Advanced polyurea coatings and liners provide strong, flexible waterproofing to bridge cracks and protect against future cracking and deterioration.

Much of the nation’s wastewater and sewer infrastructure is approaching 50 to 100 years old.  In order to meet the needs of a growing population, it must updated and rehabilitated. 

Yet municipal wastewater treatment facilities, sewers and vaults endure some of the most severe and corrosive environments in the water industry and must pass increasing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scrutiny.

At industrial plants as well, EPA enforces requirements to ensure that industries pre-treat pollutants in their wastes to protect local sanitary sewers and wastewater treatment plants.  Such extreme wastewater handling environments operate under continual chemical exposure and heavy abrasion that deteriorate concrete and corrode steel in clarifiers, containment pits, anaerobic digesters, manholes, tanks, and other infrastructure assets. 

A variety of factors can cause these structures to develop sizable cracks through which wastewater can escape (called exfiltration) or allow groundwater to enter the wastewater system (called infiltration).  Leaks, cracks and damage to existing coating systems top the list of challenges in facility maintenance and new construction, because they can trigger severe penalties if municipalities or industrial facilities are found in violation of EPA judicial consent decrees.

Fortunately, advanced polyurea coatings and liners are proving ideal for wastewater infrastructure rehabilitation by delivering strong, flexible, abrasion and chemical-resistant waterproofing that not only bridges existing cracks, but can elongate up to 400% without cracking.  Because they set and cure rapidly, and can be installed and used in a wide range of temperatures, they also minimize facility downtime.  

Concrete Cracking and Deterioration

Cracks can develop in aging concrete wastewater infrastructure for a number of reasons ranging from earth movement to daily or seasonal temperature changes that cause expansion and contraction including freeze-thaw.  Additionally, harsh chemicals used to treat wastewater can deteriorate the concrete, as can exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas, a form of sulfuric acid present in sewers created by anaerobic organisms.

Since the EPA regulates municipal wastewater and stormwater management, concrete cracks or leaks that lead to wastewater exfiltration or groundwater infiltration can put the municipality in jeopardy of significant fines or loosing promised funding.

“If the EPA finds that a municipality has old leaking sewer systems, [it] can mean that they don’t receive federal tax money until the problem is fixed,” says Jim Osborn, president of Osborn Contract Services Inc., a South Carolina-based certified applicator of spray applied coatings and rehabilitation products.

According to Osborn, a cementitious material is traditionally used to repair wastewater-related sewer leaks, but this has disadvantages, as do other coating materials.

Hydrogen sulfide gas, which wastewater and sewage contain in large amounts, eats away at the cement in concrete coatings, so it may only have a lifespan of a few years,” says Osborn.  Epoxies, like cementitious coatings, have very limited elongation properties, so they crack and don’t bridge cracks well.  Polyurethanes have more elongation, and polyureas can bridge even large cracks.

For concrete repairs in wastewater infrastructure—from municipal man-holes and lift stations to clarifiers, trenches and sumps—Osborn has transitioned to an advanced polyurea system. 

The spray-applied waterproof coating creates a seamless, waterproof, durable protective liner that stops leaks and strengthens the integrity of the entire structure.  It exhibits superior physical properties such as elongation up to 400%, crack bridging, hardness, and tensile strength to create a robust industrial liner that protects, strengthens, and waterproofs concrete.

According to Osborn, a number of the polyurea’s characteristics help to extend wastewater infrastructure longevity as well as prevent wastewater exfiltration and groundwater infiltration.

“Since the polyurea system provides superior elongation, it bridges cracks up to 1/8 inch, says Osborn.  “With tensile strength higher than traditional materials, it has much lower permeability for better waterproofing.  Its impact, abrasion, and chemical resistance are excellent so it resists hydrogen sulfide.  Instead of years between the replacement of cementitious coatings, the polyurea coating can cost-effectively provide decades of protection.”

With the proper crack repair and surface preparation, the polyurea coating can be a thick film applied directly to the concrete or similar substrate.  An alternate application method that can sometimes mitigate the need for surface or crack repairs is to pre-spray the polyurea to geotextile fabric panels placed above the  substrate, fusing the panel edges together with more polyurea.

Because polyurea sets and cures quickly, it minimizes downtime.  This can translate into thousands of dollars per hour savings as well as avoiding days of service interruption.

