Brian Dooks A VITAL barrier, which pumped non-stop for 10 days when York faced the worst flooding for 450 years in 2000, is to be upgraded so that its efficiency can be monitored electronically.
The Foss Barrier, which has eight 236 kilowatt pumps with a total capacity of 30 cubic metres per second, prevents the River Ouse from reaching low lying areas of the city.
Now the Environment Agency, which has to spend 6,000 each time it winches one of the pumps out of the water for a maintenance check, is looking at monitoring their efficiency on-line.
The pilot project, which the agency is to trial in the New Year, will mean that any faults can be identified early on before they become major problems.
Agency operations engineer Colin Porritt said: "If the project is successful,
the online health check
will be vital in helping to protect people from flooding in York.
"It means that we will be able to spot problems quicker and respond to them appropriately. Speed is vital during a flood and this technology could be yet another way of making the Foss Barrier even more reliable."
During the 2000 floods, the Barrier's eight pumps ran continuously for ten days and engineers worked round the clock to maintain them through the event.
"The pumps are under water in the Foss and it costs around 6,000 to winch one of them out for a maintenance check," said Mr Porritt.
"Sometimes the overhaul might not even be necessary, but this technology would overcome this."
The system costs 16,000 and could be used on other flood pumping stations across the country if the agency finds that on-line monitoring is successful.
Construction work on the Foss Barrier started in October 1986 and it was completed in November 1988. The agency took it over in February 1989 and it first operated a month later on March 24.
The barrier has been operated on 83 occasions in 16 years. The shortest time it was shut was in November 2005 for 21 hours. The longest time was in November 2000 for 18 days.
Its eight pumps can move 30,000 litres of water per second out of the River Foss.
In the autumn floods of 2000, all eight pumps were running 24 hours a day for 10 days. The cost of supplying all eight with electricity was estimated to be 20,000 a week.
In the new Year the agency will also be giving the Foss Barrier a fresh coat of paint and overhauling other parts of the system.