City West Water is employing a giant robot, which uses onboard pumps, to clean the Balance Tank (otherwise known as the ‘sewage pool’) at its Altona Treatment Plant (ATP).

Close to 13 million litres of sewage is treated every day at the ATP via series of holding and treatment tanks. The largest – ‘The Balance Tank’ – holds treated wastewater before its final stage of treatment. 

The Balance Tank must be cleaned annually, and this process is both complicated and risky – the tank must be completely emptied, a large forklift then craned in, before a trained technician conducts the clean over a four-hour period. 

Many safety controls are used to keep staff safe during this high-risk clean, however there was a near miss incident in 2019, prompting City West Water’s Maintenance Services and Control System team to find a safer way of working. 

After reviewing many options, City West Water sourced a Western Australian-based company to conduct the clean using a motorised robot which was craned into the tank. 

Using onboard pumps, video imaging equipment and sonar technology the robot was able to conduct a full clean of the tank floor without the need for anyone to enter the tank or water to be emptied from it. 

In a Victorian first, the robot successfully cleaned the Balance Tank with no interruption to City West Water’s customers’ sewerage services or the plant’s treatment operations. 

Andrew Volk, Service Delivery Manager, said that the robotic tank clean is a great example of City West Water’s safety goals in action. 

“We aspire to zero harm so everyone goes home safe each day. We actively look for ways to create a safer work environment for everyone – each other, our customers and the community – and work collaboratively with our partners to assess and manage risks,” Mr Volk said.

“We looked at a number of options to improve the safety risk associated with the clean and this was by far the safest option we came across. 

“This will now become the standard for our major tank cleans moving forward, delivering safer services right across our service area.”

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