Boy Scouts of America Forge to the Future with Polyethylene Piping System

A Boy Scout camp nestled on the side of a mountain in Southeastern Oklahoma needed more water. Camp Tom Hale has recently become the premier Boy Scouts of America camping facility in the tri-state area of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, serving over 600 scouts a week. The increase of scouts has amplified water needs and the 2″ main line that feeds the camp is insufficient. The main line is composed of almost four miles of PVC and runs through the most rugged terrain Oklahoma has to offer in the Kiamichi Mountains of the Ouachita National Forest. To replace the line would put the finishing touch on a project that was pioneered two years earlier.

A total polyethylene pipe water and wastewater distribution system was constructed for the scout camp in May of 1999. This increased the number of scouts able to attend the camp and put a strain on the 2″ main. McElroy Manufacturing, Inc. and Horizon Engineering of Tulsa, Cooper Wholesale of Pryor, H. Armstrong of Talahina and Fred Hardesty of Poteau OK, constructed the state-of-the-art system that encompasses some 3.5 miles of 4″ and 6″ PE pipe. The system not only encircles and ties together the camp facilities; it also serves as an underground storage system for the camp’s water supply.

This is some of the most challenging terrain I have ever had to deal with

Terry Silkey

The original project is an excellent model for municipalities seeking PE piping systems. Using PE for the system was the solution for this largely volunteered project because of installation ease, and the longer life expectancy of PE insures the camp a water system for many generations of scouts to come.

Now that the camp had a totally sealed, PE piping system, it only made sense to use PE for the 4″ main that would traverse and snake through 3.6 miles of dense hardwoods and pine, across creeks and over mountains on its way to tie in to the county main.


Every scout troop has a Senior Patrol Leader to guide the expedition safely through the adventure. Spearheading this process was Terry Silkey, Training and Development Manager of McElroy Manufacturing, Inc. “This is some of the most challenging terrain I have ever had to deal with,” said Silkey. “The Project was very demanding but it went quickly because we used coiled pipe.” Silkey used MMI’s LineTamer to straighten the coiled pipe. It straightens and re-rounds coiled pipe up to 6″ IPS with the use of hydraulics. It is estimated that the installation is four times faster. The LineTamer was mounted on a Sweetwater Metal Products trailer. The trailer has a hydraulic system to load the 1,200 lb coils of pipe into a containment cage without having to use a piece of heavy equipment. “We fused two or three sections together at a time and the toughness of the pipe made it possible to pull it back through the woods to put into the ditch,” said Silkey. “If other materials were used, a road would have had to be built to get equipment and material back in to the job site.” During the job, some low areas of the easement were so boggy that a bulldozer even got stuck.

“This project is a perfect example of why Polyethylene is superior to any other method,” said Silkey. “PE always seems to be the material of choice when there is a very tough job to do. The other materials get the easy jobs that don’t put much strain on the pipe during the initial installation,” Silkey explains. “Many times special backfill is needed around joints to protect the joint. For this project it was not necessary because the butt-fused joints associated with PE are as strong as the pipe itself. Some people don’t realize that over the life of the pipeline, the same kinds of tremendous forces that are applied to the pipe during the installation also occur after it is put into the ground. When the earth shifts around, collars and joints that are used in conventional piping systems start to leak. That doesn’t happen with PE”.


Everyone involved in the project should have received the scout merit badge for orienteering because of the difficult terrain. There was never a perfectly straight path for the pipe to follow. The trench path took a lot of turns as it went around trees, boulders and private property. PE handled this process like a snake. “We had to make a fusion every 600 ft instead of every 20 ft and it only took about 15 minutes,” said Silkey. “We were able to walk behind the TracStar 28 through the narrow path and fuse the pipe wherever the section ended. Whether it was in the middle of a creek or halfway up a steep hill.” The TracStar 28 is a self-propelled, all-terrain, self-contained, hydraulic fusion machine that fuses 2″ through 8″ PE. Its rubber crawler tracks made easy work of the rocky terrain.


One of the scout laws is “A scout is thrifty.” Due to the nature of this project being thrifty was a top priority. A common misconception is that the cost of a PE water system is too great. In reality, the cost of this job was greatly reduced by the use of polyethylene because the labor cost was dramatically lowered due to the ease of installation. The largest savings in labor cost came from the use of the LineTamer. Savings estimates are as high as two dollars a foot when using coiled pipe. Also, contractors don’t have to bid a job with future repairs to leaky joints in mind. And they forget to consider the better life expectancy of PE. The attitude is that a few years down the road the problems will be someone else’s. Later, people find that the cost of locating and repairing the line far outweighs the price difference of the material in the beginning.


“Were excited about the continued growth of the camp,” said Lloyd Hasty, Camp Director. “We have grown from 400 scouts to 4,800 in the last four years and the camp has already booked 5,400 scouts for 2002.” Camp Tom Hale is an excellent example of what the Boy Scouts of America was started for back in 1910. The camp has the ability to touch more lives now and achieve the purpose of the Boy Scouts which is; to provide an educational program for boys and young adults to build character, to train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and to develop personal fitness. Not a bad purpose.

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