1 January 1988 Remote Infrared Thermal Sensing of Sewer Voids, Four-Year Update
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When a sewer caves in, it often takes the street, sidewalks, and surrounding buildings along for the ride. These collapses endanger public health and safety. Repairing a sewer before such a cave-in is obviously the preferred method. Emergency repairs cost far more than prevention measures - often millions of dollars more. Many combined sewers in the St. Louis area, as in many of America's cities, are more than 125 years old and are subject to structural failure. In 1981 alone, St. Louis had 4,000 sewer collapses and an astronomical repair bill. These and similar problems have been described as "a crisis of national proportions. The question addressed by this paper is how to detect unseen problem areas in sewer systems before they give way. At the present, progressive sewer administrations may use crawl crews to inspect sewers when problems are suspected. This can be extremely costly and dangerous, and a void around the outside of the sewer is often invisible from within. Thus, even a crawl crew can fail to detect most voids. Infrared Thermography has been found by sewer districts and independent evaluation engineering firms to be an extremely accurate method of finding sewer voids, before they can cause expensive and dangerous problems. This technique uses a non-contact, remote sensing method, with the potential for surveying large areas quickly and efficiently. This paper reviews our initial paper presented to The International Society for Optical Engineering in October of 1983 and presents an update of our experience, both successes and failures, in several large-scale void detection projects. Infrared Thermographic techniques of non-destructive testing will have major implications for cities and for the engineering profession because it promises to make the crisis of infrastructure repair and rehabilitation more manageable. Intelligent, systematic use of this relatively low cost void detection method, Infrared Thermography, may revolutionize the way sewer problems are handled in the future.
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Gary J. Weil, "Remote Infrared Thermal Sensing of Sewer Voids, Four-Year Update", Proc. SPIE 0934, Thermosense X: Thermal Infrared Sensing for Diagnostics and Control, (1 January 1988); doi: 10.1117/12.968499; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.968499

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