Aug 12, 2004

CCWA Using New Technology to Inspect System Pipes

Process uses state-of-the-art technology to head off potential pipe problems

Many people could not imagine what they would do without their Palm Pilot. The device is their lifeline to contacts, calendars, notes and budgets. At the Clayton County (Ga.) Water Authority (CCWA), the small gadget does so much more.
Currently, the CCWA is conducting a system-wide test of pipes that cross local streams and these tests may not be possible without a Palm Pilot.
The project serves several purposes.
First of all, it allows the CCWA to make sure that all of their data is current. Secondly, it allows them to ensure that all exposed piping meets EPA requirements. Finally, it allows them to prevent sanitary sewer overflows that could occur if debris comes in contact with some of the piping.

How it all works

Daily, trucks equipped with laptop computers and Palm devices scatter throughout the county to take a look at exposed piping. The Palm allows CCWA technicians to link all of the data they collect in the field to the authority’s geographical information system. Field technicians personally inspect every aspect of the pipe by going through a checklist on their Palm device. The detailed information is stored in the device and then synced to a computer at the CCWA administration building at the end of every day. The next morning, before the trucks leave the CCWA headquarters, the information is transferred from the mainframe computer out to every truck’s laptop.
The updated information is shared with all of the departments at the authority as well as with the engineers that are working on the system.
The process has helped to prevent many problems that could occur from faulty pipes going undetected, said Herb Etheridge, manager of maintenance and construction at the CCWA.
“These pipes can take a beating from weather and the streams,” said Etheridge. “They are built to high standards so that they can last long periods of time, but these inspections are important to make certain they are in working order.”
So far, the inspections have turned up areas where erosion in the stream banks have left some pipes at risk. When situations like this occur, maintenance workers from CCWA are dispatched to rectify the problem.
“Since we are an older system dating back 50 years, much of our master plan involves restoration of existing assets, in addition to expansion or upgrades,” said Wade Brannan, general manager of the CCWA. “Our inspection program is an example of the CCWA attempting to be proactive with the use of new technology, to prevent problems before they occur.”

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