a system's valves annually if possible, or at least once every two years. Some valves will need to have a different schedule then others based on their location or unusual operating conditions. It's usually a good idea to perform the exercising program during moderate weather conditions.

Our Recommended Exercising Valves Tips

The following are important details when turning the valves. These details should be used with any operation or excising of a valve:
  • Don't force the valve.
  • Don't be in a big hurry. Take your time.
  • Use the lowest torque (turning force or rational force) possible.
  • Avoid using a cheater bar (a handle extension that allows for greater torque).
  • Do not close the valve on the first cycle.
  • If and when the valve is nice and free, turn it slowly to avoid water hammer. If you open or close a valve too fast the line could rupture.
  • Listen closely. Sometimes you can hear the flow change when operating a valve. This will help determine if the valve is moving.
  • Because debris can be stirred up during valve exercising, a fire hydrant will be flowed to ensure that the water in the mains will remain clear. All care will be taken to minimize any potential impact on water quality. Even with these precautions, some discolored water is possible. Flushing may result in some temporary discoloration and the presence of sediment in your water. These conditions are not harmful and should be of short duration.
Always count your turns down and up. They should match. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) provides these guidelines about how to close a valve properly:
  1. Begin with a steady amount of torque in the direction necessary to close the valve, moving through five to 10 rotations.
  2. >Reverse for two or three rotations.
  3. >Reverse again and rotate five to 10 more turns in the closing direction.
  4. >Repeat this procedure until full closure is attained.
  5. Once the valve is fully closed, it should be opened a few turns so that high-velocity water flowing under the gates can move the remainder of the sediment downstream with more force and clear the bottom part of the valve body for seating.
  6. Fully close the valve again. The reason for this cautious approach is that debris and sediment often build up on the gates, stem, and slides. If this material is compacted while the valve is being closed, the torque required to close the valve continues to build as the material is loaded.
If the procedure described above is used, the stem and other parts are 'scrubbed' by the series of back-and forth motions and water in the system can flush the debris that has broken loose away from the stem gate and slides or guides. It is advisable to open a nearby fire hydrant to flush the debris that is being cleaned from the gate valves. One Valve at a Time Getting started can be the biggest hurdle. Property owner, water system owner/operator and/or property management companies will look at the entire system and number of valves with an overwhelming sense that this is an impossible task to accomplish. In reality, a modest beginning can achieve immediate positive results. With technological advancements in tooling and proper training, a well-conceived valve exercise program will have a high percentage of positive results. With good planning and execution, a valve exercise program will realize a very low percentage of negative results. These facts seem to contradict the general opinion throughout the water utility industry that an exercise program will cause more work and aggravation than it is worth. This is simply not the case. The majority of negative results are due to a lack of a valve exercise program in the past. Once problems are identified, repairs can be budgeted and scheduled. Let SPS help you develop a valve maintenance program.

Low Pressure Sewer Testing

Specialty Pipeline Services (SPS) provides line acceptance testing (low pressure air sewer testing) on a variety of pipe types that are newly installed sewer mains ranging in size from 4" to 12" in diameter. The completed test services will show the sewer status on infiltration and exfiltration.

Newly installed sewer pipes are air tested to determine the integrity of the pipe. Such a test is performed to establish sectional tightness of a newly laid sewer pipe. The test is performed to comply with local standards and guidelines. The testing should be performed with pre testing and final testing. Final testing is completed under the direction and supervision of a local Utility Inspector and/or Project Engineer.

The test is routinely performed on clean pipes, after the compaction of trench backfill and prior to surface restoration. At each manhole, plugs are inserted and inflated in the pipeline in accordance to the manufacturer?s recommendations. All outlets and laterals are capped and secured.

Once the pipeline is air sealed, low air pressure is introduced until air density reaches a pre- specified psig. A specific drop in air pressure, within a pipe section, over a specified length of time, determines acceptance or failure of the line in question. When a drop in pressure isrecognized, a leak location (segment test) can be performed to isolate the leak.


Both ends of the pipe are blocked off at manholes with inflatable balls.
Low pressure air is introduced into the sealed pipeline thru one of the balls.
The rate of escaping air is measured at the control panel and this rate indicates the acceptance or rejection of the pipeline.

Leak Locating

SPS also offers leak locating (segment testing) to pinpoint the location of the leak. SPS has the necessary tools, equipment, experience that can locate the leaks in the sewer line. Leak location is actually a series of small line acceptance tests that will locate the leak. When a leak is located, the equipment is readjusted that will provide the leak to pinpointed within 2 feet.


Vacumm Manhole Testing

The experienced staff at SPS can perform a variety of manhole testing. It includes hydrostatic and vacuum tests.

Vacuum Testing of Precast Manholes

Vacuum testing has become a standard test for manhole testing. It will save time, money and verify top quality manufacturing and water tightness of precast manholes and their components. This is particularly true when compared to hydrostatic test methods.

ASTM C1244 - Standard Test Method for Concrete Sewer Manholes by the Negative Air Pressure (Vacuum) Test, defines the requirements for vacuum testing manholes.


Standard test procedure (before back filling)


This standard vacuum test is performed on non-backfilled manholes, to verify the adequacy of the precast manhole. The test requires that all lift holes, pipes, and other penetrations be plugged prior to testing and that the test apparatus be directly applied on top of the concrete surface (inside or outside) of the manhole following the manufacturer's recommendations.

All pipes entering the manhole, plugs and seals must be securely braced to prevent them from being dislodged and drawn into the manhole during the vacuum test. Figure 1 illustrates typical recommendations for testing before backfilling.

