Contractor Gives Master Class in Pipe Bursting Proficiency

RDJE goes with pipe bursting method to help upgrade sanitary sewer system near Georgia college as it continues to grow.

Contractor Gives Master Class in Pipe Bursting Proficiency

The pipe bursting project at Kennesaw State University required a significant upsize from 10-inch vitrified clay pipe to 16-inch HDPE. Shown here is the pipe bursting expander.

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Kennesaw State University is a fast-growing university with an enrollment eclipsing 35,000 students and two metro Atlanta campuses, but that continued growth has put pressure on the infrastructure used by the university.

Located in Kennesaw, Georgia, KSU is also Georgia’s third-largest university. One of the hardest hit pieces of infrastructure because of the school was Cobb County’s sanitary sewer system.

In 2018, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners moved to meet some of that increasing demand by approving an upgrade to the existing system. Dubbed the Pinetree-KSU Outfall Sewer Upgrade, the county-engineered project aimed to significantly increase the capacity of the system used by the university, as well as a local country club. 


The project included replacing approximately 5,700 linear feet of 10-inch and 12-inch vitrified clay pipe with 16- and 18-inch HDPE. Utility contractor RDJE of Newnan was awarded the bid. 

“Around 2,200 linear feet of the 10-inch sewer on KSU’s campus was slated to be upsized to 16 inches through pipe bursting,” says Joe Webb, RDJE vice president of utility rehab. “That method was specified in order to avoid extensive trenching on Campus Loop Road. The remaining 2,500 feet of new 16- and 18-inch mains were installed by opencut. Most of that was outfall, located in the woods near campus. Old and shallow pipe — you could actually see the pipe coming out of the ground. They wanted to place the pipe deeper in the ground, and that’s why we opencut that section.”

To perform the significant upsize from 10-inch VCP to 16-inch HDPE on the pipe bursting section, RDJE chose static pipe bursting with a Grundoburst 1250 static pipe bursting system (TT Technologies).

“RDJE is proficient in both pneumatic and static pipe bursting, but for the layout of this job, static bursting was ideal,” says Eddie Ward, pipe bursting specialist with TT Technologies. “It allowed for longer runs and less disruption. And the bursting unit was definitely powerful enough to handle the upsize.”


RDJE is a full service construction and utility contractor, providing construction services for commercial, municipal, private development and specialty projects. Established in 1943, RDJE is a third-generation contractor. Much of the company’s work has focused in the utility market including water system development, sanitary sewer and water treatment plants, pump stations, stormwater and drain development, underground utility (telecom, electrical) construction, road improvements, grading, and excavation and emergency services.

“RDJE’s primary service area is in the southeastern states of Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee,” Webb says. “We perform work in large metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Orlando (Florida), Birmingham (Alabama), Nashville (Tennessee), Knoxville and Memphis, to name a few. We’re also an active member of the National Utility Contractors Association and the Georgia Utility Contractors Association.”

RDJE performs both pneumatic and static pipe bursting and has for about 10 years. After the recession of the late 2000s, the company decided to expand its service offerings and incorporated pipe bursting. 

“When it comes to selecting which method to use, it really depends on the actual job. What’s the upsize? What type of material are you bursting? What’s the location like?” says Trey Russell, RDJE project manager. “There’s a list of criteria we use to evaluate which pipe bursting method is best suited for a particular project.”


According to Russell, RDJE purposely waited until the summer months to perform the portion of the project located on the KSU campus. That gave them from late May until August to finish the work. The campus project was divided into 900- and 1,300-foot-long bursting runs, with one 900-foot section of opencut in between them. 

The 900-foot section of opencut was designed that way because of existing utilities and culverts. That section included a high-profile fiber line, a gas main, an existing sewer line and a waterline. Crews needed to safely work around those utilities in order to place the new section of sewer main. According to Russell, the area had extremely poor soil and RDJE crews removed and disposed of any spoil offsite. They replaced and refilled excavated areas with graded aggregate base.

The bypass for the project was rather challenging because of the amount of flow and the layout of the project. During the several weeks of preparation leading up to pipe bursting, the RDJE team employed very creative bypass routes.

With a lot of flow in several areas, each day RDJE spent a significant amount of time setting up bypass pumps. There was no 24-hour bypass established during preparation for bursting, so each day crews would reset pumps. 

“We kind of had to leapfrog for the bypass. We couldn’t bypass the entire area at once, so we bypassed from one manhole to the next for however many feet we needed until we could discharge into a line that was open and usable,” Russell says. “Some of the service laterals were servicing the dorms. Even though school was out, there was still fairly significant flow from the dorms.” 

When it was time to begin actual pipe bursting, RDJE kept a crew person on site 24 hours a day to monitor the bypass so that bursting could begin process first thing in the morning.


The launch pits for the project were fairly long because of the overall depth of the existing main. 

“On the end of the 1,300-foot run, the utilities were a nightmare and the pit was about 60 feet long because we had to thread the new pipe through all of them,” Russell says. “On the 900-foot run, the launch pit was about 40 feet long because of the extreme depth — over 25 feet at that point. Fortunately, groundwater wasn’t an issue, even with the depth. Pull pits were not quite as deep. Those were between 12 to 14 feet deep, 30 feet long and 10 feet wide.”

Bursting started at the end of Campus Loop Road with the 900-foot bursting run first. The hydraulic bursting unit was positioned in the pull pit and the existing 10-inch line was rodded with QuickLock bursting rods (TT Technologies). Once rodded, crews attached the rods to the expander and fused pipe string, a 21-inch expander was used to facilitate the significant pipe upsize. For this run, crews fused and staged all of 900 feet of HDPE needed. The burst was completed in two days.

For the second section of bursting, crews staged about half of the 1,300 feet of pipe. After moving the bursting unit and rodding the host pipe, that section of bursting went equally well, with the 1,300-foot pull taking two days. The entire project was completed with a week to spare before school started again, including all the restoration work.

“RDJE did a great job with this burst. The upsize was impressive,” Ward says. “There’s a lot that goes into completing a pipe bursting project of this scope, and the crew on this project was efficient and effective from start to finish. Nice project.”


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