Innovative Products to Fill the Infrastructure Gap

ADS Environmental Services
Written by Leon Bracey

When municipal owners need to know about collection system flows, they choose ADS Environmental Services to monitor performance. With 40 years in the business, ADS Environmental Services knows how to provide robust, accurate and affordable flow measurement and the necessary analysis to support municipal project and financial objectives.
Hal Kimbrough, General Manager of ADS, spoke to Business in Focus about the history of the company, its products and services, notable projects, and its plans for the future.

“Our company structure is unique because we are fully integrated, providing application expertise, ADS equipment, installation and operation and maintenance services for our clients,” Mr. Kimbrough explains. “ADS delivers diagnostic solutions to wastewater flow problems that drive savings in collection system management.”

Headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, the products and services that ADS provides are innovative and comprehensive. Based on its four decades of experience and thousands of successful flow assessment projects, ADS tailors recommendations to meet their clients’ most challenging needs while meeting their budgetary concerns. For knowledge about collection system performance, ADS offers a comprehensive array of software products to deliver information of the highest quality. From flow monitors, software, field services and data processing to Web-based information and statistical reporting, ADS delivers the right information at an affordable cost.

Scientist Peter Petroff established ADS in 1975 following a successful career with NASA as a lunar guidance system engineer. From his garage in Huntsville, Mr. Petroff applied his space technology expertise to measuring municipal collection system flows. The result was the introduction of Doppler flow monitoring, which Petroff grew into a thriving business by the 1980s. During that decade, ADS flow monitoring networks had been established in a number of cities throughout the United States.

By the 1990s, ADS’ footprint had gone global. Notably, the installation of over 400 monitors networked to a central computer in Sydney, Australia in 1990 was an important milestone in the history of the company. By 1994, ADS had achieved ISO 9001:2008 accreditation and maintains the certification to this day. ADS also has ATEX certification for some of its products, enabling their use in potentially explosive environments.

Other innovations unique to the industry include the launch of the ADS FlowShark flow monitor; this product enables remote telemetry via an internal wireless modem and local communications via serial cable, and was developed in 2004. It was an innovation that revolutionized flow monitor communications in the collection systems sector. In 2005, ADS launched IntelliServe, Real-Time Data and Alarming software for Collection System Monitoring. Designed to connect clients to a flow monitoring network, IntelliServe delivers real-time operational intelligence on the status of flow activity throughout a wastewater collection system, as detailed on the company’s website,

In 2008, ADS was acquired by global fluidics company IDEX Corporation; this was a move that has given the company a chance to grow through the larger firm’s infusion of capital and reinvestment.

In 2009, the company introduced the first Intrinsically Safe (IS) Wireless Modem, enabling the use of a wireless flow monitor antenna in the hazardous sewer environment. More recently, ADS introduced the fastest and easiest flow monitor installation utility in the marketplace; called Qstart, this product enables users to quickly configure meters in the field, collect data, and review a meter’s depth and velocity data in hydrograph and tabular views simultaneously.

The aerospace industry has a strong presence in Huntsville and has been highly influential in ADS’ product design, Mr. Kimbrough says. “There is a lot of redundancy built into our products,” he explains. “They’re designed to be rugged for reliability and longevity.”

Specifically, the company’s product line includes Flow Monitors, Alarming Systems, Rainfall Monitors, Data Loggers, and Collection System Software. These products can be used for a variety of applications including CSO monitoring, SSO monitoring, capacity analysis, inflow/infiltration analysis, real-time observations and alarming, billing, and sewer modeling for obtaining and documenting accurate and decisionable flow and rain data.

ADS’ Flow Monitors are designed to fit a variety of pipe diameters, and are configurable in an array of hydraulic conditions to maximize flow measurements. The ADS TRITON+, for example, is a fit-for-purpose monitor that is unparalleled in its versatility and noted for its key features, such as the ability to cross-check up to three depths and two velocities with three sensor options. Each of these sensors provides multiple technologies for continuous running of comparisons and tolerances.

The FlowShark Pulse is designed for high-performance flow monitoring in closed-pipe applications for high accuracy and reliability, utilizing gated cross-correlation technology with digital pattern detection, explains the company. Programming can be performed completely on the built-in display and data can be viewed and manipulated with any software that can read text files.

