Editor's Log: Rise Of Rehab

November 2012, Vol. 67, No. 11

Many rehab contractors, on the other hand, have seen a dramatic increase over the last four years in their volume of work, especially for proven technologies such as cured-in-place lining, pipe bursting and various manhole/lateral repair systems. I’ve also seen the term “renewal” being bandied about again in lieu of the term “rehabilitation,” – a marketing concept that some in the industry push for from time to time. I’m sure it makes cities feel better to tell constituents that they have “renewed” their system rather than just “rehabbed” battered pipes. Whatever you want to call it, rehab or renewal, it has been a life-saver for cities and utilities on tight budgets.

But there is a down side. Prices still tend to be too low. Contractors, desperate for work and pressured by cities’ financial constrictions, often leave money on the table.

And while rehab has flourished to some degree, it is still a band-aid approach to repairing infrastructure problems. Rehabilitation often is simply a short-term approach to fix the worst aspects of a problem (i.e. buying time to keep the EPA or state agencies from closing in), but fall far short of what actions should actually be taken to address the failing infrastructure. The rehabilitation industry has a critical role to play and improved technologies continue to enable rehab options for cities. The market also is expanding and improving to play a more critical role in keeping our infrastructure operating at maximum efficiency.

But will those cities, whose systems continue to fail, remember to invest in system-wide repairs, replacements and upgrades when money is available? Unfortunately, our infrastructure history says no.
Regardless of the election outcome, it unfortunately will be some time before tax flow allows cities to secure funding to accomplish more than emergency room visits for their infrastructure problems.