July 2009, Vol. 21, No.7

From the Editors

Operations Forum Editor’s Note

Clearing the Way for Summer Fun

In the middle of a hot summer day, nothing is quite as refreshing as standing under the spray from a fire hydrant. The cool water gives some respite from the heat and brings out the whole neighborhood. (Please don’t illegally open hydrants. Contact your local fire department to find out if they provide spray caps — as New York City does — that give the same effect without jeopardizing public safety.)

On the other hand, on that same hot day, there probably is nothing worse than a wastewater overflow. Chances are the whole neighborhood would still come out to check things out, but they’re more likely to be running away than enjoying themselves.

Preventing overflows — collection system blockages, sanitary and combined sewer overflows, and plant upsets — is essential to protecting public health and the environment. This issue of Operations Forum looks at several different aspects of overflow prevention.

First, the Extra article examines a close call that could have led to wastewater running through the streets. Luckily, operators reacted quickly and prevented a major overflow. You’ll be surprised to find out how a little piece of rubber almost caused the Great Valentine’s Day Flood of 2009.

Next, “Big Prevention in a Small Footprint ” explains how a Wisconsin utility managed to build a 650,000-gal (2460-m3) storage tank right in the middle of an existing neighborhood to store excess sanitary sewer flows. The trick was protecting the foundations of nearby homes and business while digging down 43 ft (13 m) on a site with a working area of only 7 ft (2 m).

Finally, in “A European Approach to Grit Removal” you’ll read how a Chicago utility set out to build the best grit removal system possible. Headworks grit removal may seem somewhat removed from overflow prevention, but, to keep things running smoothly, a grit system needs to be equipped to handle the heavier loads wet weather sends down the line.

Preventing overflows requires a lot of time and effort, but it pays off when it keeps summer days carefree.

Steve Spicer, editor
sspicer@wef.org