Helium to detect leaks in pipelines

In an attempt to detect leakages in pipelines across the city,the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is turning to a little basic chemistry.

Written by Sharvari Patwa | Mumbai | Published: March 30, 2012 12:41 am

In an attempt to detect leakages in pipelines across the city,the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is turning to a little basic chemistry. The civic body will be injecting helium,an inert and colourless gas,into the source of the pipeline based on its capacity and size as well as the area that needs to be covered,officials said.

Helium is present in small amounts in the atmosphere. Minute holes will be dug on the road above the pipelines at a distance of five to 10 metres. Officials will check the presence of helium at these spots. If the concentration of helium is higher than found in the atmosphere,one can deduce that there is possible leak.

This project will be executed by a French company,which had earlier carried out a pilot project at Malabar Hill and Mulund for the BMC. The company had identified 12 points of possible leakage,of which 10 were repaired.

Additional municipal commissioner Rajiv Jalota said,“As the pilot project was successful,we are now planning to implement the project in five other zones. It will be implemented in the rest of the city later. The financial details have to be worked out,for which tenders will be floated.”

“Although the BMC has a large water distribution network,the leakages need to be plugged,” he added.

While the civic administration has tried out both old and new methods to detect leakages,none of them has been successful,officials said. The city receives almost 3,400 million litres of water every day,of which 700 million litres is either lost due to leakages along the 400-km ageing pipeline network or by way of illegal connections.

The BMC had formed ‘leak detection squads’ comprising engineers and labourers in 1972. However,due to staff shortage,it had dissolved the squad in 2002. This cell also handled situations where leaks were caused due to slum encroachments along pipelines. This project,officials say,was proposed 20 years ago in the BMC. The project,however,did not take off as helium would turn the water yellow,said officials.

National Environmental Engineering Research Institute’s Mumbai head Rakesh Kumar said,“The technology to use helium to detect water leakages is new,but as the gas is inert,it is harmless and is unlikely to cause contamination or bad odour.”

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