Making Sense of Your Sewer Network to Save Time and Money

Infosense, an Imagine H2O 2015 finalist, offers a novel, cost-saving technology to strengthen compliance and operations, helping cities like Evansville, Indiana inspect and monitor sewer lines faster, safer and cheaper.

Evansville, Indiana was grappling with a familiar dilemma. City officials were running up against budget constraints as pressure mounted to upgrade its ageing water and sewer infrastructure—essential investments to meet the needs of a growing population. For Evansville, the task was daunting. Over 800 miles of sewer lines needed to be cost-effectively monitored and maintained for the city’s 200,000 inhabitants.

Many cities like Evansville had felt the consequences of inaction first-hand. Over 20,000 incidents of unplanned sewage release occur each year due to preventable leaks. Estimates suggest that amounts to 10 billion gallons of raw, untreated, sewage released into the environment. According to the EPA, wastewater utilities spend approximately $2.4 billion a year in response trying to contain these events.  

When the EPA required Evansville to implement a roadmap to inspect and clean its sewer, city officials had to innovate to be as efficient as possible. Infosense, an Imagine H2O 2015 finalist, offered a novel, cost-saving technology to strengthen compliance and operations, helping cities like Evansville inspect and monitor sewer lines faster, safer and cheaper.

“Robotic closed circuit monitoring was the technology of choice for Evansville as it had been for many other cities,” said Michael Labitzke, Deputy Director, Evansville Water and Sewer Utilities. “We were progressing but wanted to consider how different technologies could be harnessed to fill the gap and help us meet our targets. Infosense offered an innovative approach to complement these efforts, get us on track and help us save money at the same time”.

Evansville piloted Infosense’s flagship product, the Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool (or SL-Rat) which uses acoustics to gauge pipe blockage.  Sound is transmitted between adjacent manhole chambers, providing an acoustics profile that allows the operator to assess conditions in the sewer pipes.

Operating costs are a tenth or less that of other cleaning and inspection technologies available on the market and results are generated in less than three minutes. The proof is in the pudding. To date, SL-Rat has gone on to inspect a total of 35 million feet of pipe helping wastewater utilities avoid over $25 million in unnecessary cleaning costs.

Expanding on the potential for their partnership with Infosense, Michael Labitzke said “the SL-Rat isn’t just about us meeting our monitoring objectives. It can be used to inform long-term planning. We are looking for a correlation between service degradation, pipe material, age, size, slope to better predict our cleaning needs. Infosense helps us do that. The end result is that we can direct the same amount of resources to the areas of greatest need and ensure improved, more reliable serviceability in the entire system.”

The results from the pilot persuaded city officials to purchase a second unit enabling Evansville to inspect up to 5,000 feet of sewer piping a day. Infosense’s technology would not only help them address increasingly onerous compliance issues, but could also help them exceed the goals set by the EPA. Michael and his colleagues at Evansville Water and Sewer Utilities don’t want to stop there. They see potential for Infosense’s broader application to improve utility management and performance.

The SL-Rat can help city officials plan ahead, develop profiles of sewer lines with a high likelihood of blockage and therefore target resources in advance to specific sewer lines, saving money while improving infrastructure performance for the benefit of Evansville’s residents. The approach is replicable for any sewer network, and the future for Infosense is very bright indeed as they continue their expansion.

Leaking, blocked and damaged sewer pipes are creating valuable opportunities for innovators like Infosense. The company now wants to accelerate the adoption of their technology with municipal wastewater collection systems around the globe. Given the significant cost savings at stake, it looks like they are positioned for future success—an investment that truly makes sense!