Stopping Sewer Overflows

March 27, 2012

A new system uses sensors on manhole covers to monitor water levels

Sewer overflow was the topic of a recent article by the Atlantic Cities.

According to the article, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 40 million Americans living in 770 communities––mostly in the Northeast, Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest––still rely on combined sewers. Because these water management systems collect sewage and storm water runoff in the same network of pipes, heavy storms will overwhelm them and bacteria and toxic chemicals will be discharged.

In 1994, the EPA required these municipalities to make improvements to reduce overflows and health concerns. Six years later, Congress required municipalities to comply as part of the Clean Water Act. Many major cities have since begun planning for hundred-million-dollar fixes, addressing failing pipes and networks as well as system overflows.

In an effort to develop more affordable and effective methods of compliance, EmNet’s Combined Sewer Overflow Network relies on wireless sensors installed on the underside of manhole covers to monitor water levels at various points across a city. The sensors broadcast data via simple radio waves to a central monitoring facility and can send messages telling smart valves to open or shut during times of peak water flow.

When EmNet was formed in May 2004, scientists estimated that combined sewer overflows result in the release of 850 billion gal of untreated wastewater each year, leading to contaminated drinking water and human and animal sickness.

To read the full story on Atlantic Cities, click here.

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