Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Environment Canada increases the pressure to prevent pollution of waterways

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Wastewater producers are required by Environment Canada directives to treat their wastewater effluent to the standards cited by Section 36.(3) of the Fisheries Act. The Act simply states that no one has the right to deposit, or permit to deposit, a deleterious substance of any type in water frequented by fish.Environmental Effects

Effluent from most wastewater treatment plants meets this standard but what about wastewater from sewer pipes that leak?

Up to 3,700 illnesses annually are due to exposure to recreational water contaminated by sanitary sewage overflows. In 1989, sanitary sewer overflows in Cabool, Missouri contaminated drinking water distribution lines causing 243 cases of reported diarrhea and 4 deaths. (EPA)

Most people are aware of the fact that when there is widespread flooding, such as in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, there is an immediate risk of diseases such as cholera, tetanus, typhoid etc. What many people are not aware of is that there are over 75,000 sanitary sewer leaks or overflows per annum in the USA alone. These are potential sources of these same diseases and for pollution of our waterways.

Fines for pollution of our waterways in both Canada and the USA are severe: $200k/day in Canada. Many fines of $400k+ have been levied for Canadian polluters.

The problem is that our sewers are aging and leaking more frequently and there is not enough money in municipal coffers to replace these tired assets with new pipe. Asset managers are facing escalating costs for emergency repairs, environmental fines, consent decrees and third-party damage while trying to scrape together funds for replacements. Fortunately, PICA can help!

Recently, PICA inspected a 5 mile length of 24″ force main for the City of Raymore, MO. The City was interested in knowing the condition of the first mile of this length but they found that the good information provided by PICA was so valuable that they are now considering paying the extra charge for the data from the remaining 4 miles of pipe to be analysed. As a first step, they will be excavating the line at several weak spots identified by the PICA SeeSnake tool. We fully expect that the condition of the pipe in these local spots will be confirmed, thereby saving the City from several potential environmental disasters.

Cast iron, ductile iron and steel pipelines laid in poorly drained soils and having virtually no external protective coating will corrode and eventually fail. The process of corrosion is often galvanic, ie: highly localized pitting locations caused by electric currents flowing between anodic and cathodic areas on the pipe. Just like your car battery post, the positive (or anodic) post corrodes while the negative (cathodic) post is untouched by  corrosion. Pipes can be protected by connecting sacrificial anodes (zinc ingots) at suitable spacing so that the zinc anodes corrode instead of the pipe. In many cases, PICA can identify long lengths of pipeline that can be protected and the corrosion process arrested by retrofitting the line with cathodic protection or buried anodes.

For a cost that is generally less than 5% of replacement cost, PICA can assure asset managers of the actual, full length condition of their pipelines. SeeSnake tools can be run once to provide a “snapshot” of line condition or be  run on a scheduled basis to monitor the changing condition over time and thereby project when repair or replacement is required.

For more information, contact one of our technical sales representatives in your area (


Will smart meters create a water smart public?

March 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Recently, CTV-BC posted an article addressing the public’s concerns regarding their increasing water bills – an increase they felt was an error attributed to their new smart meter that was obviously broken. BC Hydro listed many reasons for the increase including weather and consumption patterns.

Many of the people commenting on the article have taken the “it’s a money grab” perspective on smart metering. Several articles/blogs have been published discussing that perspective and the overall North American sense of entitlement to inexpensive and unlimited drinking water. There is a burden on municipalities and utility operators to change that mindset to justify moving money into budgets for the repair and replacement of their aging water infrastructure. However, for every article pressuring the public to conserve water and contribute their fair share, there is another article explaining that public water consumption is a small drop in the bucket compared to industrial and agricultural usage – one step forward, two steps back.

Yes, there are large water users such as corporations and industries that need to think about how they use water. But large users are managed and operated by individuals so if the water industry can get individuals thinking about water conservation and more importantly, water VALUE, then these individuals can change the behaviours of corporations and industries. And maybe getting the individuals thinking about how they budget their water usage via smart meters may help that process… if only we can get them past the sticker shock.

Until then, utilities will have to keep optimizing their budgets by making good decisions with good information.

Categories: Commentary, Water Tags: ,

The Dog Days of Summer

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

As the dog days of summer come to an end and leaves start to show hints of yellow and red, pipeline operators across North America must be welcoming the cooler weather. If you’ve been following the news, you know the hot temperatures and long droughts have wreaked havoc on pipelines in many regions.

While no one welcomes the pipeline breaks (except perhaps construction foremen!), there is a silver lining in that it has helped nudge the industry into an increasingly more proactive approach to their assets. Our sales team has spent much of the summer on the road, meeting with clients at conferences and in their offices and it’s clear that these stewards of the public’s wastewater and drinking water are actively educating themselves on the tools available to them.

PICA has received much positive feedback and that has materialized into a fall and winter for 2011 that will be very busy for our inspection teams and tools. At the same time, we’ve signed a strategic alliance with Wachs Water Services that will provide the water industry with a great one-two punch.

If you would like more information about our Direct Condition Assessment solutions or how the PICA/Wachs team can save you some cash and prevent emergency repair headaches, don’t hesitate to contact us. We look forward to working with you during the winter months to create a more peaceful summer.

Managing Water in Australia

May 12, 2011 Leave a comment

This morning, Science Alert re-posted an excellent opinion piece by Ross Young, the Executive Director of the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), regarding the steps the Australian water industry has been taking to manage their water supplies in a country plagued by highly variable (and unreliable) rainfall.

He touches on industry, farming and consumers using a variety of methods including desalination, water recycling and leakage management, as well as motivations for participating in these programs without trying to resort to water restrictions.

Click on the following link to read “Managing our water demand in a fickle environment“.