Wipes Cause Sewer Blockages and Data Detects Them

Different wipes and paper towels have become exceedingly popular, resulting in an increase in sewer blockages. Luckily the blockages can be detected by utilizing data.

In the wake of COVID-19, people have become more aware of germs and viruses lurking on their phone screens, door handles and other surfaces. As a consequence, different wipes and paper towels have become exceedingly popular, resulting in an increase in sewer blockages. Unlike toilet paper, these products do not break apart in the sewers but instead form solid blockages that water utilities then have to deal with. While the first priority in addressing this problem is prevention through education, the second is for water utilities to find suitable tools to detect blockages in their network, and if possible, do so while working remotely.

A blockage that goes undetected for too long, results in a sewer overflow. In practice, an overflow means there is wastewater somewhere it should not be: in rivers, lakes, at beaches, in a basement or garage. A single blockage can cause environmental and material damage, not to mention heartache in case of a flooded property. Wastewater is full of contaminants that we need to see flow into a water treatment plant, not linger in our living environment.

alt text Sewer blockage detected from pumping station data

Combining multiple data sources produces new information

Digitalization and sewer blockages have not always belonged in the same sentence. But in the wave of digitalization in all sectors, water utilities, too, have emerging opportunities. Collecting data is not new to the water industry: there are meters in place measuring the flow of water and pump usage, among with various other things. The opportunity, however, lies in taking advantage of all the data combined. Comparing real-time measurements with historical data is informative, but even more value can be added by combining it with other data sources such as weather conditions or sea level.

How do we harness the data in a useful way? Simply having it does not tell a water utility very much. Blockage risks can be managed by applying intelligent analysis to large amounts of data. Neuroflux’s approach is to use AI to form models of past data that are then compared with real-time measurements automatically. The AI system uses data from multiple data sources such as weather radars, utility’s control systems and GIS platforms, making the detection process even more reliable. Once an anomaly is detected, AI generates an alert, giving the water utility crew an opportunity to react quickly.

We at Neuroflux have always developed our tool together with experts in the water industry, and blockages were the very first thing that we started detecting with data-analysis. In our experience, the best solutions are discovered when you combine expertise from different fields. If blockages are an issue in your area, we’d be happy to discuss what your data can do for you.


Julia Kariniemi

Client Relationship Manager

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Tuomas Koskinen
Chief Executive Officer

Tuomas Koskinen
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