Arlington Water Team Brings Robotic Main Inspections to Ennis

An Arlington Water Utilities and University of Texas at Arlington team recently used robotic technology to give Ennis city officials an eye-opening look at their sewer system. Public Water Solutions, a Texas-based utility resource provider, coordinated the examination of Ennis’ critical underground assets. The results will provide community leaders the ability to prioritize millions of dollars of future infrastructure spending.

Since October 2016, Arlington has been using the MSI HD Profiler, a multi-sensor robot that gathers information using a high definition camera, lasers and sonar, to examine large diameter sanitary sewer mains 24 to 72-inches in diameter under an exclusive agreement with the equipment supplier. The program is a partnership with the UTA Department of Civil Engineering. Data from the MSI HD Profiler and another smaller robot helps UTA and Arlington Water pinpoint areas for further structural evaluation, repair or possible replacement. More than 150,000 feet of Arlington sanitary sewer main have been inspected since the inspection program began.

“Sharing this world-class technology with Ennis presented a great opportunity to demonstrate the assessment team’s capabilities as Arlington Water and UTA look toward  commercializing the service in the near future,” according to Arlington Water Director Buzz Pishkur. “We think our work in Ennis will prove to be an excellent example of what the robot can do for smaller communities in Texas. We already have examples of what the technology has done to benefit Arlington and its residents.”

Sanitary sewer mains can be weakened over time by issues such as soil movement and the buildup of corrosive hydrogen sulfide, a gas generated by the pipes’ contents. Information from the assessments will save Arlington residents millions of dollars that it might otherwise have spent replacing pipe with remaining useful life and by reducing emergency repairs on mains that have aged poorly.

“UTA and Arlington Water were able to cut the costs of the evaluations for Arlington residents by more than 50 percent, as compared to market, by establishing this unique partnership to use the MSI HD Profiler and performing the work with in-house crews. The project has already gained national attention – with the American Society of Civil Engineers naming the project a ‘Game Changer’ in the area of public infrastructure in 2016,” said Dr. Ali Abolmaali, chair of the UTA Civil Engineering Department.

Ennis City Manager R. Scott Dixon said his community is “facing a tremendous backlog of sewer line improvements totaling tens of millions of dollars” and resources for expensive replacements are limited. Like other public utilities, increased spending by Ennis would result in increases in water and sewer rates. Arlington’s team is now preparing a full assessment on a section of sewer main that carries most of Ennis’ sanitary sewer flow.

“It is our hope that the outcome of this project will help the city to minimize the amount of investment required to prevent a major failure on one of its primary sanitary sewer lines,” Dixon said. “If we are able to reduce the number of linear feet of the line that has to be replaced and identify areas where failure is imminent, we can better allocate our funding and address other equally high priority lines elsewhere in the system.”