Louisville Water Company will begin a 20-year pipe inspection project Thursday, made easier by new technology. For the first time, the company will be able to inspect large water mains while they’re filled with water using a new device called the “Pipe Diver.”
Mike Livermore is the regional manager for Pure Technologies, the company that invented the Pipe Diver. He says the device uses electromagnetic waves. The wires in the concrete pipes amplify the signal, and when the signal is distorted it signals a problem.
“Basically the tool has the ability to detect any wire breaks which are the reinforcing mechanisms of the pipe,” he said. “That allows the utility to come back and determine, based on the number of wire breaks that are detected, whether they want to repair the pipe or replace it.”
Company spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith says the device makes pipe inspection a lot easier, because the company doesn’t have to empty the mains and disrupt service. She says a water main break is expensive and inconvenient for customers.
“Oftentimes it’s very costly, it can be up to a million dollars, the pipe can be out of service for several weeks at a time,” she said.
But the Pipe Diver wouldn’t have prevented the water main breaks earlier this year. Dearing Smith says the technology is made to inspect concrete pipes, and the main that broke was made of cast iron.
“We actually believe the technology to inspect a cast-iron pipe much like what we’re doing here will be available later in 2011, so we’re hoping it’s something we can pilot later this year.”
The Pipe Diver will be able to inspect about half of the company’s large water mains. It’s estimated that the first inspection will cost $1.3 million, and the company is allocating $5 million annually from its capital budget for inspections over the next 20 years.