Critical Automation for Maintaining Sewage Systems

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By Jane Marsh

Construction workers and engineers in the wastewater and sewage industries are innovating with digital transformation. Industry 4.0 is advancing, and automation is synonymous with high-performing firms and sector leadership.

Automation in sewage systems equates to improved environmental and public health, making implementation all the more pivotal. Critical infrastructure automation requires overcoming practical, financial and labor-related hurdles to enlighten sewage systems of the operational expectations of the future.

What Automation in Sewage Systems Looks Like

Automation in sewage systems involves technology that takes on manual labor with potentially greater accuracy. It alleviates stress from engineers and technicians from constant time-consuming, on-site attention. Automation monitors, notifies, controls and maintains sewage and wastewater systems with:

  • Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for identifying concerns and monitoring condition
  • Machine learning algorithms for predictive maintenance
  • Centralized supervisory control and data acquisition systems for analytics
  • Alerts for emergency blockages or unusual pipe pressure
  • Additional remote controls for off-site operations

Workers remotely change the flow rates of piping or adjust the parameters of a valve. Costly repairs happen less frequently because of Industrial IoT (IIoT) maintenance notifications. IIoT has the potential to save 80% in maintenance costs and reduce energy consumption by 35%, depending on the area.

Compliance awareness is also integrated into programs, always notifying employees of changes and how to undergo repairs for adherence. Autonomous robots provide another hand if a remote toggle is not enough. Now, the industry repairs an issue or administers an automatic chemical dosing test before problems catastrophize, giving parts a longer shelf life.

Real-time monitoring provides constant oversight, adjusting the team’s resources and time for honed prioritization. Human intervention combined with automation offers reliable services, increasing the trust and cost-effectiveness of wastewater treatment and sewage utilities.

Comprehensive efficiency and adaptation to sewage automation tools lead to increased water access, reduced pollution and a healthier world.

How Automation Challenges Lead to Opportunity

Most wastewater infrastructure is over 50 years old, with over 80% at their design capacities and some exceeding what they can handle.

Management must consider the effectiveness of critical tools like grit chambers and aeration tanks responsible for removing particulates reaching customers and the environment. Growing populations place demands on old systems, which are almost at their limits. Hitting the cap jeopardizes critical infrastructure and citizens — automation prevents the scenario from unfolding.

Placing undue pressure on old infrastructure is a significant stressor on the environment. Failures like bursting pipes and runaway sewage from septic tanks contribute to:

  • Air, soil and water pollution
  • Runoff
  • Cross-contamination
  • Spread of disease and waterborne illness
  • Loss of habitats and biodiversity
  • Loss of crop yields and agricultural and aquaculture sector health

Combined sewer overflows account for 850 billion gallons of untreated wastewater — losses that automation will lower, preventing old and new contaminants from having an impact. While automation stops incidents, research and development advances in water treatment.

How the Benefits of Automation in Sewage Systems Appear

Automation boosts worker confidence and productivity, a much-needed shift in the sector where employees’ quality of life varies drastically worldwide. Cost savings from unnecessary repairs and emergencies improves worker wages and benefits alongside in-house technology improvements.

Redesigning industrial expectations with IIoT can increase the number of skilled workers in plants, encouraging companies to revise training programs to accommodate automation skills.

Globally, the system has become more trustworthy and resilient against natural disasters and geographic stressors. For example, critical infrastructure is one of the most prominent targets for large-scale cybersecurity breaches. Legacy technology is vulnerable, and scaling up with robust hardware and software means digital defenses are more substantial.

Digital safety is one area of improvement. However, human and environmental health is critical, improving every moment automation tools collect data. It removes human error and other variables impacting accuracy. Automation predicts future trends and catches inconsistencies within a fraction of the time humans detect them.

The Future of Sewage System Automation

Sewage systems and wastewater sectors need automation to propel into a safer, more productive future. The technology creates a better quality of life for industry workers by enhancing system performance, reducing maintenance costs and bolstering the sector’s reputation with higher quality services.

Advancements illuminate an optimistic and flexible future for sewage systems. Enhanced artificial intelligence becomes smarter with years of learning, tailoring data sets to citizen water usage and geographic tendencies. Eventually, sewage automation will integrate with smart grid products and renewable energy for a greener, tech-forward life for all.

Author Bio: Jane Marsh is the editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers green technology, sustainable building and environmental news.