Once all penetrations are sealed, the test proceeds by drawing a vacuum of 10 inches (254 mm) of mercury. After reaching 10 inches of mercury, the time is recorded for the vacuum pressure to drop to 9 inches (229 mm). If the time required for the vacuum to drop to 9 inches exceeds a prescribed period (Table 1), based on the manhole's depth and diameter, the manhole is acceptable.

Leaks can be readily detected by SPS utilizing a special leak detection liquid to help pinpoint the leak if necessary. If the manhole fails the initial test, repairs using a hydraulic cement like Thoroseal needs to be applied to the wall surface of the structure to seal the "hole".

Backfilled Test


Vacuum testing after backfilling should only be performed after a successful non-backfill test has been completed.

ASTM C1244 requires the plugging of all pipes entering the manhole, securely bracing all plugs, pipes and seals. They may also require additional measures to assure protection of all gaskets and seals. Figure 2 illustrates typical recommendations for testing after backfilling.

Leak detection is a more timely process for a backfilled manhole.

Repairs after backfilling are also more difficult.

It is normal practice to test manholes for water tightness during installation. The vacuum test is a time and cost savings method offered as an alternative to hydrostatic testing (ASTM C 969) and is not meant to preclude acceptance by that or other standards. It is also not meant to serve as an in-service test.

Like leakage tests for other environmental structures, ASTM C 1244 should be performed before backfilling so any leaks can be readily found and repaired. If testing after backfilling is required, it should be done only in conjunction with testing prior to backfilling.


Insertion Valve

Insertion Valves eliminates many of the problems commonly associated with valve insertion and valve replacement. Installing an insertion valve can eliminate complicated planning for system shut down. It is a highly reliable, easy-to-install and easy-to-use trouble free valve replacement system process. This new system installs a flow control valve into a pressurized line without interruption of existing service.

Insertion Valves can be performed on the following types of pipe:
  • Carbon steel
  • Copper
  • Galvanized Steel
  • Stainless Steel
  • Transite/ACP
  • Brass
  • Cast Iron
  • Ductile Iron
  • PVC
Available Sizes: 3/4" - 16", 20" & 24"
Maximum Rated Working Pressure: 250psi
Possible Insertion Valve Applications
  • Water mains
  • Wastewater forced mains
  • Industrial
  • Replacing or repairing hydrants
  • Emergency water main break
  • Inserting, replacing, or repairing valves
  • Performing pipeline maintenance and repairs
  • Changing large meters or backflow preventers
  • Abandoning wells or storage
  • Installing a fire suppression service
  • Tying in and/or expanding existing main lines
  • Installing new service lines
  • Installing backflow preventers
  • Glycol, chiller and water service lines
  • And much more!

Line stops

Line stopping in a cost efficient way of maintaining water and sewer distribution systems and can eliminate costly and dangerous system shutdowns. Line Stopping is the process of installing a temporary flow control plug into a pressurized line to stop the flow of water.

With line stopping we can isolate for repair, maintenance, or replacement of valves and hydrants on any commonly used pipe with accuracy and reliability:
Line Stops can be performed on the following types of pipe:
  • Copper
  • Steel
  • Stainless Steel
  • Transite/ACP
  • Cast Iron/Pit Cast
  • Ductile Iron
  • PVC
  • HDPE
Available Sizes: 3/4" ‚ 36"
Maximum Rated Working Pressure: 200psi
Benefits of Line Stopping
  • No loss of water
  • No customers out of service
  • Prevents backflow
  • No valve location or breakage
  • No overtime paid
  • No incurred liability (potentially)
  • No loss of revenue
  • No water meter damage
  • Setup isolation zones in case of contamination
  • Creates safe working conditions
  • Health Department approval
Line Stop System Applications
  • Replacing or repairing hydrants
  • Inserting, replacing, or repairing valves
  • Tying in new lines or services
  • Performing pipeline maintenance and repairs
  • Changing large meters or backflow preventers
  • Abandoning wells or storage

Back flow testing

What is backflow?

Backflow is the undesirable reversal of the flow of water from its intended direction in any pipeline. Backflow is dangerous because it can allow drinking water in pipeline systems to become contaminated and unusable.


What is a backflow preventer?

Backflow preventers are mechanical plumbing devices installed in a plumbing system to prevent water from flowing backward in the system. A properly installed, tested and maintained backflow preventer at the service entrance to a building or property can reliably prevent the backflow of water of an unknown quality from flowing back into the community water system.

All backflow devices must be tested once every year. Only a certified backflow tester can certify the proper operation of a backflow device. Once the backflow device is tested, the certification paperwork is forwarded to the owner and appropriate location(s).

NOTE: It should also be noted that no building, house or system that currently requires protection by a backflow preventer is "grandfathered" from not having the proper device installed.

Backflow Prevention Device Testing

NOTE: All backflow devices must be tested when initially installed and annually to ensure that the device meets the NYS requirements to protect the safety of the public water system. Having your backflow device tested has never been easier. Call us to schedule your test. We will test your device, and handle all of the necessary paper work involved. We will also keep track of your test date and notify you the following year with ample time to reschedule the test. It is very easy and affordable.

A backflow prevention device is used to protect potable water supplies from contamination or pollution from backsiphonage or backpressure of the system. There are several backflow preventer devices as a result to different applications and health hazard conditions. Our New York State Dept of Health Certified Backflow Prevention Device Tester can test the following devices:

  • Double-check valves (DCV)
  • Reduced pressure zones (RPZ)
  • Atmospheric vacuum breakers (AVB)
  • Pressure vacuum breakers (PVB)