Pittsburgh builds its CSO planning program around InfoNet


Courtesy of Innovyze

When the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) in Pittsburgh, PA commissioned Metcalf and Eddy and the Michael Baker Corporation to develop a long-term plan for controlling combined sewer overflows in local rivers and streams, one of the immediate issues was how best to manage the wastewater collection system data collected during the study. Data needed to be managed in a manner that not only facilitated the development of hydraulic models for analysis of collection system performance and facilities planning, but could also facilitate regulatory reporting requirements and day-to-day operation/ maintenance of the collection system. When PWSA explored Wallingford Software’s InfoNet, the benefits of using this network information system to address their needs became clear.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority - PWSA - operates and maintains 1,400 miles of sewer, 43,000 manholes, and 262 flow regulating structures above 193 outfalls. This collection system, although one of 83 tributary to a single treatment facility owned and operated by the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN), represents approximately one-third of the total ALCOSAN service area.

As a combined sewer system owner/operator, PWSA is required by the National CSO Policy to prepare and implement a "Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Long-Term Control Plan" to address wet weather discharges from the collection system that impair the uses of the local streams and rivers. Accordingly, PWSA has commissioned the team of Metcalf and Eddy and Michael Baker Corporation to study and analyze the collection system to recommend solutions for the control of CSO discharges.

The extensive field investigation program presented challenging data collection, storage, and dissemination requirements for the large volumes of past asset information in the form of asset built drawings and similar. With the need for these to be reviewed by multiple sub-contractor consultants and other firms as well as the core project team, the Program Management Team recognized the need for a data management platform that could:

  • promote data management standards/methods among the multiple firms involved
  • be centralized yet served to firms situated in remote locations
  • provide for data auditing/tracking
  • easily integrate with a collection system modeling applications.

Roy Rudolph, Senior Project Manager with Metcalf and Eddy, describes how this requirement was addressed. "We’ve looked at this issue many times in the past, and a few years ago the solution would have been to use spreadsheets or MS Access or another database and then write some post-processing tools to enhance these systems. GIS would also have had its role, but again further tools would need to be written to extend the generalities of GIS for network-specific uses. While looking at the options I came across InfoNet from Wallingford Software – we were already using InfoWorks CS for modeling our collection system here in Pittsburgh. I was very pleased to see that InfoNet was a network information system that had as standard so many of the features we would otherwise have had to develop. These include:

  • visualizations of sections of pipe, constructing an image from the data for ease of understanding the network
  • building network diagrams and checking connectivity of the network, a tremendous help in data validation
  • storing duplicate readings for the same item, which is so often a requirement, and flagging all data according to its source and level of confidence
  • testing for and flagging likely errors such as improbable elevations and pipe sizes
  • attaching CCTV clips to the asset record and displaying these swiftly on screen.

Finally, housekeeping functions – absolutely essential for proper long term data and asset management – are built in, as are audit trails. That is essential when the database is being used by multiple simultaneous users across the project and in the future right across PWSA."

PWSA’s project also presented a new challenge for Wallingford Software. For the first time, InfoNet is served across the Internet to bring remote users to a new standard of data management. The InfoNet license manager and asset databases are stored on a centralized server with six licenses allowing access from client PCs at remote offices. Desktop PCs can connect to the server across the internet. A security firewall allows only PCs with specific IP addresses to see and map the server. The license manager running on the server authenticates before access is granted. The immediate benefits of InfoNet to PWSA study are obvious - data collected during the study can be used to its maximum value, securely stored and made available to those who need it.

But InfoNet could also yield significant benefits on a more regional basis in Allegheny County. Consent Orders require all 83 municipalities tributary to the ALCOSAN wastewater treatment facility to assess the physical condition and performance of their collection systems through manhole surveys, CCTV investigations, flow monitoring, and other methods. The same benefits of InfoNet that were essential to the PWSA project - standardization, ease of reporting, security of storage, and ease of access and dissemination - are available to these municipalities as they strive to meet the consent order requirements. Perhaps more importantly, InfoNet can also help them develop and manage the data necessary for addressing all their regional wet weather and collection systems issues.

In many respects the PWSA project can be seen as a microcosm of what could and should take place on a regional basis. Regional data management is necessary to support regional wet weather analysis and collection system planning and operations. InfoNet could be implemented on a regional basis where municipalities manage their respective collection systems in a standardized manner on a centralized network. Similar to the PWSA project, InfoNet could be housed on a centralized server and served to desktop PCs at each municipality. Each municipality would have rights and privileges to update asset information for their collection system but, in any event, the managed data would be standardized so that it would reliably serve regional wet weather analyses. InfoNet can bring huge benefits to the collection systems of the region into the future.

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