Alarming systems such as rain gauges are designed to alert operators via text or email messages when rainfall intensity exceeds a critical threshold. ADS’ RainAlert II rain gauge is available for deployment as a stand-alone unit or as part of a comprehensive monitoring network, connected to an ADS or customer-supplied tipping bucket. Rainfall totals are time stamped and stored at one minute intervals or greater based on customer specifications.

Confronted as the company is with declining municipal budgets and wastewater infrastructure at its breaking point throughout many areas of the United States, Mr. Kimbrough feels that ADS must be innovative when providing solutions for clients. “There is an urgent need in the wastewater management industry for innovative solutions. There is an infrastructure funding gap; there is not enough investment in dealing with these issues. We have to provide innovative technology to solve these problems with the money that is available, so we have been accelerating new product development to help reduce the cost of maintaining infrastructure.”

ADS is meeting these challenges by improving the productivity of its service personnel by providing a Wi-Fi enabled tablet-based work-order system that increases field service personnel efficiency and effectiveness. Mr. Kimbrough says that the company is also upgrading its equipment to operate faster and more efficiently. “We constantly determine what adds the most value and exclude what doesn’t,” he explains. “From our activities in the field to our product line, we are always updating and monitoring data. If our customer doesn’t find value, we don’t do it. We are always streamlining procedures and automating processes to pass along savings to our customers.”

Kimbrough says that analytical operations are a key part of ADS’ product development, and this area in particular can help municipalities save money when monitoring flow. “Our motivation is to invest in new products that can be deployed in greater density in sewers and deliver data on a higher frequency, solving temporal and spatial issues that exist in monitoring systems. Municipalities cannot afford to buy a lot of these products, so they have to pick and choose and make options. Our solution is to make simple devices and approach the concept of smart sewers that can diagnose failures, warn users, and enable them to make more optimal decisions.”

ADS Environmental Services has successfully implemented its products and services for a number of diverse municipalities. One notable project was ADS’ high accuracy quantification of the Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) combined sewer overflow (CSO) monitoring network. This CSO monitoring network consists of over 100 overflow points draining to 86 outfalls into Lake Washington and Puget Sound. By 2006, SPU was aware of a problem with the quality of the city’s CSO data. SPU also knew that the EPA and the Department of Ecology were planning to impose Consent Decrees or Administrative Orders against agencies including SPU for having uncontrolled CSO outfalls.

In anticipation of the incoming changes, SPU decided to ramp up its efforts to better understand the magnitude of Seattle’s CSO problem through improved flow monitoring. SPU began implementing long-term plans to better control CSO outfalls and improve their collection system operations and maintenance. In 2007, ADS was brought on board to replace the existing flow monitoring contractor. Through a process of careful attention to data quality, swift response to equipment and data issues, and a more collaborative approach to maintenance issues, the usefulness of the Seattle Public Utilities CSO overflow data increased dramatically. The data from ADS flow monitors gave SPU a more accurate measurement of their sewer and CSO outfall flow, saving money for the company and keeping them in compliance.

“Technology has to be a part of this country’s infrastructure gap solution,” Mr. Kimbrough believes. “Having less information and buying what’s cheap will be more expensive in the long run. Since raising money and water rates is not popular, we think tech providers like us will play a key role in the infrastructure gap. ADS Environmental Systems is led by innovation and investment technology. We see the need in our customer base for more intelligent management of collection systems – we provide data that feeds those more intelligent systems.”

For over 40 years, ADS has helped municipal clients increase efficiency and mitigate environmental compliance action. ADS comprehensive flow monitoring programs have saved millions of dollars in unnecessary SSES and sewer rehabilitation expenditures by pinpointing problem areas and focusing repair budgets on only those areas that will result in short-term operational improvement and problem resolution. Many ADS clients find that for every dollar they spend in comprehensive flow monitoring, they realize a ten-fold return, or more. ADS strives to over-serve their clients, providing them with the underground intelligence necessary to obtain actionable data, which in turn will produce a considerable ROI.



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