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Wssc Avoids Critical Failure Fiber Optic Monitoring

WSSC needed to repair a 54-inch Prestressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP) that was near failure. The decision was made after WSSC’s Acoustic Fiber Optic (AFO) Monitoring system, which is installed on about 75 miles of WSSC’s PCCP, identified several wire breaks in a short period of time.

The alternative, however, would have been much worse.

Had the pipeline failed, residents in Prince George’s County would have been without water for much longer than a few days. A failure would have also been more expensive than proactively replacing a pipe section, since more excavation and restoration is required to remediate a failed pipe. Luckily, four WSSC workers were able to fix an old valve, which allowed water to be diverted to residents and prevented complete water shut off.

WSSC explains the seriousness of the situation

“We wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t an imminent problem with this pipe.”

WSSC spokesman Jim Neustadt on WTOP Radio.

“[The acoustic system] tells us this pipe is headed out… We can’t just sit back and wait.”
– WSSC spokesman I.J. Hudson in the Washington Post.

Another WSSC official suggested a failure to the 54-inch pipe would have similar effects to previous failures WSSC has seen.

“Think about River Road when that water main exploded in 2008, and there was a pouring of water going down River Road. We don’t want this situation to end up like that.”

– WSSC spokeswoman Lyn Riggins on WTOP radio.

PCCP is concrete pipe that’s reinforced by high-strength steel wires; as wires in a pipe section snap, the pipe becomes more likely to fail. The AFO system used by WSSC identifies these wire breaks as they occur, and when the number reaches a certain limit, WSSC is advised to intervene on specific pipe sections to prevent failures.

After WSSC began experiencing major PCCP failures in the 1970s, it developed a strong commitment to infrastructure management technology in favor of large capital replacements. Beginning in 2007, WSSC and Pure Technologies began a partnership to create and Assess and Address™ PCCP management program. The program combines the early-warning system with regular condition assessment of its large-diameter pipes using inline leak detection and electromagnetic technologies.

WSSC in the news

Several stories surrounding the pipe intervention focused on how WSSC is managing its PCCP pipelines to prevent costly pipeline failures.

WSSC early warning system
Watch how WSSC is addressing its aging infrastructure by identifying the most critical problems using state-of-the-art inspection and monitoring technology. [ Source: WUSA9 ]
WUSA9 Story
See how WSSC’s monitoring system identified the problem in Prince George’s County to avoid a major pipeline failure. [ Source: WUSA9 ]
Gary Gumm Interview at WYSA9
WSSC’s Chief Engineer Gary Gumm outlines how challenging managing critical infrastructure is and what WSSC is doing to ensure that its customers have reliable service. [ Source: WUSA9 ]

WSSC is the 8th largest water and wastewater utility in the United States, serving over 460,000 customer accounts and 1.8 million residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s County, Maryland (suburban Washington D.C.). WSSC operates nearly 5,500 miles of water mains, with approximately 145 miles comprised of large-diameter Prestressed Concrete Cylinder Pipe (PCCP) equal to or greater than 36-inches in diameter.

The Washington Post Covers the Pipe Intervention

The Washington Post produced two notable stories providing information for Prince George’s residents, as well as discussion on why the intervention happened.

Four WSSC workers helped avert disaster by fixing defective valve

For almost 12 hours on July 16, WSSC mechanics chiseled years of thick rust off gears that corrosion had frozen in place and then fashioned new gears out of the gunked-up pieces of metal. By doing this, WSSC was able to isolate a shorter section pipeline to make repairs on the damaged 54-inch pipe section and avoid shutting down water service completely to Prince George’s residents.

To see the full story in the Washington Postclick here.

To see a video from WUSA9 on how workers closed the valve, click here.

Through management of its critical PCCP transmission mains, WSSC continues to show strong commitment to renewing its aging infrastructure and providing quality service to residents in its area.

Learn More

Assess & Address Pipeline Management Program

Assess & Address Pipeline Management Program

Pure Technologies is helping utilities manage their buried infrastructure through its Assess & Address which can often be implemnented for only a fraction of the capital replacement cost.

Case Study

Case Study Download: Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Beginning in 2007, WSSC and Pure Technologies began a partnership to create a comprehensive PCCP management program for WSSC’s large-diameter transmission mains. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) is the 8th largest water and wastewater utility in the United States, serving over 460,000 customer accounts and 1.8 million residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s County, Maryland (suburban Washington D.C.)