MSCC5

Opportunities to improve the UK pipe inspection standard (MSCC5)

Opportunities to improve the UK pipe inspection standard (MSCC5)

MSCC5

Introduction

If you work within the UK water industry, you will be very aware of the MSCC5 (Manual of Sewer Condition Classification Fifth Edition). The first edition dates back nearly 40 years now, and in that time, many hundreds of thousands of miles of sewers and pipes by thousands of different contractors of all shapes and sizes have used the code to create a standardised output.

 

Is history holding back the future?

The Water Research Centre (WRC) first published MSCC back in 1980, and since then, other countries have adopted the idea behind a standard. This led to the creation of the European Standard  BS EN 13508-2:2003+A1:2011, which has allowed the different codes to use a common language. 

 

This alignment now presents a challenge with updating MSCC so it can keep pace with the technological changes. The need to align with the European Standard means many stakeholders will need to agree to any changes. However, there is a real need to update the standard, given that the current manual is still referring Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT) screens and their calibration. Is there anyone out there using these screens now? 

CATHODE RAY SCREEN

MSCC5 references the calibration of Cathode-Ray Tube screens. Does anyone else still use these screens?

The first opportunity to improve the standard is to consider what the future of pipe inspecting coding might look like and how MSCC can support the future. We feel that using AI and modern software techniques is the first step in modernising a sector that has not changed significantly in the last 40 years. 

car manufacturing with humans

Can the pipe inspection industry be modernised to deliver the benefits generated by the latest manufacturing plants?

How could we look at things differently?

So, what could a new coding standard look like in 2022 if we were designing it from scratch? If you look at computer software these days, it is a lot simpler than it used to be. Less is more now, and even the most complicated programmes have simple user interfaces to help speed up workflow and productivity. Gone are the days of needing to install desktop software and then updating it physically.

So how can this be applied to sewer surveying and classification, given that there are different types of users, from Water companies to small drainage contractors?

 

We need to think about why we are doing the survey and what is the result we want. The purpose of the standard is all about making an informed decision about investment in repair, maintenance, or renewal in line with its condition, serviceability, and budget available. Does the current coding standard meet the requirements? If yes, does it do it with simplicity in mind? This factor is essential when training people on how to code and survey? With so many codes and conditions to learn, this can extend training requirements and take years for operatives to gain all the experience needed to code the surveys to the exacting standards. Are contractors doing this, and is it possible to audit it accurately – probably not! 

 

By simplifying and determining the key elements that make up the investment decision, we could remove a lot of unnecessary work and time and use enhanced technology to fill in the gaps speeding up workflow and productivity and saving money. The delivery of this outcome could start with a single document containing the coding and scoring requirements. Currently, MSCC5 includes the codes, and the Sewer Risk Manual holds the scores to determine the condition grades that typically drive the investment need.

 

Coding observations

Do the current set of codes consider all likely defects on the network? Is coding of infiltration, H2S attack and Hydraulic overload accurate and in a way that informs decisions on the action necessary. We don’t currently have a condition grade that reflects the degree of infiltration associated with an asset.

 

Abandoned surveys require a comment in the remarks section to explain the root cause for the survey being abandoned. This approach is not helpful when you own a survey company and are looking to minimise the number of abandoned surveys and increase your productivity. How do you determine the value of providing the crews with longer cable lengths to minimise the number of ‘out of cable’ abandonments? In other countries, they have specific abandoned codes related to the defect before. For example, the Australian manual has ‘Survey Abandoned Collapsed Pipe’.

pipe inspection abandoned

How many abandoned surveys occur due to insufficient cable length? 

 Open and displaced joints always cause much debate and can be confusing 5-10% of diameter gets a score of 40, but 1.5 pipe wall thickness receives a score of 2. Typically, a pipe wall thickness equals 10% of the internal pipe diameter, so how can this be made more consistent?

Condition Assessments

We have a situation where we have two different types of condition assessment criteria in the UK. There are two scoring systems; the DRB Drain Repair book grades A, B & C (for domestic properties) and the SRM (Sewer Risk Management grades 1-5) on some software systems. Whilst they map against each other, it seems questionable to have two different approaches. It is essential to have accurate data to make informed decisions, and having one standard will make that accuracy more consistent. This further help simplify the training and reduces the costs for survey company owners.

 

Furthermore, is it also possible to be more scientific about the likelihood of further deterioration or collapse? Given that we have years of data, is it possible to develop a more accurate way of assessing risk on specific pipe lengths? Could this allow us to plan repair and maintenance more productively and head off issues at an earlier stage with a more cost-effective repair? We suspect the disparate data storage capability of the incumbent software applications for pipe inspection coding means this will be difficult. However, VAPAR’s central database of pipe condition assessments allows this type of data to be easily accessed and could be the key to unlocking a faster and more cost-effective solution to surveying and condition assessment.

Final thoughts

Technology plays a massive part in all our lives; whilst CCTV camera technology has advanced exponentially over the past ten years reporting systems have remained static. The traditional processes are still heavily manual and require extensive training and experience to keep the data collected consistently. But are we now at crossroads in terms of the old and the new?

