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Drainage: your asset, your responsibility, your risk

07 June 2012

“Out of sight, out of mind” – appears to be a fair representation of what many owners of drains, sewers and process pipelines think or indeed say when asked about their underground wastewater assets.

However, an increasing number of commercial and industrial companies are now taking their drainage responsibilities far more seriously in a bid to comply with expanding and ever more stringent environmental legislation.

Today, enforcement agencies have the legislative ‘teeth’ to award fines and sanctions that are a real deterrent to polluters. A visit to the Environment Agency’s website shows an increasing number of pollution-related prosecutions, ranging from; a Scottish cheese company (£20,000), a vegetable oil processor (£14,427), a water company (£125,000).

The European Environmental Directive 2004/35/EC qualifies that sanctions are based on a 'polluter pays' principle, which can result in unlimited fines or two years’ imprisonment if you fall foul of the legislation.

More and more organisations are looking to comply with the Environment Agency’s Pollution Prevention Guidelines. The so-called ‘PPG’s’ detail the legal responsibilities and good environmental practices you should adopt to reduce environmental risks from your business activities to avoid unnecessary environmental mistakes, ensuing fines, clean up costs and production losses.

Subsurface pipes are subject to numerous issues that can reduce efficiency, cause operational deficiency and leakage, as well as ultimately cause malfunction or failure. These include:
* Ageing networks suffering from historic neglect and under-investment that are subject to deterioration and damage caused by ground movement, disturbance from excavation, and root ingress.
* Increased demand/loading due to climate change and increasing frequency of extreme weather, coupled with reduced natural drainage (due to urbanisation) leading to hydraulic inadequacy.
* Reduced performance due to siltation and other blockages.
* Impact upon sewers through changing lifestyles, for example; the increase in food disposal, fats, oils and greases.
Like it or not, drainage asset owners are answerable to numerous stakeholders, including political, public, Environment Agency and regulatory, so they really should know what condition their wastewater system is in and how it is performing.

Dr Steve Ovington from OnSite Central, who specialise in protecting wastewater assets, commented: “A growing number of more progressive asset owners understand that a pro-active approach towards drainage assets is needed if they are to improve efficiency and ultimately avoid the fines and damning publicity that has struck an increasing number of manufacturers in the sector”.

He added: “Within the various process industries, managers are tasked with the ongoing serviceability of such assets, whilst the operators’ executives are charged with maintaining compliance with environmental legislation”.

Russ Wilkes who heads up Flow Management for OnSite, believes that developments in technology for data monitoring and measurement combined with GPRS telemetry gives companies their best opportunity yet to proactively manage their drainage assets.

“Obtaining timelier, accurate data – without increasing costs – is now readily available,” says Wilkes, “And with the internet, the end-user has a dedicated future-proofed platform – with no need to invest in expensive user-licenses.

OnSite’s OS8000 ATEX-certified meter is a multi-sensor unit which measures accurate real-time data on a variety of key parameters including but not limited to; flow, depth, velocity, temperature, chemicals.

There is clearly a big logistical benefit for a centralised Maintenance Manager or control centre to be able to view a complete picture of what’s happening within drainage assets across a number of sites, rather than go out and visit them all, or have to communicate with numerous site operatives at numerous geographic locations. Installation and use of OnSite’s OS8000 meter helps Maintenance Managers handle their assets in an automated 4 stage process so that important decisions can be made much, much quicker. 

* Measure: The OS8000 meter transmits data wirelessly at regular intervals to a secure web based platform which can be combined with comprehensive rainfall information. 
* Monitor: The web-based data management platform receives and analyses all data captured remotely.
* Predict: Built-in smart technology analyses historic data and predicts future asset behaviour under varying system conditions.
* Alert: System generates automated user warnings (sent directly to their mobile phones and/or email addresses) as events develop, allowing timely intervention and implementation of preventative measures.

Dr Steve Ovington concluded: “At OnSite we are now seeing a trend whereby commercial and industrial customers are looking to develop smart solutions for the dynamic and pro-active management/maintenance of their drainage assets. The best way forward is to introduce services tailored to match the needs and stage of maturity of your company’s wastewater asset management plans”.

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