Utility initiates risk prioritization for forcemain network

Pensacola view from the air

The introductory meeting was pure happenstance. After a well-timed phone call, two unfamiliar parties – a public utility and a business development team from an engineering technology-solutions firm – agreed to meet, learn about each other, and within weeks, begin to collaborate on a master plan of action to comply with a consent order agreement.

The story begins in late 2015, when staff from Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (EUCA), a progressive utility that services water and wastewater systems of Escambia County and the City of Pensacola, Florida, received a call from Pure Technologies. The inquiry was for permission to set up an educational meeting to discuss the pipeline inspection technologies, solutions and engineering services provided by Pure.

SmartBall in a case with the laptop used to control it.
Coincidental to the consent order, ECUA welcomed the opportunity to hear what Pure could bring to table. ECUA commented, “your timing is perfect, and we appreciate the educational meeting and not a sales pitch.”

That fortuitous encounter set the wheels in motion and led to the partnership between Pure, ECUA and its asset management consulting partner, Arcadis – a three-way cooperative that is now helping ECUA develop a comprehensive risk management program for its wastewater network.

Consent order issued for wastewater division

Backtrack to June 2012, when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a consent order to Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, with the agreement citing 24 spill events occurring between 2009 and 2010 that the state deemed avoidable within the utility’s collection of wastewater force mains. These force mains range in size from eight to 30-inches in diameter, and are comprised of cast iron pipe (CIP), ductile iron pipe (DIP) polyvinyl chloride pipe (PVC) and high-density polyethylene pipe (HDPE).

Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO), or spills, can result from a break in the pipe, or when the system is overwhelmed by heavy rain events. While spills can be caused by accidental breaks in the pipe, an aging infrastructure, with its inherent inflow and infiltration issues, makes a system all the more susceptible to SSO events.

Emerald Coast Pipe Risk Map

ECUA intrigued by the risk model focus offered by Pure and Arcadis

While ECUA engaged with Arcadis as the lead consultant to assist with the requirements of the consent order, the meeting with Pure Technologies gave ECUA the opportunity to learn about Pure’s expertise in developing a comprehensive risk prioritization plan. It also gave them an introduction to Pure’s suite of condition assessment technologies, which includes the innovative SmartBall® leak detection platform, a free-swimming tool that collects acoustic data associated with leaks and gas pockets.

With more than 315 miles of force mains within its network, it was critical for ECUA to first have the right data to make the right decisions on the prioritization of what assets to first Assess and Address®, in order to make effective use of a limited budget and resources. Pure’s experience indicates that less than 10 percent of pipelines have indicators of distress, while even fewer require repair or replacement to extend their useful life.

All the more reason why ECUA was intrigued by the risk model focus offered by Pure and Arcadis.

Using data-driven decision making as part of a risk management program

Pure recognizes the importance of data-driven decision making as part of an effective, comprehensive risk management program. A Pipeline Risk Prioritization (PRP) is good starting point for a larger proactive program as it helps to focus resources on the highest risk assets and provides justification as to which assets to assess first.

For ECUA, the goal of the PRP is to develop a risk model (likelihood and consequence of failure) to be used as a guide to determine the assets to inspect first, as well as to select the appropriate assessment technique based on risk. ECUA can use this model to put the right amount of money towards the most appropriate asset at the right time. This provides a utility like ECUA with an effective and defensible approach to managing their assets, and it actually defers long-term funding needs by maximizing the life of an asset.

Given Pure’s unique focus on pipeline asset management, its engineers and scientists have developed a risk model that allows for the input of base asset data, operational history and information, as well as condition assessment techniques and technologies. This model, unique to the industry, provides an output that clients can use in their capital and operational budgeting processes.


SmartBall inside a pipe.

Latest services include transit pressure monitoring and acoustic leak detection

To date, Pure has been working with Arcadis on a risk prioritization for the ECUA force main network, in which data is collected with transient pressure monitors, as well as from SmartBall acoustic inspections in order to assist in creating a Master Plan for the ECUA wastewater division. ECUA is currently five (5) years into the 15-year calendar agreed to with DEP.

In addition to the transient monitoring, during 2016 Pure inspected approximately 13.6 linear miles of force mains through seven (7) SmartBall deployments, giving ECUA more evaluative information on their aging infrastructure.

As this project is still ongoing, both ECUA and Arcadis have expressed an interest into additional wastewater projects, with the hope to ultimately address the water transmission and distribution system.

And to think, the plan all began with a simple phone call.

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