VAPAR‘s AI platform is now able to generate MSCC5 compliant outputs. The development work to comply with MSCC5, plus the standards used in Australia, the United States and New Zealand, has provided us with a unique perspective.

VAPAR’s modern and unique capability to combine AI and human inputs to produce a fast and accurate output provides an opportunity to match the latest CCTV camera technology. Updating the MSCC standard is one part of the puzzle that will significantly improve how we do things for the customers using piped networks.

vapar platform ai and human

Vapar provides the capability to combine AI and human inputs to produce a fast and accurate output and provides an opportunity to match the capability of the latest CCTV camera technology.

ABOUT AUTHOR
manhole cover in slovokia

Basics of Sewer Manholes

Basics of Sewer Manholes

Picture of sewer manhole

What are manholes?

Sewer manholes or also called maintenance holes are formal access points within the sewer pipe network that provide maintenance teams a chance to get access to maintain the sewer pipe network. They can come in many different shapes and sizes depending on how deep they go into the ground and what the surrounding ground conditions are like.

Why do you need manholes?

Once a blockage or a break in the sewer pipe is confirmed through a CCTV inspection, maintenance teams need to get access to remedy the issue. Without the presence of manholes, any remediation would be complicated and expensive.

Where can you find manholes?

The spacing of the manholes depends on a couple of factors. If a sewer pipe is running in a straight line in an area where access is not an issue, then they are usually placed every 80-100 metres (260-330 feet) along a sewer pipe. This spacing is determined by the practical length of water jetting equipment to reach the full length of pipe, regardless of whether the water jetting was done from the upstream manhole, or the downstream manhole.

That being said, manholes can also be built at shorter or longer lengths. For example, if the pipe needs to have bends in it, the design engineer might want to install extra manholes to account for the risk of blockage at the change point in the flow of sewage.

Manholes can also be placed within the network at irregular locations when the pipe network runs under a highly urbanised area. Placing manholes in the middle of roads, or in the middle of someone’s property is not advisable.

There are serious safety issues with placing manholes too close to live roads and having a manhole under a concrete floor slab doesn’t really serve anyone either. For this reason, the configuration of the network and the spacing of manholes might vary to account for the above ground infrastructure.

Drain spotting

You can identify the presence of manholes by the manhole covers on roads, footpaths and even in parks. The manhole covers themselves can come in many different shapes and sizes also, although most are round. They are usually made of metal to withstand the weight of heavy vehicles.

There is a great #drainspotting hashtag that you can browse to see what others have contributed from all over the world. Perhaps on your travels, you might feel compelled to contribute some interesting manhole designs and locations and help educate others on the weird and wonderful world of our underground sewer networks.

sewer points
About the author
Image of drone camera for sewers

Types of CCTV Pipe Inspection Cameras

CCTV Pipe Inspection Cameras – An explanation of the different types of camera hardware

The inspection of sewer and stormwater networks is commonly completed using a camera that records video footage from the inside of underground pipes. The photos and videos collected during a pipe inspection can be used to assign a condition grade to pipes through the identification of structural and service defects. Councils, municipalities, and water authorities use these condition grades to prioritise pipe maintenance (e.g., clearing roots and debris) and repair (e.g., patches and lining). 

Access to pipes is usually obtained through maintenance holes or pits which can be located within roads, kerbs, public space, and private property.

A variety of different camera equipment is available to record video footage for defect analysis and scoring. Common camera types include:

Crawler Cameras

Crawler cameras are robust remotely controlled inspection robots that traverse through a pipe on wheels. They typically have a strong light source to illuminate the inside of the pipe and are connected via a cable to a vehicle on the surface that supplies power and transmits the video back to a vehicle computer for recording. The robot is controlled by an operator on the surface who directs the crawler’s progress through live vision fed back to their computer monitor. They can adjust for speed and direction, and often have the ability to pan, tilt and zoom the camera lens; leading to the term PTZ camera (they are also called tractor cameras in some regions). Crawler cameras are the most common type used for pipe network inspections throughout the world.

Fixed Zoom Cameras

Fixed zoom, or pole cameras, do not need to travel along the pipe to collect video footage. They consist of a fixed high-definition camera head attached to a pole that is lowered from the surface to the base of the pipe at surface entry locations. Using a combination of strong zoom, focus adjustment, and lighting; a video is recorded as the camera zooms in and the field of vision extends through the pipe from chainage zero to the end of pipe or bend. With a combination of optical (20-40x) and digital zoom (10-15x) they provide a fast and robust way to collect a condition overview of a network.

Image of pole camera for sewers

Push Rod Cameras

House connection branches or sewer laterals present unique challenges when collecting condition footage or diagnosing a problem. Their small diameter and frequent bends mean the larger camera hardware is unable to enter and travel through these smaller lines (typically < 150mm diameter). Push rod cameras are designed for tough and tight conditions. Appearing as a coiled cable on a real with a slim camera head, they can be inserted and controlled manually with imagery fed back to a control unit. The use of skids is sometimes employed to keep the camera head and vision steady and centred.

