Lead pipe detection innovators awarded grants

Three companies that are innovating methods to non-invasively detect lead service lines were awarded grants totaling $75,000 in September from the Cleveland Water Alliance (CWA) as part of the organization’s 2023 Open Innovation Challenge.

The CWA’s Open Innovation Challenge, essentially a Request for Technology Concepts (RFTC), called for technologies and innovative concepts around a significant industry challenge: the physical detection of the material(s) comprising drinking water utility service lines without having to dig down to the service-line pipes for identification.

The Open Innovation Challenge was presented in association with local partners Cleveland Water, the City of Sandusky, Ohio, the City of Akron, Greater Cincinnati Water Works and Aqua America, an Essential Utilities company that operates in Ohio.

“At CWA, we’re leading the charge in this endeavor. Our objective is to pinpoint a technology capable of detecting service line materials, such as lead, copper, and galvanized steel, with an accuracy rate exceeding 90%, all while avoiding excavation,” the CWA said in a blog post about the innovation challenge. The challenge also called for a technology that does not breach the pipe, does not require entering a building or home to complete, and that does not employ artificial intelligence (AI)-based approaches dependent on historical records.

Utility Technologies, LLC, came in third place and was awarded $10,000. In second place was Solinas Technologies, which was awarded $25,000. In first place was Global Quality Corp., which was awarded a $40,000 grant.

Utility Technologies, LLC, was recognized for a product in development that can detect lead pipe without excavation and with access only through a curb box while easily transportable. Solinas Technologies utilizes pipe excitation with sensors and acoustic analysis to identify service line materials. Finally, Global Quality Corp.’s solution uses a combination electromagnetics, acoustics and AI methods to improve the accuracy of service line material identification.

Established in 2014, Cleveland Water Alliance helps develop robust testbed infrastructure to advance market-driven innovation and sustainable solutions for water-related challenges. The organization has helped secure more than $500,000 of investment in early-stage water tech innovation.

Driving the immense need for accurate service line detection is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) directive for water utilities nationwide to complete a materials inventory of their water service lines by October 2024 as part of the Revised Lead and Copper Rule requirements.

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