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Remote telemetry specialist Metasphere has developed a new technology, combining cellular IoT and artificial intelligence (AI), to protect freshwater and marine ecosystems from water pollution. 

Metasphere’s ART (Analytical Remote Telemetry) Sewer wastewater and sewage spill monitoring solution combines cellular IoT (courtesy of the Nordic nRF9160 multimode NB-IoT/LTE-M SiP) and AI/machine learning (ML) to reduce wastewater overflows and sewage spills; in a way that Metasphere said has not been commercially or technologically viable before.

Metasphere CEO, Tim O’Brien, said, “This all combines to prevent flooding events with a speed and accuracy that wasn’t possible until now.”

Wastewater overflows and sewage spills are two of the most common types of water pollution worldwide, becoming worse through aging wastewater and sewerage networks, growing urban populations and increasing rainfall due to global warming.

Freshwater and marine ecosystems are already struggling to cope with toxic run-offs from multiple polluting sources such as unrecycled urban waste, pesticides, fertilizers, animal slurry from farming, oil spills, and more.

ART Sewer adopts an all-in-one, turnkey approach whereby Metasphere has built the solution to deliver total network visibility, performance, and forecasting to wastewater utilities around the globe.

Installation requires Metasphere’s battery-powered ‘Contactless Sense Level IoT’ coffee-cup-sized devices (12cm by 5cm diameter) to be positioned in volume below utility hole covers in a wastewater network. 

Once a chamber has been located, the installation process takes less than five minutes.

In operation, each sensor uses radar technology to take a sample measurement of the wastewater levels, using radar every 15 minutes. 

Data is sent to Metasphere’s data analytics servers once a day via either NB-IoT or LTE-M cellular IoT wireless technology. The device will also report by alarms if a high level is detected.

AI and machine learning creating predictability

Mr O’Brien said the platform uses AI and ML to combine historic, current and forecast rainfall data, as well as ground saturation levels to proactively manage wastewater flow in sewers, pumping stations, manholes and combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

“This enables wastewater utilities to prevent wastewater spills due to high level rain events, blockages or collapsed or leaking pipes far more effectively,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It also enables maintenance crews to be scheduled and deployed in a far more optimised and less reactionary way.”

Meeting environmental standards with cellular IoT

ART Sewer is designed to have a positive impact on reducing wastewater pollution from spills that reach freshwater and seawater, and thus contaminate the natural environment.

Mr O’brien said this technology will help wastewater utilities to meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations worldwide, and to avoid or minimise the ever-increasing regulatory fines.

The UK as an application example

As reported in The Week magazine in August 2021, the environmental state of rivers in the UK is poor. 

The article reports that, at the time of writing, just 14 per cent of English rivers were classed as being in “good ecological health” under the definition given by the EU’s Water Framework Directive.

The UK is a particularly challenging example because it has a combined wastewater network where rainwater and domestic and industrial wastewater end up in the same pipes. 

That can cause the network to become overwhelmed and divert excess contaminated water into waterways, fields, woodlands, and other designated spill areas.

In addition to these capacity issues, humans are creating more problems with network blockages (largely caused by sanitary wipes and fat) that can cause further spills, sometimes reaching domestic property.

The plight of UK natural waterways is increasingly coming into focus, with campaign groups highlighting these spills’ impact. 

Open water swimmers, for example, are experiencing environmental damage and health hazards firsthand.

Tackling this issue has been a challenge as most of the extensive wastewater network (over 500,000km in the UK) is underground, and existing wastewater spill monitoring solutions are expensive and limited.

Improvements on the horizon

Metasphere hopes that through the large-scale rollout of its ART Sewer solution, this situation could be dramatically improved in the coming years.

Field trials have proven that the ART Sewer monitoring solution is extremely effective at protecting freshwater and marine ecosystems from wastewater spills. 

As a result, Southern Water and Severn Trent Water, two of the largest water companies in the UK, are deploying ART Sewer.

For more details on how Nordic incorporates sustainability into its business strategy, refer to the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) section (page 97) of the Annual Report 2021.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Metasphere. For more information, visit www.metasphere.co.uk/art-sewer/.

©2022 Utility Magazine. All rights reserved

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