Pushrod camera for sewers

Inspection Rafts

For large pipes that cover long distances, an inspection raft may be the only choice to collect imagery from within a pipe. These are often used for outfall tunnels where they can be sent downstream and caught with a hook or net at location that could be many kilometres further down the pipe. They are usually designed to stay upright and balanced.

Image of push raft camera for sewers

Drone Cameras

With rapid advancement in UAV technology, the industry has seen an increase in the use of drones for pipe inspection over the last few years. Drones have some distinct advantages in certain situations, including; large pipes with high flow where a crawler may not be able to enter and raft would traverse along the pipe too quickly, and longer pipe inspections where equipment weight or cable length is prohibitive. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops and if it becomes a more mainstream option for pipe networks.

Image of drone camera for sewers

Manhole / Maintenance Hole Cameras

There are now a variety of dedicated cameras available for collecting photos, videos, and 3D scans of the vertical shaft that leads down to the benching and pipe channel. In the past this has been completed by visual surface or confined space entry inspection, using a regular camera, or with a crawler as it is lowered down to complete the main pipe inspection. Newer camera technology has been specifically designed to collect more detailed information with much higher resolution than ever before.

Manhole maintenance camera

Jetter Nozzle Cameras

Jetters can be used by operators to clear sediment, obstructions, fats, oils, grease, and roots from pipes. Some hydro jetters on the market include a nozzle camera that can be used to help guide the camera through the pipe, locate specific issues and even steer into lateral pipes. The camera is also able to collect video footage following its cleaning run through the pipe to collect information on the effectiveness of the clean and provide an indication of the condition of the cleaned pipe.

Image of Jetter nozzle camera for sewers

VAPAR.Solutions is designed to process and score video footage from a wide variety of camera systems, providing a single cloud-hosted location for all your inspection videos, images, reports and decisions.

About the Author Mark Lee
Image of a CCTV pipe inspection camera on a race track

Let’s race, CCTV pipe inspection cameras!

Let’s race, CCTV pipe inspection cameras!

And why not. As human beings, we desire to race everything else in our lives; cars, motorbikes, lorries, boats and even tractors! So why not race pipe inspection cameras? 

What’s the current speed limit?

Anyone working in this area will know that the specification for inspections of sewerage and drainage networks will limit the camera speed to 0.1 or 0.2 m/sec (0.33 or 0.66 ft/sec) depending on the pipe size. Some of you think even achieving something close to this speed can be challenging given the need to negotiate roots, intruding laterals, debris and Weird Things in Pipes ( #weirdthingsinpipes). Additionally, there’s lots of time spent travelling to an inspection site, finding the asset, setting up traffic management, entering the asset data on the title screen, etc. For that reason, pipe inspection productivity is nowhere near the 2,880 m (9449 ft) per day that could be achieved by a camera travelling down a pipe at 0.1 m/sec (0.33 ft/sec) pipe for 8 hours.

What does that data say about actual camera speeds?

We were keen to understand the average speed of a pipe inspection camera and the data captured in the VAPAR.Solutions platform provides the ability to do this. The platform holds a vast array of data that offers the opportunity to generate insights, including the ability to estimate the average time for a camera to travel through a pipe and complete an inspection. A random sample of surveys from the UK, Australian and New Zealand markets indicates the average speed is 0.13 metres per second (0.43 ft per second), with an 80-second mobilisation/demobilisation time for each survey. The analysis uses inspection footage durations and has removed the supersonic and snail-paced outliers.

Why increase camera speeds?

This analysis demonstrates that the markets generally comply with the specification, so why would you want to increase camera speeds? In addition, we have shown that the time inspecting the pipe accounts for only part of the working day, with time spent on other supporting activities. As with all outstanding racing achievements, not one change leads to success, but a combination of small-time savings creates a race-winning performance. This is generally known as Marginal Gains: small incremental improvements in any process, which, when added together, make a significant improvement (see https://jamesclear.com/marginal-gains). Remember, you only need to be 0.001 seconds ahead of second-place to be the winner, and the same goes for any commercial analysis of a tender.

How can we increase pipe inspection camera speeds? 

It is not about running the camera through the pipe as fast as possible. The purpose of the inspection needs to be maintained; identify defects or characteristics that will prevent the pipe from providing the required service levels. The current specification speeds allow the camera operator sufficient time to identify defects. However, the advent of VAPAR’s AI-assisted defect coding means you don’t have to rely on the camera operator to identify the defects. The AI technology can support the analysis of inspection footage captured at speeds higher than the current standards while providing high-quality output. Additionally, the move to off-site coding means the camera operator can focus on the quality and speed of the pipe inspection footage and is not distracted by the need to code the surveys simultaneously. For example, you don’t see a Hollywood film studio trying to produce the final film while on set!

So, who is up for a bit of pipe inspection camera racing?

About the Author description - Nathan Muggeridge BDM UK and EU - VAPAR

Read more about how VAPAR is increasing the efficiency and value of underground pipe inspections here.