Flat-packed and modular, a new design of telemetry cabinet could pave the way to slashed costs, as well as provide greater installation flexibility for water companies and contractors.

A simple, two-man, one-day operation, this new style of cabinet can be positioned wherever it is required, rather than be dictated to by the often limited access that the lorry and its lifting equipment would be restricted to when delivering and installing a traditional unit.

Made to house electrical and sensitive communication cables, the so-called Telemetry Cabinet can also be used to securely store pressure-relief valves, or (in larger sizes), be used for the increasingly vital security role of chlorine storage.

“As there is no need for a vehicle with a loading crane, there is an immediate cost saving and a lot less hassle,” says the new cabinet’s designer, David Clements, managing director of security specialist Strataform.

As with any installation, time is a major factor, and it is here that Kidderminster-based Strataform believes its new flat-pack cabinet will appeal to contractors, water companies – and the whole utilities sector and the rail industry.

“We have reduced installation to a single day,” says Clements. “This compares very favourably with the current practice of engineers having to return to a site up to a week later, while waiting for concrete to set – often leaving a service road or part of the treatment works access closed in the meantime.”

Where mains supply is difficult, this new type of cabinet is also available with solar panels for lower-cost and environmentally sound self-powering; an option already taken up by one leading water company.

Clements agrees that within a secure water and waste treatment works, telemetry cabinets are less vulnerable than those used on public streets by telecoms companies.

Nonetheless, options are available to the increasingly security-conscious water companies, especially those with remote sites, for cabinets that can withstand fire, as well as physical, ballistic and bomb attacks. Disruption to services, and the threat of water supply being interrupted, cut off or contaminated remains very real.

Homeland security

After 9/11 the US Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies lobbied congress for £2.87Bn (US $5Bn) to improve water safety and security, and in November 2002, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), among the world’s largest drinking water organisations, commended the US Government for enacting the 2002 Homeland Security Act.

Part of this act considers the protection of the nation’s vital infrastructure, and directly benefits the water utilities by increasing federal focus and co-ordinating security strategies.

President Bush had already signed the Public Health Security and Bio-terrorism Act of 2001 requiring drinking water systems to conduct and submit vulnerability assessments to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In the UK, the Government’s foremost aim continues to be the prevention of terrorism, and as a result, Britain has some of the world’s very best counter-terrorism expertise. In disaster management, one contingency plan is to liaise with international partners and learn from their experiences of the same type of event.

It is often underlined by Government and water utility experts that a huge amount of pollutant would be needed in order to poison a large body of water such as a reservoir. More research is required to ascertain how agents such as anthrax, smallpox or botulism behave in water to know just how virulent they are and under what conditions.

Water treatment plants traditionally use chlorine because of its ability to kill bacteria, and it is often claimed that chlorine treatments can neutralise anthrax. But how much chlorine is required? And until 9/11 caused such a dramatic review of security, was it true to say that chlorine storage at water treatment plants was at best, ‘adequate’.

Robust security protection cabinets, such as Strataform’s new Telemetry Cabinet could certainly provide contractors with a much less daunting price tag. Images of MFI and IKEA might spring to mind when mentioning flat-pack but, tested to very rigorous security standards, this innovative cabinet could prove very cost-effective and flexible for the water industry.

Access to large, reinforced concrete storage tanks and underground chambers is controlled largely by high-security steel hatches and alarm-monitored fitted with sensors. Access covers are designed with special features, such as secondary internal covers with drainage channels or moats to prevent holes being drilled through the hatch and contaminants poured directly into the water. The channels drain any introduced fluids safely away from the water supply.


According to Strataform, many of those who specify access covers are actually over-investing, as David Clements explains: “When manual handling regulations were introduced to protect against arduous and dangerous lifting of heavy loads such as access covers, it was perhaps only fair for water companies to assume that they should specify all covers as assisted easy-to-lift hinged, rather than the traditional drop-in.

“However, with sets of multi-lid covers – often four, six or more all grouped together – and where lifting equipment is required to remove pumps or valves, the additional cost of making each one hinged is complete overkill.”

He adds: “It’s surprising to discover that in an industry where costs are usually scrutinised so closely that covers have been purchased in such large volumes with mechanisms such as special hinges, which were not totally necessary. Multiplying the many sets of four, six or eight covers can soon add up to an unnecessary hefty expense.”

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