Stopping Sinkholes

Wednesday, October 17th 2007, 9:01 pm

By: News On 6

A National Research Council report says much of the nation's water distribution system will need to be replaced in the next 30 years. But, it will cost billions of dollars to replace all those pipes. Instead of replacing them, would it be possible just to fix the problem spots? News On 6 anchor Jennifer Loren reports locating the bad spots can be tricky, but new technology can do that.

In America, just beneath our feet, lies more than a million miles of pipes that bring us water.

"Almost every day, in any given city, anywhere in the states or North America, there is going to be a pipe
failure," said Brian Mergelas, PhD Physicist for Pressure Pipe Inspection Company.

When those pipes leak and fail, sinkholes, floods and even geysers can happen. Physicist Brian Mergelas thinks he has a solution.

"This is the only system in the world for looking at leaks in large diameter pipes,” said Brian Mergelas, PhD.

It’s called the “Sahara System.” Engineers drop a probe into working water mains. The flowing water catches an attached parachute and pulls the probe through the pipe. The probe picks up the unique sound created by a leak, no matter how small.

“Someone will be listening in real time to the sounds that we are hearing inside the pipe,” said Brian Mergelas, PhD.

Next, the probe sends out a signal, indicating the exact location of the leak.

"In the states, there is about 5,400 water utilities, and so every one of those utilities could benefit from this,” said Brian Mergelas, a physicist with Pressure Pipe Inspection Company.

So instead of replacing whole mains in aging pipe systems, utilities can simply fix the problem spots, saving money and millions of gallons of water.

"These are all hidden leaks. So we are finding them in time for them to actually be proactive to do something about it,” said Brian Mergelas, PhD.

Right now, 40 cities across America are proactively managing their pipes with the new system. It is designed to locate leaks in pipes that are 12 inches in diameter or larger. It will locate three leaks per mile in any given pipe line.

Watch the video: Stopping Sinkholes

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