Queensland Urban Utilities is using the power of ‘sound’ to inspect its sewer network in a joint trial with the nation’s peak water body, the Water Services Association of Australia.

The innovative technology uses ‘sound’ rather than ‘sight’ to assess the condition of underground pipes.

Queensland Urban Utilities (QUU) used both the SL-RAT and SewerBatt technologies to inspect 7km of pipeline in Brisbane in May as part of a joint trial with the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA).

SL-RAT and SewerBatt assess the condition of a pipe by emitting a signal and recording the acoustic response, effectively ‘listening’ for any blockages or defects.

There is no need for the operator to enter the maintenance hole or come into contact with wastewater.

“This new technology could provide us with another tool to quickly find blockages in our sewer network,” said Michelle Cull, QUU’s Media Manager.

“QUU is assessing the effectiveness of these technologies which have the potential to provide significant savings by streamlining the use of existing jet cleaning and CCTV technologies.”

Joining the ranks

These latest technologies are the latest to join the ranks of QUU’s inspection technologies.

In addition to SL-RAT and SewerBatt, the utility is also able to call on the services of a remote controlled robot, Wally, which uses laser technology to assess the condition of Brisbane’s sewer lines.

QUU General Manager of Major Projects, Mike Griffiths, said the robot used a combination of laser pulses and closed circuit TV cameras to create digital 3D images of the pipe’s interior.

“The laser profiling technology picks up faults that can’t be seen with CCTV alone,” he said.

“We need to keep a close eye on things like tree roots, silt and debris as well as corrosion caused by the presence of hydrogen sulphide gas which can attack the internal walls of our pipes.”

The robot is lowered into sewer maintenance holes. A crew above the surface then uses remote controls to drive the robot through the sewerage network.

“The data is sent back via a live feed, allowing us to assess the condition of our pipes with minimal interruption to local residents and traffic,” Mr Griffiths said.

“We inspect 100km of the sewerage network every year – that’s about the same distance from Brisbane to Toowoomba.

“Using this technology is a safe approach because we don’t have to send our people into the sewerage system with all the risks associated with working in confined spaces.”

The robot inspection program is part of QUU’s $2.76billion ten-year capital works investment to help ensure the long term sustainability of Brisbane’s sewerage network.

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