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GLWA turns to new technology to head off water main breaks

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Southeast Michigan’s largest water system is turning to new technology to detect faulty water mains before they fail.

A year ago, a massive water main break disrupted 11 communities in western Oakland County.

In order to avoid similar problems in the future, the Great Lakes Water Authority is launching a pilot program to use acoustic technology to inspect the interior of large water mains. The sensors will try to detect leaks, gas pockets and structural weakness.

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
“The cost effectiveness for me is really about the cost effectiveness for the region,” says GLWA CEO Sue McCormick.

Sue McCormick is GLWA’s CEO. She says this technology will allow the utility to be more selective when it comes to replacing water mains.

“Other utilities have learned a lot,” says McCormick. “They’ve taken miles and miles of pipeline out of service, only to discover that 95% of that pipe had a lot of useful life remaining.”

McCormick says, by reducing expensive water main breaks and repairs the impact will be less costly to the community at large.

“The cost effectiveness for me is really about the cost effectiveness for the region,” says McCormick, “And the million dollars GLWA might spend on a water main repair is just the tip of the iceberg of the impact.”

McCormick says GLWA is developing plans to inspect its 800 miles of water transmission lines.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.