Versatile Polyureas

While traditional coatings such as cement, epoxies, and polyurethanes will  fail early if not installed under a relatively narrow range of temperatures, polyurea is designed for installation and use from -40°F to +350°F.  It will withstand decades of freeze-thaw cycling, and wide variations of temperature and humidity.

“When you’re above ground in the Midwest, you have freeze and thaw with concrete expansion, contraction, and cracking,” says Jennifer Hoop, president of Conco

Spray Solutions, an Indianapolis-based waterproofing contractor specializing in the rehabilitation and protection of municipal infrastructure including potable, storm and wastewater systems.  “We need a lining that moves with the structure through the different seasons and tank temperature differentials.  For that, polyurea works very well.”

To withstand extreme weather conditions at a northern Indiana wastewater treatment plant, Hoop selected a polyurea for a secondary containment area around ferric chloride tanks.  “After filling in cracks with grout and restoring the concrete, we sprayed the polyurea on geotextile to provide a really nice containment area for the ferric chloride tanks,” she says. 

Hoop, whose company does a large amount of wastewater-related work on containment, clarifiers, tanks, and wet wells, says that the polyurea has an added benefit in reducing continual clarifier maintenance.  “Typically clarifier maintenance crews need to use high-pressure power washers for hours to clean solid waste from concrete surfaces,” says Hoop.  “Since the polyurea provides waterproofing and has a cleanable surface, crews can simply hose down the clarifier to clean it.  This can cut required weekly clarifier cleaning by two-thirds.”

“For wastewater-related rehabil-itation, polyurea is a superior coating for any application that requires crack bridging, longevity, chemical and temperature resistance, as well as fast turnaround,” concludes Hoop. 

A Case Study

When extensive cracks were found in a concrete clarifier shortly before a chemical plant’s ribbon cutting ceremony, Osborn turned to polyurea for superior protection and fast installation.  He used a product from VersaFlex, a manufacturer of spray applied protective coatings and waterproof membranes for the U.S. wastewater and industrial markets.

After repairing all cracks over 1/8” wide in the clarifier with a concrete repair grout, Osborn prepared, then primed the floor and walls with VersaFlex VF 20 primer, and applied 80-100 mils of FSS 45DC polyurea.

“The polyurea allowed us to provide a warranty against potential future cracks opening in the concrete because of its crack bridging ability,” said Osborn.  “We were able to spray the polyurea as thick as needed in one application.  Since it sets and cures rapidly, structures can be put back in service very soon after spraying.” 

Summer 2019 Back Issue

(1 customer review)


Growing A Basement Business
Below-Grade Waterproofing 101
Rehabbing Aging Concrete Wastewater Infrastructure
Green Roof for A Stadium

SKU: 2019-06 Category:



Growing A Basement Business
By Vanessa Salvia
Contractors seeking to grow their waterproofing business have a number of options, including adding structural repair services, mold remediation, and sump pump servicing.

Below-Grade Waterproofing 101
By Kevin Smith
Selecting the appropriate below-grade waterproofing solution for your specific project and unique conditions is not always an obvious choice.

Rehabbing Aging Concrete Wastewater Infrastructure
Easy to apply and resistant to abrasion and chemicals, polyurethanes are becoming a popular choice for sealing water and wastewater tanks.

Green Roof for A Stadium
In the past few years, a number of exceptional green roof projects have been completed. One of the most notable features a vegetable garden atop America’s oldest baseball stadium.

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Reviews (1)

1 review for Summer 2019 Back Issue

  1. Emma Skafte

    “Green” roofs made of an infrastructure that supports soil and plants are better than conventional roofs at keeping homes cool in summer, according to preliminary results from a U of T study. Professor Brad Bass of the Institute for Environmental Studies at U of T and Environment Canada’s Adaptation and Impacts Research Group, along with colleagues at the National Research Council’s Institute for Research in Construction, created an experimental roof – half of it a traditional flat roof, the other half a six-inch layer of soil and wildflowers above a special drainage layer and a root-repellent, waterproof membrane. The green roof maintained a cooler surface and interior temperature in summer and reduced storm water run-off. “The green roof acts as insulation,” says Bass. “The vegetation on the roof also provides shade and returns moisture back to the atmosphere, preventing a significant amount of solar energy from being absorbed by the roof.” Funding for the roof was provided by the Climate Change Action Fund and members of the roofing industry.

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