WSSC Installs Acoustic Equipment in Pipes to Monitor for Signs of Weakening

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) announced Tuesday that half of Maryland’s suburban concrete pipes now have acoustic equipment to monitor for signs of decaying pipe walls.  The WSSC  has been under increased scrutiny following the 2008 River Road pipe rupture during which helicopters had to rescue motorists from their vehicles due to flash flooding.  In response, the WSSC installed fiber-optic cables into the pipes to closely monitor the structural integrity of pipe walls. The Washington Post reports:

The fiber-optic cable allows the water and sewer agency’s computers to hear the “ping” sounds of a pipe’s reinforcing steel wires as they begin to snap from corrosion caused by groundwater seeping into the pipe’s decaying concrete walls. A flurry of those sounds alerted the WSSC this summer that a 96-inch pipe along Tuckerman Lane in Potomac was beginning to fail, leading to mandatory water restrictions over the July 4 weekend as the agency replaced the weakening section.

The acoustic equipment is now installed in 41 miles of the system’s 77 miles of concrete pipe that is 48 inches in diameter and larger, Riggins said. The WSSC, which provides water and sewer services to 1.8 million people in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, plans to have all of its largest concrete pipes inspected and equipped with acoustic cable in the next three years, Riggins said.

The acoustic equipment is now installed in 41 miles of the system’s 77 miles of concrete pipe that is 48 inches in diameter and larger, Riggins said. The WSSC, which provides water and sewer services to 1.8 million people in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, plans to have all of its largest concrete pipes inspected and equipped with acoustic cable in the next three years, Riggins said. (Lynn Riggins is a spokeswoman for WSSC)

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