Sewer systems in America are aging and many, like the system here in South Bend, have parts that are over 100 years old. While this is a problem, it is also proving to be an opportunity.
South Bend has a combined sewer system, meaning that rain water and waste water end up in the same pipe. One local business is tackling this old approach to sewers with some very new technology and as a result, South Bend is now operating one of the most advanced systems in the world.
The waste water industry is not a particularly sexy one,” said Luis Montestruque, president and founder of EmNet.
While Montestruque’s work may not be glamorous, it is a field that needs serious attention.
“More than 700 cities across the U.S. have an issue with waste water where rain water systems are basically connected with waste water pipes and sewage,” said Montestruque. “So whenever you have a storm event, a large storm event, the waste water plant can not process all that water.”
When the waste water plants cannot handle the rain and sewage, it generally ends up in the river. That is where EmNet steps in with their sensors that keep the water moving in the right direction
“You can think of this as a traffic control system, where water is basically is redirected through the sewer system actively in a way that accommodates the actual storm event,” said Montestruque.
A task that is much easier said than done. In order to redirect water and keep it out of the river, cities need to see what is going on underground.
“Down here, we might have a level sensor, a flow sensor, water quality sensor,” said Jeff Bruce, EmNet’s director of business development. “What ever kind of sensor it is, we install it in the pipe and then we basically connect it to this unit.”
Every five minutes, these sensors take measurements and send the collected data out via a logicover, a special manhole cover.
“The main objective with the logicover is to be able collect large amounts of data from the sewer system very easily and inexpensively,” said Bruce. “So we are broadcasting out and then it comes here to our server site at EmNet. And then we are providing the information through a web-based data dashboard where maintenance staff, operators and work staff can access the data and understand in real time how water is moving through the system.
“There is a concept that even goes beyond the waste water industry that is called cyber infrastructure,” said Montestruque. “Which essentially means having a system that is able to communicate and react in a large scale like in the sewer system. And the South Bend system is actually one of the largest cyber infrastructure systems that there is in the world.”
In the second part of this report, city engineers will explain how this technology is keeping the river cleaner and why cities like New York are interested in what is being done here in South Bend.
For more information on EmNet, click here.
Originally posted 2011-05-13 14:24:27.