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Case Study

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) – Maryland, USA

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.).

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.

Project Details

Acoustic Leak Detection
PipeDiver® – Condition Assessment
PureRobotics® – Pipeline Inspection
SoundPrint® AFO – Acoustic Fiber Optic (AFO) monitor­ing
Pipe Material
Inspection Length
145 miles

Project Highlights

The Assess & Address cost was roughly 6% of the capital replacement estimate of $2 billion

95% of the pipes inspected by Pure Technologies have no deterioration at all

Pure has identified less than 2% of pipes in need of immediate repair

A capital replacement program would have replaced a large amount of pipe in good condition


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 a comprehensive PCCP management program.

Pure Technologies Assess & Address approach to pipeline management is built on extensive research and data from over 8,000 miles of pressure pipe inspection which has found that less than 1 percent of pipelines need immediate repair. Assess & Address programs focus on identifying vulnerable areas of a pipeline and completing selective rehabilitation and replacement in favor of full-scale capital replacement, often saving the utility millions of dollars.


Pure Technologies uses several solutions for WSSC’s PCCP management program that effectively inspect the pipeline for leaks, gas pockets, and structural deterioration. Pure also provides real-time monitor­ing of the pipelines to alert the WSSC when indi­vidual pipe segments experience prestressed wire breaks and are approaching a high risk of failure.

Pure’s SmartBall® Acoustic Leak Detection Technol­ogy is used to identify leaks and pockets of trapped gas, allowing for proactive repair. The SmartBall inspection tool is a non-destructive, free-swimming technology that measures the acoustic activity associated with leaks and gas pockets in pressurized pipelines. Early identification and repair of leaks and gas pockets reduces water loss and structural deteri­oration and is crucial in understanding the baseline condition of a pipeline. Pure Technologies regularly deploys SmartBall leak detetction as part of the pro­gram having identified several major transmission mains leaks within WSSC’s system to date.

WSSC Pipelines are also inspected for structur­al deterioration using several of Pure’s platforms. Manned visual and sounding inspections of dewa­tered pipes help identify visible structural damage like corrosion, delamination, and cracking. Pure also uses PipeDiver® and PureRobotics® Electromagnet­ic (EM)Technology Platforms to locate and quantify broken prestressing wires in each pipe section.

Information from these inspection techniques are combined to provide actionable information (including structural modeling and analysis), which allows WSSC to safely manage their PCCP inventory while minimizing renewal projects.

In addition to regular condition assessment, WSSC began using Acoustic Fiber Optic (AFO) monitoring in 2007. Ultimately, the program will monitor up to 145 miles of 36-inch and larger PCCP within WSSC’s system.

AFO technology monitors the condition of PCCP by tracking the amount of wire breaks in each pipe section. The system allows WSSC to monitor pipe­line deterioration and see at-risk pipes before they fail. As wire breaks occur, the data is analyzed and reported to WSSC by e-mail and advanced GIS and web-based reporting systems, allowing for real-time management of WSSC’s system.


While WSSC’s PCCP program is one of the largest and most advanced infrastructure management programs in the industry, the cost of Pure Technologies Assess & Address model is roughly 6 percent of the $2-billion capital replacement estimates.

To date, Pure Technologies inspections have shown that about 95 percent of WSSC’s pipes are in “like new” condition and less than 2 percent require any immediate rehabilitation or replacement. By identifying select distressed areas, WSSC was able to avoid a full replacement program and avoided massive capital replacement costs by rehabilitating the identified sections.

Since the program’s inception, no PCCP failures have occurred for any transmission main managed under the program.