North Queensland continues condition assessment program

Mackay City Coast

Justification of an ongoing condition assessment program can, at times, be difficult for water utilities. However, successful inspections that deliver actionable outcomes on how to manage aging assets make this justification much easier.

Certainly that was the case for Mackay Regional Council (MRC) when it engaged the services of Pure Technologies to conduct a variety of condition assessment inspections on their critical mains in order to improve their understanding of these aging assets.

For MRC, the goal of the 3-year Condition Assessment Program is to undertake and then analyze the results from the preliminary inspections, followed by a commitment to explore secondary condition assessments, where warranted.

Mackay satellital image with mains map

About Mackay Regional Council

Mackay Regional Council is a small but progressive water utility that serves a population of nearly 124,000 on the eastern coast of North Queensland, Australia. The utility has a total of 2,150 km of water and wastewater mains in its network. MRC is proactive in its approach to water management, and takes pride in the development of its industry-leading condition assessment program, initiating the first leg of the program with Pure mid-2016.

SmartBall with case and insertion tools

First SmartBall inspection on two sewer rising mains

In June 2016, MRC retained the services of Pure to perform a SmartBall® inspection of the Coles Road Sewer Rising Main (SRM), also known as force main. The Coles Road SRM is an asbestos cement (AC) and ductile iron (DI) pipeline that transfers wastewater from the Coles Road Sewer Pump Station (SPS) to the Mount Basset Sewer Rising Main. The purpose of the SmartBall inspection was to identify leaks and pockets of trapped gas along the pipeline.

Pure recommended the SmartBall tool for its relative ease of insertion and extraction of in-service pipelines, and its ability to inspect long distances in a single deployment. The tool’s acoustic sensor can detect ‘pinhole’ sized leaks and gas pockets within a location accuracy of plus or minus 1.8 m (6 feet), a critical factor in urban environments where excavations can be costly and disruptive to the public.

After the review of data integrity and backup from the Coles Road site, the crew moved to the Beaconsfield SRM, where a further SmartBall inspection was completed. The inspection went as smoothly as the first, and all data was confirmed for quality.

This technology has assisted us in assessing the operational and potential structural integrity of some hard to access buried mains of high failure consequence without significant service outage or worker safety in a way not previously utilised.  It certainly lifts us out of the purely reactive mode toward the proactive assessment of buried infrastructure in terms of service delivery risk management and maintenance/renewal planning…”

MRC Project Leader

Second SmartBall inspection on a sewer rising main and raw water main

During the next phase of the project, Pure conducted a preliminary condition assessment of two more critical mains, the Mount Basset SRM and the following day, on Marwood Bore Raw Water Main. Pure always utilizes separate inspection sets for potable and wastewater to eliminate any risk of contamination.

SmartBall extraction

Second SmartBall inspection on a sewer rising main and raw water main

Results of the preliminary condition assessment were utilised to identify whether a secondary condition assessment is required.

Historically, it has proven challenging to assess the condition of pressurized mains that carry sewage, especially those made with ferrous material. Sewer rising mains have special operational challenges that don’t apply to gravity sewer systems, and due to the presence of solids in the flow, sewer rising mains represent a far more abrasive environment than potable water systems.

Gas pockets are of significant concern in rising sewer mains, as concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas within wastewater may be subsequently converted to sulfuric acid by bacteria in the slime layer on the pipe wall.  This may cause corrosion and eventual breakdown of the pipe’s exposed surface.

Utilizing Sahara™ platform with CCTV

For the third phase of the Program, MRC engaged Pure for a condition assessment of the Gordon Street Water Main. In order to inspect this critical main, Pure conducted three (3) separate insertions using the Sahara inspection platform. The Sahara system uses an innovative tethered platform to conduct non-destructive inline leak and gas pocket detection, and an internal visual inspection via closed circuit television (CCTV), without disruption to service. This allows for real-time reporting of acoustic anomalies detected in the pressurized lines.

The inspection occurred over a period of two nights to minimize traffic disruption. The targeted portion of the main consists of cast iron (CI) and asbestos cement (AC) pipe in three diameters.

“We are still to progress fully into this mode of operation, however this technology appears to provide us a firm foundation to step off from…”

Don Pidsley

Working during the night

Collected data gives MRC actionable information on necessity for secondary assessments

All in all, the data collected to date has given MRC a better understanding of their critical assets. By undertaking a preliminary condition assessment approach, MRC now has actionable information regarding the necessity of future secondary assessments.

Based on preliminary results, minimal disruption and collaborative cooperation between the mobilization teams, MRC has inquired about additional inspections under their in their industry-leading condition assessment program.

Workers meeting in a parking