The city of Clinton’s Public Works and Utilities has traded in antiquated street maps for a digitized utilities inventory, adopting a method of mapping, monitoring and continually assessing the city’s comprehensive system at their fingertips — a change made through local and grant funds expected to save time and resources.
In June, the city received a $40,000 Utilities Inventory Assessment Grant, which was used to make a GIS-based inventory of all the city’s utilities, including water and sewer lines, fire hydrants, water system valves, various water line sizes and the types of material in those lines. The city matched the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center grant with its own $40,000 contribution for the $80,000 project, which was included in the 2012-13 budget.
Public Works and Utilities director Jeff Vreugdenhil gave an update on the inventory recently, touting the effects of the grant in moving the city forward and making operations more efficient.
Locating critical infrastructure within the city and assessing the conditions of that infrastructure are the first steps in an overall goal of building a digitized database for water and sewer utilities throughout the city’s system, he noted. Through the change, dated paper maps are giving way to tablets, smartphones and computers.
Vreugdenhil said directional flow for lines, along with sewer manholes, hydrants and water valves, have been located on a digital database. The public works director detailed just how extensive the system is, walking Council members through a couple steps showing how the system is used on a daily basis.
“The information that is on the GIS that is available to our city’s employees in the past was the base data — simply street data,” said Vreugdenhil. “What the grant paid for was all of these items that are listed here now — system valves, hydrants, blow-off valves, water lines, lateral lines. And then the sewer utilities, all your air release valves, manholes, pump stations, wastewater treatment plant, force mains, sewer lines.”
He specifically zoomed in on Lisbon Street in front of City Hall, clicking on a specific manhole to pull up the information on it.
“To give you some indication of how we can use this,” Vreugdenhil said, “we can use our identification tool … that is a manhole right at the end of Lisbon Street. You’ll see that manhole is labeled Cattail, or CT-1322, which is a manhole label. It also gives you the sewer line. If we had further information from this grant, which we’ll later add to this, it will give you the line size, the height in the bottom of the manhole — more details all in this sewer line. That has not been done at this time.”
Currently, information such as the manhole’s location by its coorindates, the date on which the survey was taken and the elevation of the manhole, are all available. There is also notable infrastructure that has been color-categorized and mapped to assist city employees in the future, such as green arrows that denote the direction of flow for sewer lines, the black and white marks indicating water system valves and the blue lines that identify water lines themselves.
Vreugdenhil said the digitized database can pay off in any number of ways, but specifically mentioned the case of a water line break. Such a break can cost the city time and money in the amount of water lost, staff time used in repairing the damage and money used to purchase equipment to fix the issue.
“If we had a water line break, I can take the iPad from my vehicle and know where the valves are to isolate and turn off the water line, without having to run back to the office and pull dated maps out of a flat drawer,” said Vreugdenhil. “I can do it from my smartphone.”
Having an inventory that can be regularly accessed also allows information to be shared, updated and monitored, so that the age of lines, hydrants and various equipment and infrastructure can be easily tracked and maintained, a measure that could also act to prevent problems before they occur.
Vreugdenhil again went back to the new system to show just how that information is readily available once logged, again using the Lisbon Street manhole as an example.
“It tell me the water line in front of City Hall is a 6-inch cast iron that’s owned by the town. That segment is 17 feet, 1 inches long,” said Vreugdenhil. “I can get all that type of information.”
He said the project would also assist the Clinton Fire Department with its ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating and get many city departments, notably Public Works and Fire, on the same digital page.
“There’s a wealth of information and I’m really proud of having the entire city’s water and sewer infrastructure on there,” Vreugdenhil said. “I can tell you there are nearly 600 fire hydrants and there are 1,589 manholes. I can go over in the quick search tool and isolate ages of fire hydrants and pull out how many are older than 60 years old and put them on a list for replacement.
“All types of information of that nature is a useful tool that we can use,” he said.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.