Articles & Case Studies


Posted: Wednesday 30th December 2009

Leading engineering consultancy, Grontmij has this week completed the work on one of Ireland’s first ever wide area telemetry systems.

The new system will allow accurate monitoring of Wexford’s water and waste water treatment and supply, giving improved management and reliability, and creating a more effective network.

Underground monitoring

With a population of 105,000, County Wexford boasts more than 45 treatment works and pumping stations, as well as additional ancillary facilities. Covering over 900 square miles in South East Ireland, the water supply system was originally monitored manually.

Onsite personnel would visit the system sites on a regular basis to ensure the supply and quality was maintained, efficient and in working order. Although this was effective while the monitoring staff were onsite, it was not a 24 hour service, and so as soon as they left the site the same level of performance was not guaranteed.

As a result, the team were often working retrospectively to resolve issues rather than proactively spotting potential defaults. The monitoring was also time and cost prohibitive, leading Wexford County Council to look at installing a new telemetry system.

Typically, other counties in Ireland have had similar systems and issues, though wide area monitoring has only started to be used over the last few years. Wexford County Council has taken the lead as the first in the county to complete the upgrade to a wide area telemetry system.

Darragh Cullinan, senior engineer for Water Services Operations at Wexford County Council, said: “Ireland has lots of counties and Wexford is similar to most rural counties in Ireland in that it operates many geographically dispersed water treatment plants, waste water treatment plants and pumping stations.”

Changing the system

Leading engineering consultancy, Grontmij was appointed to provide a wide range of services, from design, tender recommendations, through to site supervision.

Grontmij is a leading provider of water services, with a wide range of skills. It specialises in a number of areas, such as water asset design in infrastructure, non-infrastructure and mechanical and electrical capabilities, systems and real time asset management, which includes telemetry and plant control.

Headed up by principal consultant George Madden, the team delivered a system based in principle on UK utility companies.

Although the existing network was satisfactory in its original state, to deliver a fully functional, efficient wide area telemetry system, much of the existing equipment needed to be upgraded. Some of the monitoring instrumentation was nearly 30 years old and required enhancement. Due to its wide range of capabilities in the water industry, Grontmij was able to upgrade and replace these parts during and alongside the project without any issues.

Grontmij was also challenged with ascertaining the best, most cost effective system based on the Council’s and the area’s requirements.

Now fully operational, the telemetry system will provide ‘real time’ accurate information remotely through a radio and web-based programme, with all data on screen accurate within one to two minutes. Using a central location control, which can be monitored automatically or manually, pre-warning alarms go directly to an operator, meaning potential problems can be detected early.

The system monitors and detects the integrity and quality of the water supply, as well as the amount of water in the system to ensure consistency of supply. The plant is in action 24 hours a day and can even be dealt with remotely, ensuring there are no black spots of information.

George Madden, principal consultant at Grontmij, said: “The system is designed to detect and prevent potential problems long before they become an issue, but also ensure the day to day running is as simple as possible.

“The previous system required regular time-consuming site visits to monitor equipment and perform general maintenance, whereas the new system will allow out of hours management from an off-site location. Wexford County Council can then allocate staff as required”

Completing the project

Completed just last month, the network is already fully functional and operating at optimum standard. The adoption of intelligent data into one system not only ensures the best standards of the water in a smaller timescale with lower costs, but also assists with regulations in Ireland.

The Department of Environment and The Environment Agency in Ireland require regular updates from local authorities on water quality and monitoring, so by integrating the data into one digital system, it is now easier for Wexford County Council to submit this information.

Mr Cullinan continued: “This new telemetry system will enable us to better manage these through one central resource and reap the benefits this brings.”

Although the initial system only took one year to complete, Wexford County Council has been adding assets to the system over the last few years, with the final system now in place.

The Water Service Authorities in Ireland are not only responsible for the supply of drinking water, but also the removal and cleaning of wastewater, and the new network has been adapted to monitor both assets within the one system.

Moving forward

Following the success of Wexford County Council, many local authorities in Ireland are now looking to upgrade and enhance their own telemetry systems, and Grontmij has already completed feasibility studies with several of these to assess and recommend the best, most cost effective solutions.

Mr Madden continued: “Quality and efficiency of the water supply in Ireland is a prime consideration and many authorities need to deliver a state of the art, but cost effective solution. We have been working with several authorities, looking at their individual needs and advising on the solutions most suited to their current networks and the areas they cover.”

With many years experience in the water industry, Grontmij provides water consultancy services to a range of professional clients, including asset management, carbon footprinting, procurement advice and PFI/PPP technical advice. A growing area of the business is water environment, with services such as flood risk assessment, hydrology, hydrogeology, coastal engineering and environmental impact assessment. Grontmij also offers services relating to climate and energy, which involves advising on climate change and renewable energies.

Grontmij is one of Europe’s largest engineering consultancies, working across the disciplines of transportation, energy, environment, water and systems. The company employs over 8,000 professionals throughout Europe.

Tel: + 44 (0)113 262 0000

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