A unique tool originally developed for monitoring wastewater assets has evolved into a system which allows the digital management of entire wastewater systems. We spoke to iota Services General Manager Phil Thompson to learn more about the innovative OneBox Intelligent Sewer device.
OneBox was designed and developed by iota Services, which is owned and managed by South East Water. South East Water’s pressure sewer projects date back more than 15 years, with early deployments including OneBox on the Mornington Peninsula and Gippsland.
OneBox technology originally focused on monitoring and alarms, and enabling the identification and rectification of problems without the need for customer intervention.
South East Water soon identified opportunities for OneBox to play a more central role in its networks, not only monitoring the status of the sewer connection, but regulating flows and removing peak volumes from the network.
With OneBox, South East Water has the ability to significantly reduce flows compared to gravity and uncontrolled pressure sewer systems, and also avoids exacerbating overflows downstream during storms.
“With OneBox, we’re able to spread volumes across a much longer period – and as a result, we’ve been able to downsize our reticulation network and transfer mains,” said iota Services General Manager Phil Thompson.
OneBox has been described as a “smart meter for sewers”. It monitors levels in the pod, as well as pump current, and has alarms in place for high levels, long pump runs, overcurrent, communications failure, and power failure.
“With access to all this data, the OneBox system allows the network to be controlled to remove peaks and recover in the event of a power outage by prioritising pods with the highest levels,” noted Mr Thompson.
“In addition, OneBox provides high visibility of inflow and infiltration on individual properties, which aids with problem management, and enables responses to alarms before the householder is aware of the problem,” said Mr Thompson.
“OneBox provides opportunities for significant savings in capital expenditure and allows growth without worsening capacity issues and overflows. It also enables easier maintenance of pipelines.”
Across its network, South East Water receives an alarm if there is an issue with a pump installation, and can view the installation and efficiently manage a maintenance activity without the customer being involved. The utility has full monitoring of each installation, which significantly reduces spill risk.
In an example of a recent customer benefit, a complaint was received from a customer that their toilet was backing up. The operator was in a position to view the installation on the portal and advise the customer that the level in the customer’s pump pod had not changed in hours, and that there was therefore a blockage in the lateral.
When the blockage was cleared, the flush inflow into the pod was recorded. The customer had the issue identified and could get the blockage removed cost effectively, and the utility provided the appropriate advice at no cost.
The OneBox system isn’t just used by South East Water – the technology can be deployed by utilities around the country and even internationally. In Christchurch, New Zealand, OneBox is being deployed in the rebuild of the city’s sewer system, following the devastating earthquakes that struck the city in 2010 and 2011.
iota Services provided advice to Christchurch City Council (CCC) about the option of low pressure sewers following the earthquake.
“We then produced a feasibility report for one part of the city’s redevelopment,” said Mr Thompson.
“CCC recognised the capital cost saving achieved through reduced peak flows and general flow management capabilities, and contracted iota as the design sub-consultants for the low pressure sewer.”
CCC has localised capacity constraints within parts of their gravity sewer network, so the ability to manage storm flows offers significant capital cost savings.CCC also has infiltration issues with damaged property laterals and high groundwater, so the ability of the OneBox to identify all infiltration for each wet weather event on an individual property basis was seen as a key benefit.
“The OneBox peak shifting mode has also reduced design flows for the Upper Styx catchment, allowing new developments to connect to adjacent existing infrastructure without the requirement for a new pump station and long transfer mains to discharge further downstream in the existing network,” said Mr Thompson.
“In South East Halswell, the installation of OneBox has reduced the size of the transfer pump station and rising main, and avoided the requirement for emergency storage at the transfer pump station.”
The OneBox monitoring capability also facilitates the identification of on property infiltration. The initial connections identified infiltration following the first heavy rainfall event after their installation, which then triggered CCC to request the property owners to undertake repairs to their laterals. The management of low flows for both Upper Styx and South East Halswell will benefit from the OneBox flushing mode, to provide scouring in the initial years with low flows during the early years of development.
Utilities here in Australia can also benefit from the features of the OneBox system. For interested utilities, iota Services provides full network design and equipment supply through a design team with extensive experience.
The experience of the iota Services design team includes construction of the largest pressure sewer scheme in the world with 16,200 connections on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
Patented control technology with in-house design and continuous construction and operator feedback are additional significant benefits iota Services can offer to utilities.
For more information about iota Services and the OneBox system, head to www.iota.net.au.