Infrared Thermographic Sensing of Sewer Pipeline Problems

by Gary J. Weil, EnTech Engineering, Inc, St. Louis, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Water Resources Planning and Management: Saving a Threatened Resource—In Search of Solutions


When a sewer caves in, it often takes the street, sidewalks, and surrounding buildings along for the ride. These collapses endanger public health and safety. Repairing a sewer before such a cave-in is obviously the preferred method. Emergency repairs cost far more than prevention measures - often millions of dollars more. The question addressed by this paper is how to detect unseen problem areas in or near sewer pipeline systems, such as erosion voids or pipeline leaks, before they give way. At the present, progressive sewer administrations may use crawl crews to inspect sewers when problems are suspected. This can be extremely costly and dangerous, and a void around the outside of the sewer is often invisible from within. Thus, even a crawl crew can fail to detect most voids. Infrared thermography has been found by sewer districts and independent evaluation engineering firms to be an extremely accurate method of finding sewer erosion voids and pipelines leaks, before they can cause expensive and dangerous problems. This technique uses a non-contact, remote sensing method, with the potential for surveying large areas quickly and efficiently.

Subject Headings: Sewers | Computer vision and image processing | Thermal effects | Sewer pipes | Pipe leakage | Sensors and sensing | Voids | Public health and safety

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