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Managing Partner of Analytic Focus Invited to Speak Before National Academy of Sciences

January 15, 2009

Birmingham, AL - Dr. Charles Cowan presented new information and an analysis of failure rates regarding the nation’s infrastructure for transportation of potable water.  Using data from the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA), from several Federal agencies, and from other private sources, Dr. Cowan addressed concerns expressed by the Department of the Interior regarding the safety and soundness of the iron pipe used by most communities for carrying potable water. 

Dr. Cowan spoke directly to two issues.  The first was the lack of actionable standards on the part of the Bureau of Reclamation, an agency within the Department of the Interior.  A panel of engineers and other experts was convened by the National Academy of Sciences to offer an opinion regarding whether pipe made from ductile iron, or steel, or other substances would last a minimum of fifty years.  However, the concept of “lasting” was not defined and could not be interpreted using stochastic measures, cost-benefit analysis, nor any of the other standard definitions regarding failure.  A second issue was the relevant comparison between iron pipe, wrapped in a polyethylene enclosure or not, and steel pipe that is coated to reduce corrosion.  Dimensions of the pipe, the type of coating, the type of soil in which the pipe would be used, and similar variables were factors that needed to be considered to standardize the comparison metrics.  From a measurement perspective, the Bureau of Reclamation had completely failed to address these issues to enable a fair comparison between materials or to come to a conclusion on a topic of vital interest to the nation.

The second issue addressed was an analysis of the data available on iron and steel pipe, regarding both the likelihood that corrosion would form and the length of time required before a pipe might suffer significant damage, defined as a breach of the pipe.  Previous analyses conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation suffered from a very limited number of observations, ignored the types of soil in which different observations were recorded, and failed to recognize that pitting in iron or steel pipe was conditional on corrosion being observed.  If corrosion doesn’t form, pitting due to corrosion in the pipes cannot occur.  Using thousands of observations from new data provided for this meeting, Dr. Cowan presented results demonstrating the longevity of infrastructure pipes, particularly ductile iron, extending into the hundreds of years before significant corrosion could be expected.

A report on the outcome of its investigations should be forthcoming from the National Academy of Sciences in early 2009.

Dr. Charles Cowan, the Managing Partner for Analytic Focus, also continues to serve on Federal Advisory Committees for the Department of Education and for the National Institutes of Health. Analytic Focus LLC is a research and consulting firm with decades of practical experience in analysis, research methods, and financial models. Our staff includes highly skilled experts with academic, industry, regulatory and testifying experience. Our focus is on providing the highest value in interpretation of data, insight regarding business problems, and advising on best practices. Analytic Focus has offices in Washington, DC, San Antonio, TX, and Birmingham, AL. We can be reached at (210) 641-2817 or visit us at .

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