Concrete Technology from Penetron Brings Back Historic Canal: Restoring and Preserving a Ohio Aqueduct at Tinker’s Creek

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Maintaining infrastructure is not just about superhighway bridges and airport landing strips. The example of the newly reconstructed historic Ohio & Eire Canal aqueduct shows that modern concrete waterproofing technology from Penetron can also bring American history back to life.

Every schoolchild is familiar with the Erie Canal. An key part of this canal was the Ohio & Erie Canal network in Ohio that connected small townships and farms to cities outside of the Cuyahoga Valley. Constructed in the mid-1800s, the canal was completed in 1832 and featured a comprehensive system of embankments, aqueduct bridges, locks and gates.

At the time, the canal engineers faced the problem of managing water levels by preventing water from local creeks and rivers from joining with canal water. The answer was constructing aqueducts to allow the canal to pass over smaller bodies of water without interruption, as with the aqueduct spanning Tinker's Creek.

Crown jewel of the Ohio & Erie Canal District
Named after a member of the original survey crew from the late 1700s, Tinker's Creek is the largest tributary that flows into the Cuyahoga River, between Cleveland and Akron. To bridge the Ohio & Erie Canal over the creek, contractors built the Tinker's Creek Aqueduct. This aqueduct featured a wood-lined trough, steel truss, and sandstone piers, which provided an efficient pathway for goods – by boats and barges aided by draft animal power – from the farming heartland to larger metropolitan markets. Today, the Tinker’s Creek Aqueduct is the only remaining aqueduct of the original four constructed in the Cuyahoga Valley, making it a prominent feature in the Ohio and Erie Canal Historic District.

Excessive flooding was a common problem for many man-made structures in the valley. The Tinker's Creek Aqueduct was rebuilt in 1845 and again in 1905. In 2007, the structure was in such bad shape that the National Park Service had it removed. A project was begun to reconstruct the aqueduct and restore the canal across Tinker's Creek.

Rebuilding the historic aqueduct
During the first part of the project, the existing two-span steel truss and timber aqueduct was replaced with a temporary pipe structure, and a new towpath / pedestrian bridge was built. Then, a two-span aqueduct trough supported on rehabilitated masonry foundations including a center pier retrofitted with a new micro-pile foundation was added.

“The National Park Service in Ohio looked at several alternatives, including the use of a prefabricated truss, steel trough girder, stiffened steel plate trough, and post tensioned segments,” explains Jeremy Swartzfager, Sales Representative for Penetron. “Eventually, the designers, Bergmann Associates chose a reinforced concrete trough because of the significant weight savings, high lateral resistance, conventional construction, and long term durability. But regular reinforced concrete alone was still inadequate for the intended use of an aqueduct.”

Making concrete better
Conventional concrete consists of micro-cracks, pores, and capillaries, where water can enter the concrete. This can lead to corrosion of the steel reinforcing bars and deterioration of concrete strength as absorbed water expands when subjected to low temperatures (freeze thaw cycles).

To address the limitations of concrete, Penetron® and Penetron® Admix were used to construct the two-span concrete aqueduct trough. Through complex chemical reactions, Penetron and its active components fill the voids and cracks with insoluble crystals. Water cannot pass through these crystals; the concrete becomes waterproof.

Stop deterioration and improve durability
The effective (and labor-free) waterproofing of Penetron is also designed to protect concrete from the effects of exposure to various chemicals, acids, industrial wastes and corrosive groundwater. Combining these properties with frost resistance and additional compressive strength of concrete, the distinct waterproofing technology of Penetron ensures that the Tinker's Creek's Aqueduct meets the structural and hydraulic demands of a historical property for the rest of the national treasure's service life.

"Clearly, the Penetron system will help relieve the deterioration commonly seen with aged structures and improve durability," said Christopher Chen, Director of North American Sales and Marketing. "Through this restoration effort, the Penetron system helped repair and preserve a piece of history; the Tinkers Creek Aqueduct is now restored to its former place and for the pleasure of future generations."

Penetron International, Ltd. is a leading manufacturer of integral crystalline waterproofing and repair products for concrete with a manufacturing and service network that spans more than 60 countries. For more information on Penetron products, please visit our website ( or contact Ann Martucci at 631-941-9700 or email: info(at)

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