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Optimal sensor placement for sewer capacity risk management




Kimbrough, Hal Reuben, author
Duff, William, advisor
Grigg, Neil, advisor
Labadie, John, committee member
Ham, Jay, committee member

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Complex linear assets, such as those found in transportation and utilities, are vital to economies, and in some cases, to public health. Wastewater collection systems in the United States are vital to both. Yet effective approaches to remediating failures in these systems remains an unresolved shortfall for system operators. This shortfall is evident in the estimated 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage that escapes combined sewer pipes each year (US EPA 2004a) and the estimated 40,000 sanitary sewer overflows and 400,000 backups of untreated sewage into basements (US EPA 2001). Failures in wastewater collection systems can be prevented if they can be detected in time to apply intervention strategies such as pipe maintenance, repair, or rehabilitation. This is the essence of a risk management process. The International Council on Systems Engineering recommends that risks be prioritized as a function of severity and occurrence and that criteria be established for acceptable and unacceptable risks (INCOSE 2007). A significant impediment to applying generally accepted risk models to wastewater collection systems is the difficulty of quantifying risk likelihoods. These difficulties stem from the size and complexity of the systems, the lack of data and statistics characterizing the distribution of risk, the high cost of evaluating even a small number of components, and the lack of methods to quantify risk. This research investigates new methods to assess risk likelihood of failure through a novel approach to placement of sensors in wastewater collection systems. The hypothesis is that iterative movement of water level sensors, directed by a specialized metaheuristic search technique, can improve the efficiency of discovering locations of unacceptable risk. An agent-based simulation is constructed to validate the performance of this technique along with testing its sensitivity to varying environments. The results demonstrated that a multi-phase search strategy, with a varying number of sensors deployed in each phase, could efficiently discover locations of unacceptable risk that could be managed via a perpetual monitoring, analysis, and remediation process. A number of promising well-defined future research opportunities also emerged from the performance of this research.


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risk management
agent-based models
sensor placement


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