New York City officials see CSOnet demonstration

Utility officials from the nation’s largest city visited South Bend on Thursday, March 25, to witness the operation of CSOnet, the City of South Bend’s first-in-the-world system to use embedded wireless technology to monitor and control combined sewer overflows.

James J. Roberts, New York City deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Water & Sewer Operations (left) and Gary Gilot, director of the Department of Public Works for the City of South Bend

CSOnet is built with sewer optimization technology developed by EmNet LLC, a South Bend-based company, which has had conversations with officials about potential application of the technology in New York City.

Three top officials from New York City Department of Environmental Protection saw CSOnet in operation, heard firsthand reports about its development and implementation, and visited locations where monitoring data is transmitted from specially equipped manhole covers, and where smart valves are controlled by computers to maximize storage capacity in the City’s 500-mile sewer network.

The visiting officials with New York City Environmental Protection were:

• James J. Roberts, deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Water & Sewer Operations

• John G. Petito, assistant commissioner for operations, Bureau of Wastewater Treatment

• Christopher M. Hawkins, policy advisor for sustainability

James J. Roberts, New York City deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Water & Sewer Operations (right) and Luis Montestruque, president and primary research investigator of EmNet

Based on research conducted at the University of Notre Dame and Purdue University, the City of South Bend’s CSOnet was developed in conjunction with EmNet LLC. EmNet is a multidisciplinary engineering company specializing in real-time wireless technology solutions to help optimize various utility assets and infrastructure. The EmNet technology uses a network of embedded sensors, computerized manhole cover telemetry devices, innovative data-analysis tools, and complex optimization strategies and computer logic to create a “smart sewer system.” The CSOnet system in South Bend represents the most densely installed sewer sensor network in the world.

Work began in 2005 when South Bend became a real-world laboratory in a pilot study to demonstrate the economic feasibility of the concept. In 2008-09, the City and EmNet deployed 114 wireless sensors underneath manhole covers citywide. Through an embedded radio mesh network, these small computers enable crews to maintain monitoring points, with data from sensors transmitted by radio to a nearby gateway, which uploads the depth and flow of storm water and sewage in the 500-mile sewer network. The small computers enabled City crews to monitor 110 strategic points in the City sewer system in real time.

In the first full year of monitoring in 2009, CSOnet reduced South Bend’s dry-weather overflows of the sewer system by 66 percent. It allowed the City to achieve several objectives:

• Monitor 36 CSO outfalls, 42 locations throughout major trunk lines, five retention basins and 27 locations along the interceptor — the primary line that conveys outflow along the river to the wastewater treatment plant.

• Provide an early-warning and prevention system for dry-weather overflows to the combined sewer.

• Discover potential areas for inline storage in larger sewer lines.

• Find locations of possible bottlenecks in the interceptor and trunk lines.

• Determine the effective storage capacity of retention ponds.

With support from federal stimulus, crews installed nine “smart valves” with motorized controls and overflow reservoirs at key locations throughout South Bend in 2010.

“This enables us to use capacity in existing sewer pipes and retention basins to store excess water until rain stops,” said Mayor Stephen J. Luecke. “It maximizes the flow of wastewater to the interceptor sewer line leading to the wastewater treatment plant and minimizes combined sewer overflows into the St. Joseph River.”

Mayor Stephen J. Luecke (right) and James Roberts, New York City deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Water & Sewer Operations

Over the long term, CSOnet is expected to have a significant impact. A study, conducted by environmental engineering firms Greeley and Hansen and Malcolm Pirnie, determined a citywide installation would reduce CSOs by up to 24 percent, said Luis Montestruque, president and primary research investigator of EmNet.

That’s not all.

“For a $6-million investment, we’ll save about $120 million by using existing assets to achieve the same level of benefit as conventional solutions,” said Gary Gilot, director of the Department of Public Works for the City of South Bend. “This will give us real-time control to maximize the storage capacity of our conveyance system. It gives us a new tool to prevent basement backups.”

For more information about EmNet, visit

Publication Date: 
April 2011
Article Type: 
Innovation in Government