Is it possible to detect buried PE pipes from the surface?
Yes. Methods have been developed for detecting buried PE pipes from the surface but each has its limitations which need to be understood when deciding which to use.
The simplest method of detecting PE pipe is when laying the pipe to provide a tracer wire along the pipe route. The tracer wire can also be incorporated into marker tape, which is laid above the pipeline during construction. The tracer wire can then be detected above ground by conventional electromagnetic pipe detection equipment.
A range of more sophisticated geophysical detection techniques has been developed or adapted from other applications. Many of these are better suited to detection of large underground discontinuities than to finding small pipes, even at shallow depths.
Ground probing radar (GPR) is the most widely used of these methods and this has been developed specifically for locating small objects at relatively shallow depths. Used properly in the right circumstances GPR can be effective in detecting buried PE pipes. GPR nevertheless cannot detect all underground objects, especially in saturated clays which attenuate the signals rapidly. GPR also requires a skilled operator so that misinterpretation of the information is minimised.