September 2008, Vol. 20, No.9
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The Challenge of Limited Resources
Design on a Dime
Building on Basics
Commode Commandos Looking To Flush The Competition Again
WEFTEC.08 featured session examines water scarcity, distributed water management
The limit on available fresh, clean drinking water has made headlines worldwide. This year, water scarcity is brought to light in Featured Session 38 at WEFTEC®.08.
“Over the past couple of years, water scarcity issues and water budgeting have become ever more important,” said Juli Beth Hinds, session moderator and senior project manager at VHB Pioneer (Carlsbad, Calif.). She explained that water quality professionals have been looking into the role of decentralizing water and wastewater systems as one “tool” to fix the problem.
The featured session, “Water Scarcity and the Potential Role of Distributed Wastewater Management,” will focus on the efforts of large engineering firms, local companies, and government organizations to place water treatment systems closer to the point of generation.
“This [session] is really important for anyone dealing with facilities planning, especially for regions and areas that are finding themselves short of water,” Hinds said.
Hinds described decentralization as smaller-scale, soil-based systems that discharge water closer to the source of rainfall, rather than the typical “water in–wastewater out” model. “We’re trying to put forward an idea of decentralized systems as anything from a very large-scale groundwater recharge reclamation facility to an individual onsite septic system,” she said.
Assistant session moderator Todd Danielson, manager of community systems for Loudoun Water (Ashburn, Va.), explained that with climate change, weather patterns will become more severe, with longer droughts and more floods. With migrating populations, it will become harder to supply a sufficient amount of fresh water, he added.
“It’s a push for total water management, water, wastewater, stormwater, [and] reclaimed water,” Danielson said. He explained that centralized systems may not be the preferred option when considering the “triple bottom line” of economic, environmental, and social costs that include operations, maintenance, debt, ability to upgrade, and costs deferred in other systems.
According to Danielson, smaller, more localized systems can have many benefits, including quick implementation, the ability to construct systems outside of major metropolitan areas, the ability to provide a new water source, less land disturbance, less chance of lowering groundwater levels, and the ability to recharge groundwater and keep water within the watershed.
“The proper solution might be a centralized facility, but it’s [also] appropriately looking at what your options are and making the best decisions,” Danielson said. “It’s actively putting thought into [the question], ‘Where does this water go?’”
Paul Brown, a speaker at the session and president of the Public Services group of CDM (Cambridge, Mass.), will discuss the large engineering firm’s perspective on distributed water management and water scarcity. He explained that clients have changed their approach to water management, which has encouraged firms to incorporate more distributed water systems into planning and designs.
In water-scarce regions, particularly those with growing urban populations, there are environmental and energy concerns associated with transporting water long distances. Brown questioned where to “close the loop” on water use, whether it be at the household or neighborhood, or on a larger scale.
“Technology breakthroughs in water treatment and the use of membranes allow us tremendous flexibility in the management of water quality — making virtually every available water source, including wastewater, brackish groundwater, and seawater, a potential new water supply,” Brown said.
In the future, Brown expects to see a much more holistic approach in water management, which requires breaking down the barriers among the functions of water, wastewater, and stormwater management. Because this approach implies more prevalent water reuse, it would be desirable to treat and reuse wastewater as near as is practical to the locations where it is generated and needed. “The technology is there to do it,” Brown said. “It seems inevitable that increasingly distributed systems will be the result,” he noted.
The session also will cover a regional water supply plan in Illinois. In 2006, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) issued an executive order to create a long-term comprehensive program for state and regional water supply planning and management. Two water quantity planning areas were designated as pilot studies for this plan, including northeastern Illinois and the Mahomet Aquifer in east-central Illinois.
The water supply plan being created for the 11-county planning area of northeastern Illinois, called GO TO 2040, is scheduled to be completed in 2010 to guide development and infrastructure investments through 2040 and beyond. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is developing this plan and was formed to remove barriers to cooperation across geographical boundaries and across subject areas.
Timothy Loftus, a speaker at the session and a CMAP water resource planner, will discuss this regional planning process. He explained that CMAP hopes to explore a variety of water-efficient management strategies, such as conjunctive water management and new supplies or innovative ways of creating new supplies.
A recent report published by Southern Illinois University (Carbondale), Regional Water Demand Scenarios for Northeastern Illinois: 2005–2050, Project Completion Report, describes the results of research conducted to determine the future water demands of northeastern Illinois. Researchers found that demand for water could increase by either 35.8% under current water-use projections or 64.1% under more-intensive-use projections by midcentury. But when strong conservation measures were incorporated into the analysis, demand was forecast to increase by only 7.2%.
“No matter where you are in the 21st century,” Loftus said, “we’ve got to become more efficient and conservative with the use of water.”
Edward Clerico, a session speaker and president of Alliance Environmental (Hillsborough, N.J.), has been working on decentralized systems for 25 years. He explained that the first constructed local systems for commercial use gained momentum 15 years ago.
Residential installations started in New York City with the Solaire building, which opened in 2003. This 293-unit, residential high-rise building located in the Battery Park City section of Manhattan is a U.S. Green Building Council (Washington, D.C.) LEED® Gold Certified building that houses 770 individuals and incorporates numerous “green” technologies. These include onsite wastewater treatment, water reuse, rainwater collection and use, and water conservation.
According to Clerico, on average, these residential installations have been shown to reduce water consumption by 50% and wastewater discharge by 60%. Other benefits seen from these residential water treatment systems include reduced combined-sewer overflows, reduced nutrient and chemical loads to waterbodies, consistent performance independent of geographical location or season, opportunity for improved energy efficiency, and cost-effective asset management.
