WSSC’s Pipe Protection Program Passes 100+ Miles to Become Longest Active System in the Country

| News Release



Laurel – May 10, 2018: WSSC today announced it has the longest active Acoustic Fiber Optic (AFO) pipe protection system in the country at 102 miles. The cutting-edge AFO cable floats inside WSSC’s largest water mains, constantly monitoring the condition of the pipe and alerting the utility to impending breaks. The $21 million investment in this innovative technology has alerted WSSC 20 times to major breaks and saved customers more than $42 million.

“Our investment in this innovative technology is saving money for our customers and protecting public safety,” said WSSC General Manager and CEO Carla A. Reid. “This technology has helped WSSC avoid costly emergency repairs, lengthy water service shutdowns for residents and businesses, and damage to roadways and nearby buildings.”

General Manager Reid made the announcement along River Road in Bethesda, above a 66-inch diameter water main that is now monitored 24/7 by AFO. Nearly a decade ago, before AFO, this same section of pipe burst without warning, sending millions of gallons of water down River Road as dramatic rescue efforts unfolded on live TV.

“We are proud to partner with WSSC, who continues to take a long-term, strategic approach to using technology to maintain the integrity of its vital system,” said Michael Higgins, Senior Vice President of Pure Technologies, the company that maintains the AFO technology for WSSC.

WSSC began installing AFO in 2007 to detect the sounds associated with wire breaks in prestressed concrete cylinder pipes (PCCP), which are the largest water mains in WSSC’s system. The pipes range in size from 36 to 96 inches in diameter. In total, WSSC has 145 miles of large diameter PCCP.

The AFO system monitors the integrity of these large pipes 24/7 and provides notification to trained personnel if a potential problem is detected, thus allowing for planned repairs. In conjunction with AFO, WSSC has an aggressive PCCP inspection program. Pipes ranging from 48 to 96 inches in diameter are inspected every five to six years. Pipes that are 36 to 48 inches in diameter are inspected every seven to eight years.

Video of AFO being installed in a 48-inch diameter PCCP in Potomac, Maryland

WSSC Water is the proud provider of safe, seamless and satisfying water services, making the essential possible every day for our neighbors in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. We work to deliver our best because it’s what our customers expect and deserve.

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