Mother Nature Threw a Curve at South Bend’s Smart Sewer System


The CSOnet monitoring system from South Bend technology vendor EmNet, LLC features the firm’s BLU-X data analytics platform. A control subsystem was implemented in 2010.

Teledyne ISCO-branded flow sensors are used in the setup. Currently, the CSOnet system consists of approximately 150 wireless nodes monitoring 111 locations as shown in the accompanying screen shot-map.

Costs of the South Bend CSO system: $6 million on system plus $280,500 annually for services such as data collection and maintenance.


Since South Bend, Ind., installed its smart sewer monitoring system in 2008, the setup has eliminated about a billion gallons of raw sewage overflow per year into the nearby St. Joseph River, says Eric Horvath, Executive Director of the city’s Department of Public Works.

In late February, however, fast-rising flood waters overran the sensors, valves and gates in the system, driving a mix of storm water and sewage into the river.

“When you have the river come up and completely overwhelm your system, there’s nothing you can do to fight Mother Nature,” Horvath explains.

south bend river

South Bend has used Internet of Things and Big Data to transform its 100-year-old sewer system into what some experts call “the smartest sewer system in the country.”

The CSOnet monitoring system from South Bend technology vendor EmNet, LLC consists of approximately 150 wireless nodes monitoring 111 locations as shown in the screen shot map below.

south bend map

Costs of the South Bend CSO system: $6 million on system plus $280,500 annually for services such as data collection and maintenance.

south bend water treatment plantOriginally, the system was designed with the objective of just reducing combined sewer overflows (CSOs). When used with data analytics, the setup proved useful for other purposes. The smart sewer (CSOnet) tools, for instance, enable the city to implement a data-driven maintenance and cleaning program which has increased the hydraulic performance of the sewer system.

For example, the unit’s sensors can detect areas that are outside the sewer system’s normally observed footprint.

“Sewer cleaning crews have used this information to pinpoint and troubleshoot issues. As a result, city workers routinely pull large amounts of gravel or other debris that otherwise limit the conveyance capacity of the sewer system,” says Kieran Fahey, Director, Long Term Control Plan for South Bend.

Saving a crapload of $

This smart sewer project has enabled South Bend to develop a long term control plan that combines smart sewers with green storm water infrastructure in key locations, to remove the remaining overflow volumes. “This new plan is a successor of a plan that would have cost over $700 million, but instead would be reduced to $200 million,” Fahey tells Icons of Infrastructure.

Kieran Fahey

Kieran Fahey, Director, Long Term Control Plan for South Bend.

Fahey urges other cities and counties to consider installing a smart CSO system. “Invest in sensors and start gathering data. The sooner the better,” Fahey says. “The longer you have sewer data, the better informed your sewer infrastructure models will be.”

In the future, Fahey expects more IoT advances in CSO systems. “Currently, smart sewer systems are water-quantity based; a quality component may be something we see in the future.”

Internet of Things (IoT) is advancing CSO systems in several ways, says Luis Montestruque, Ph.D., president and CTO of EmNet, LLC.

“IoT enables utilities to rapidly and cost effectively ‘turn on the lights’ in the sewer system by economically sensorizing them at a density that was not possible before,” he says. “This enables utilities a new and deep understanding of what is happening in the vast underground network of pipes that is otherwise not possible. Getting the data from what is happening under our feet is the first step.”

Luis Montestruque

Luis Montestruque, Ph.D., president and CTO of EmNet, LLC.

Montestruque says artificial intelligence and Big Data within the CSO setup also play a role in decision-making and continuous adjustment and improvement of operational strategies. These technologies, he says, can help save utility ratepayers’ dollars and preserve the environment. He adds that his firm’s solution falls in the category of smart infrastructure.

“This is infrastructure that leverages IoT to sensorize the sewer system, big data optimization techniques to decide what actions to take, and artificial intelligence to learn from past events,” he explains.

Sewer and water utilities continue to innovate. In 2017, District of Columbia (DC) Water introduced Xylem’s smart wastewater pump system. Ayyeka, an IoT tech firm which recently joined forces with Sigfox, has completed the installation of 200 remote monitoring modular kits for the Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (Ohio).

Start typing and press Enter to search

FACEBOOK
TWITTER
LINKEDIN
Detroit City Scapetraffic