The History of Ductile Iron Pipe

Historians believe that the first iron pipe was installed in Siegerland, Germany in 1455 to provide water to Dillenberg Castle.1 Iron pipe was also used in France by King Louis XIV to connect the Seine River to Versailles.2 Centuries later, this original pipe is still in use, providing water to the palace fountains and gardens. 

Ductile iron, used to make Ductile iron pipe, was developed in 1943 by American metallurgical engineer Keith Mills.3 In 1949, along with Albert Paul Gagebin and Norman Boden, Mills received U.S. patent 2,485,760 for a Cast Ferrous Alloy. While the carbon in cast iron is in flake form, the carbon in ductile iron is in nodular form.4 This difference allows the pipe to bend without breaking, a feat that has permitted decades of successful use.  

Ductile iron pipe was introduced to the commercial marketplace in 1955 and has since been recognized as the industry standard for modern water and wastewater systems due to its proven strength and durability. For decades, Ductile iron pipe has demonstrated unmatched reliability in the transportation of raw and potable water, reclaimed water, and sewage.5

What sets Ductile iron apart is not its history, but its future. Modern Ductile iron pipe has an expected lifespan of over one hundred years.6 Compared to gray iron, modern Ductile iron is twice as strong. Even in the event of an earthquake or other environmental disasters, communities can be sure that they’ll have access to reliable clean water. 

The Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) was founded in 19157 as the Cast Iron Pipe Publicity Bureau to promote the benefits of iron pipe and has since aimed to provide accurate information to utilities and consulting engineers about Ductile iron pipe.8 DIPRA has also partnered with organizations to educate about the benefits of Ductile iron pipe.9

In 1947, the Cast Iron Pipe Century Club, which includes more than 500 water utilities, was created to recognize cast iron water mains that have been in service for over one hundred years.10 In 1989, the Cast Iron Pipe Sesquicentennial Club was formed to acknowledge cast iron water utilities that have been in operation for at least 150 years. Though Ductile iron has replaced cast iron, these clubs continue to receive support from DIPRA.











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