We all have a duty to conserve water.  For most of us that means not watering your lawns in the hot part of the day or not running the dishwasher when it is only ½ full.  But for those in charge of water storage hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh “TREATED” drinking may be at risk every time a water storage tank or tower is inspected or cleaned. The traditional way to inspect a water storage tank has been to drain it and put someone inside to take a look.  This has been a very expensive process and therefore put off or just not done at all.  When a storage tank is drained often as much as 1/3 of the water is lost. On many systems the last third of the tank will not have enough pressure to continue to flow to customers.  On a 500,000 gallon tank that could be as much as a 166,000 gallons of water.  I have only seen a few systems that did not loose a great deal of water every time they take a tank out of service.  That is bad enough, but we have only begun to spend time money and water to perform an inspection in a traditional manner.

Next, a person must enter the facility to take a look around.  The tank is dark, it is hard to see anything,  It is much like entering a big cave with no lights.  The sunlight blaring in from the open hatch allows a part of the floor to be seen but makes the remainder of the tank even harder to see with a flashlight.  If the walls are corroded they may be dark and near impossible to photograph for a report. The inspector is stuck to the ladder and the floor of the tank it is hard to see important inspection points like the normal waterline and inside roof.  In addition to that anyone who enters this type of confined space is a great risk if air quality samples are not taken.  Utility workers inspecting tanks have found themselves short of breath, some have even lost consciousness and died.  Any confined space is dangerous.  You wouldn’t think about a large container that had safe drinking water in it being deadly.  But it is. 

There are a lot of things going on in a steel water tank once it has been drained of the fresh drinkable water.  Here are just two to think about.  First a chlorine has been used to treat the water a residue is left coating the walls, on a hot day the sun warming the tank on the outside can turn this chlorine residue into a deadly gas.  Second if the tank is corroded the exposed iron residue from the corrosion and exposed metal will deplete oxygen.  When the oxygen in the tank is depleted to less than 12% the tank becomes a death trap.     That explains some of the risk, but we still haven’t talked about the cost.  After the inspector leaves the tank the tank is contaminated.  To meet AWWA standards it must be decontaminated from him or her walking around in a tank we drink from.  Here comes the real cost of time money and water. The tank must be filled with water, super chlorinated to kill any contamination then drained filled again and tested for purity.

Since 1992 I worked for hundreds of water utilities helping them inspect and clean thousands of water storage tanks.  I have only seen one utility that performed air quality testing before personnel entered a drained water storage tank.  That was on a Naval Air Station.  The fact is the right equipment needed to enter a drained water storage facility is expensive, seldom used and almost never provided by most water utilities.  Larger water utilities have their own labs to make sure the water is super chlorinated to proper levels and then again when the tank is filled to return to service.  But smaller utilities are forced to use labs that may be on the other side of the county or the other side of the state costing the utility even more time with their tank out of service while they wait for results. 

Ron Perrin Water Technologies has a better solution. We do not drain water tanks to do inspections, EVER.  Instead of placing personnel at risk, wasting time, money and water we use remote cameras to go in and take a look.     

We have developed a inspection method that uses a remote high resolution underwater video cameras along with a underwater lighting system that allows you to see the inside roof, waterline areas, inside wall and the floor of the tank.  The camera is purchased for and only used in potable water, before each use it is washed down with a 200ppm chlorine solution to meet AWWA standards.  The inspection is recorded and narrated on a DVD.  This allows administrators to have more information about what is going on in their water system than if they personally placed themselves at risk and went inside the tank with a flashlight and camera.

Remote underwater video camera Photo: Remote Underwater Video Camera & Lighting System.

Our inspection method has been developed and refined since 1997.  We have thousands of successful inspections completed, delivering the most information about water storage tanks at a fraction of the cost all while saving millions of gallons of fresh water in the process.    Other services include ROV (remotely operated vehicle) inspections, and Diver inspections.  When a tank has sediment that needs to be removed we also provide in-service cleanings.  For more information see www.ronperrin.com              

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