Where did the idea for acoustic inspection technology come from? What makes the SL-RAT a valuable tool for collection systems maintenance? How has the technology developed with time? InfoSense’s CEO, Alex Churchill, answers these questions and many more in an interview with Municipal Sewer and Water.
The City of Bend (Oregon) Utility Department oversees 474 miles of pipe for it’s 94,000 residents. The city has experienced rapid population growth, from 34,000 in 1999 to 94,000 in 2019. Despite experiencing rapid population growth and development, the city has adopted new technologies to ensure that SSOs are down and preventative maintenance tasks are on target, without increasing staff headcount. One of the technologies Bend is utilizing is the Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool (SL-RAT). By using acoustic inspection technology to rapidly inspect lines, they are eliminating unnecessary cleaning, redundant vehicles and high energy labor practices.
Typically, our system is in good shape in newer areas where it is predominantly PVC and doesn’t need cleaning. This assessment tool helps us focus our line-cleaning and root0cutting efforts where we need it, such as the older parts of town. It is helping us get through our system better, faster and eliminating SSOs.”
– Orrin Libolt, Collection System Supervisor, City of Bend Utility Department
Although Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority experienced enough overflow issues to warrant a lawsuit by the Sierra Club and Administrative Order on Consent just twenty years ago, they now have an award-winning program in place that has significantly reduced SSO events. One of the tools driving LRWRA’s maintenance program is the SL-RAT. “Rather than committing to clean out sewer lines whether it’s needed or not, LRWRA is using acoustic monitoring to identify pipes that need attention.” By focusing efforts on areas that need attention, the Authority has reduced dry-weather overflows while reducing wasted resources.
I think rodding pipes every day for the sake of rodding is the old way of doing things… Not only is acoustic monitoring cost-effective, but it’s environmentally responsible as well. Do we really want an additional 15 trucks out there, spewing smoke and causing congestion?”
– Greg Ramon, CEO, Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority
Oklahoma Municipal Assurance Group (OMAG) is an interlocal co-operative insurance group serving over 500 Oklahoma cities an towns. In 2018, they started an SL-RAT loan program, which allowed member utilities to loan units at no charge. Although the program was only created two years ago, OMAG’s SL-RAT loan program has already helped 83 Oklahoma utilities acoustically inspect over 2 million linear feet. The acoustic inspection results are giving clarity to users on where to prioritize efforts.
The Sewer Line Data OrGanizer, or SL-DOG is a software specifically designed by InfoSense to help utilities manage their acoustic inspection data collected with the SL-RAT. The MSW Product Spotlight describes how the SL-DOG can facilitate data collection, management and visualization, ultimately helping to organize and understand the vast amount of data gathered while using the SL-RAT. Click button to read full product spotlight.
Since fall of 2018, OMAG (Oklahoma Municipal Assurance Group) has provided three SL-RATs for member utilities to update and develop their sanitary sewer maintenance programs. Jay Neal from the City of Durant and Matt Duke from City of Muldrow give feedback on their SL-RAT integration process.
When asked, “Did the SL-RAT meet your expectations as to its usefuleness?”:
It exceeded our expectations. As with all newer technologies, it’s easy to be reluctant to accept its usefulness. However, the SL-RAT proved up to the challenge. Once we figured out its limitations and the best time of day to put it to use, it gave us an accurate picture of our sewer infrastructure and provided the data necessary to analyze it.
The City of Grand Prairie Water Utilities Operations is responsible for maintaining 700 mile of wastewater collection system. In 2006, they were experiencing a yearly average of 65 SSOs. Through implementing assessment tools that comprehensively assess their system, the city has been able to drastically reduce overflows to eight events per year for 2015-2017. One tool that has been essential to establishing this condition-based maintenance approach is the SL-RAT, which is helping the city to quickly understand which lines need maintenance, while drastically reducing inspection costs.
We’re doing that to get a snapshot of the condition of the lines. It helps us detect overflow points that we’ve had problems with in the past, but additionally, we use them for lines that we are washing on a periodic basis, and it has lessedned the number of times we have to go out to those lines.
– Jim Siddall, Water Operations Manager, City of Grand Prairie Water Utilities Operations
New Castle County (DE) was featured in the Delaware Public Media for reducing sanitary sewer overflows by 67% since 2005. Officials attribute their success to utilizing acoustic inspection to identify problematic areas and cleaning them before overflows happen. “The cost of doing proactive cleaning is much less than the cost of cleaning up an overflow.”- Rob Roff, Operations Service Manager
Cleaner Magazine included the Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool (SL-RAT) on their list of “The Best Money-Makers of 2017” – citing this acoustic inspection technology as one of the top tools that contractors relied on to keep their companies profitable.
“The SL-RAT provides a rapid assessment of pipe flow. Think of it as a pre-screening tool you can use before doing a conventional sewer cleaning and CCTV inspection. It can help prioritize the need to do expensive camera inspections.”
The Spring Edition of CityWorks’ InPrint publication highlights Augusta GA’s ability to streamline work processes through pairing two technologies. By integrating SL-RAT acoustic data with CityWorks software, they have established an automated system that allows for easy understanding and transparency of workflow. Creating such a process has allowed for improved response time to potential causes of SSOs.
“The response time was the biggest benefit for us. We had SL-RAT crews out in the field, and when they found blockages, they routed their inspection work order directly to their cleaning crews.”
– Jerry Philpot, IT & Technical Support Manager for Augusta, GA