Louisville Water inspects water mains with robot to prevent breaks

Louisville, KY - LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's no secret the city's infrastructure is aging. Pipe repair and maintenance is too common of a sight in Louisville.

With more than 4200 miles of water main, which is more than 100 years old, you may wonder why there aren't more water main breaks. That's because there's something going on right under your feet that's helping cutting down on those numbers.

Louisville Water teamed up with Pure Technologies in 2009 to start taking a closer look at some of Louisville's largest underground mains.

To do that, there are a couple pieces of technology that can give a full picture of the health of a pipe, without having to stop water service.

The Pipe Diver may look like a science fair project, but it's a heavy duty piece of equipment that uses electromagnetic sensors to look within the walls of a concrete pipe.

"It looks for breaks in pre-stressing wires that wrap around a concrete pipe," said Bill Barloon, the project manager for Pure Technology. "They are what provide the compressive force to the pipeline because the water pushes out and the wires push back."

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A bit smaller, but just as impressive, the Smart Ball rolls through the pipe and uses acoustic sensors.

"As the ball rolls past a leak, we can detect it," said Barloon.

All to make sure Louisville Water is ahead of of the game and a major main failure doesn't happen like in December 2017. A main break in Shelby Park forced the closures of several city blocks near downtown Louisville, as well as a shelter-in-place order. Three people had to be rescued from vehicles.

"We look to correct and fix the highest priority breaks and leaks in our system and be proactive and avoid the catastrophic failures that are very expensive and an inconvenience to our customers." said Tim Kraus with Louisville Water.

Kraus says since 2009, 96 sections have been repaired at one-tenth of what it would cost to repair a full failure.

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