W. Va., American Water to Use Stimulus for AMI Project

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has selected West Virginia American Water as the recipient of $3.85 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus funding.

The money will be used for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved “green” project involving the installation of an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system. The hope is that this pilot project, which will serve approximately 12,000 customers in Fayette County, can eventually be expanded throughout West Virginia American Water’s service territory.

The AMI system will transmit water consumption data collected at customer meters to the company’s computer network daily via radio frequency. Employees can then evaluate the data not only for billing purposes but also to uncover irregularities such as a water leak on a customer’s property. This will allow the customer to be quickly notified so that he or she can get the leak fixed — reducing both the amount of wasted water and the potential property damage.

The system will have the capability of detecting leaks along the utility’s water mains through the use of acoustic monitors. If the data transmitted to company employees indicates a leak, a crew can be dispatched to fix it. Finding leaks before they surface will not only save water but will also reduce damage caused by erosion.

“Speaking on behalf of the residents of Fayette County, we are honored that our county has been chosen to host such an innovative project,” said Fayette County Commission President Ken Eskew. “This new technology will help to conserve water, cut down on pollutants to our environment, and ultimately improve the lives of our citizens in a variety of ways.”

The acoustic monitors that “listen” on pipelines for frequencies typical of leak noise will be activated automatically at night, when there are fewer other noises to detract from the leak sounds. This system is much more practical than the current one, in which personnel are equipped with mobile listening devices and must move methodically from area to area listening for leak noise. This current method allows an entire distribution system to be surveyed only one or two times per year depending on the size of the system and number of employees assigned to the leak survey crew. The new system will literally provide a leak survey every night.

Over time, the project is expected to significantly decrease the amount of lost and wasted water in the Fayette District. That saved water will reduce the amount of chlorine and other chemicals needed in the water treatment process; the amount of waste residuals created during this process; the carbon dioxide emissions, fuel use and tire wear on the vehicles used to transport the chemicals to the water treatment plant and carry away the waste residuals; and the electricity used to pump the water throughout the system.

Installation of the new system should be complete by year’s end. The total cost is estimated at nearly $4.7 million. Eighty-two percent of the project is being financed by the $3.85 million in stimulus funding, half of which is being distributed through the West Virginia Drinking Water Treatment Revolving Fund. The other 18 percent, totaling nearly $848,000, will be paid by West Virginia American Water.

West Virginia American Water, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Water, is the largest investor-owned water utility in the state.

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