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High-Tech Approaches to America's Sewer Problem

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Debris at a wastewater pumping station near Washington, DC.

The tools for maintaining sewers also include artificial intelligence systems for automating the labor-intensive process of cataloging defects in sewer pipes and storm water culverts, and for giving priority to repairs based on need and location.

Credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images

U.S. cities and service contractors use sophisticated technology like flying drones, crawling robots, and remote-operated swimming machines to more affordably and effectively explore, diagnose, and fix municipal sewer systems.

Such tools boast cameras, sonar, and lasers, and in some instances can clear obstructions with high-powered water-jet cutters, or repair pipes using ultraviolet-cured plastics.

The solutions also employ artificial intelligence (AI) systems to catalog defects automatically, and to prioritize certain repairs.

Robotic sewer inspection company Sewer AI uses a vast video archive of sewer pipe exploration to update its defect-identifying computer-vision system continually.

Water/wastewater infrastructure consultant Gregory Baird said the water and sewer industry can transform itself with software capable of extracting data from tunnel-exploring robots and flagging defects, combined with failure-prediction algorithms.

From The Wall Street Journal
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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