— Jennifer Fulcher, WE&T
Other Featured Sessions
Session 16, Fees, Finance, and the Future: Water Is Life and Infrastructure Makes It Happen™ Pays Off
Session 60, Design Criteria, Modeling, and Experience Gained in Large Wastewater Treatment Plants in Latin America
Session 68, Lab Practices Detection and Quantitation: New Methods and Perspectives of U.S. EPA’s Federal Advisory Committee
Session 77, Clean Water Policy 2008
Session 79, Enterprise Asset Management and GIS Applications II
Session 85, Microconstituents in the Aqueous Environment: What Do We Know and What Does It Mean?
Session 95, Protecting Our Nation’s Most Critical Asset: U.S. EPA’s Collaborative Approach to Water/Wastewater Resiliency and Security
Session 96, Global Sanitation: Current Situation and Innovations for the Future
Session 105, Safety and Security Priority Challenges at Wastewater Treatment Facilities
Session 112, Addressing Water Quality Standards in Long-Term Control Plans, or How To Stop Worrying and Love the UAA Process
Constructed wetlands offer low-cost nutrient removal option
Attendees at WEFTEC®.08’s constructed wetlands workshop will get a closer look at an up-and-coming environmental technology that turns farmlands into wetlands and could lighten wastewater treatment plants’ loads while saving money.
Through a concept known as “nutrient farming,” industrial dischargers and wastewater treatment plants could purchase clean water credits from the owners of wetlands, thereby offsetting their nutrient discharges. These constructed wetlands could aid in the removal of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, helping plants meet nutrient restrictions.
Donald Hey, co-founder of the Chicago-based Wetlands Initiative and a workshop speaker, said that while the Wetlands Initiative moves forward with various pilot projects, certain economic and design considerations about nutrient farming have arisen.
According to Hey, the scale of a nutrient farm is an important consideration. So is its retention time.
“The shorter the retention time, the more you can process,” Hey said. “If you can load in a pretty high amount of nitrogen and phosphorus and you can minimize the area it sits in, you can reduce capital costs.”
Water temperature, which cannot be controlled easily at all times, is also important to maintain a proper balance of microbes, Hey said. “But if you are downstream from a power plant, you might take their waste heat and run that through the nutrient farm … and keep water temperature optimal in each pond or treatment area,” he explained. “In winter in the northern clime, [heat] would keep microbes happier and more productive.”
Designers of nutrient farms also must take into account the farms’ potential inhabitants, such as fish. Hey said if a nutrient farm is to be constructed in the floodplain of the Illinois River, for example, a berm might be built. But if carp from the river were to get into that wetland, they “can tear up the berm’s vegetation,” Hey said. “We’re going to have to design nutrient farms so [that] we can control the infiltration and effects of carp.”
Benefits to Wastewater Treatment Plants
Dick Lanyon, general superintendent of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and co-chair of the workshop, said wastewater treatment plants might look to nutrient farming instead of purchasing more equipment if they have “very tight space and can’t fit additional facilities onsite.”
Lanyon also said he is interested in hearing more at the workshop about how a clean water credit-trading program might be set up.
“We don’t have a working model yet of a trading program, but that would be another area one would want to learn more about,” Lanyon said. “There’s no program setup where they’re using wetlands versus point sources. Other types of trades going on include point [source] to point [source] and nonpoint [source to] nonpoint [source].”
Dollars and Sense
Hey said the proximity of nutrient farms to the wastewater treatment plant will be a factor in both design and cost. In a market study conducted with the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Wetlands Initiative considered requiring a plant first to buy credits from a wetland within its immediate watershed. Why? Hey said that “without restrictions, most land might be bought at the southern part of [the Illinois River] watershed where land is cheaper [and] there’s more load and cheaper labor.”
Hey explained that in doing that, poor water conditions in the interim — between plants farther north and watersheds farther south toward Louisiana — would fail to be remedied.
“So we looked at that condition and [decided] if you go one watershed downstream, you have to buy 10% more credits,” Hey said. “[Go] two watersheds down, then [you must buy] 20% more credits. We calculated the cost of forcing them upstream.”
Lanyon said the bottom line is the overall cost savings for wastewater treatment plants.
“The payoff is the reduction in costs,” Lanyon said. “We think wetlands can remove nutrients at half the cost of technology, such as pumps and blowers, and also [achieve] considerable reductions in greenhouse gases.”
Workshop 215, WEF/WERF: Constructed Wetlands for Nutrient Control and Wastewater Treatment, will be held Oct. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
— Meghan H. Oliver, WE&T
WEFTEC workshops, technical sessions provide basis for advancement
For the last 80 years, WEFTEC® has been regarded as the place to find the latest developments in wastewater design, technology, and operation. To achieve this measure of success and quality requires more than just finding the most cutting-edge research and presentations; it requires an underpinning of fundamental water quality information.
This year is no different, as the WEFTEC technical program balances the “latest and greatest” with the “tried and true.” Nowhere is that balance more evident than in the offerings on facility operations and wastewater treatment, which comprise 21 workshops and 53 technical sessions.
Cornerstone topics include a wastewater laboratory microbiology review, fundamentals of phosphorus removal and maintenance practices, and more. For example, Workshop 204, Pumping 101: Basic to Advanced Wastewater Pump Station Design and Operation, will focus on proven design, as well as operational and maintenance techniques for successful installations.
Pumping 101 was developed with the idea of getting back to the basics, according to Joseph Popeck, workshop chairman and a principal at Greeley and Hansen (Chicago), an environmental engineering firm.
“So much of the workshops and technical sessions at WEFTEC deal with cutting-edge or leading-edge technologies that sometimes practitioners forget about some of the basics,” Popeck said. “You really have to attend to the basic hydraulic design, the basic pumping station design, and getting back and reminding everyone that even with all of these new technologies and ‘super bugs’ and MBRs [membrane bioreactors], there’s still a lot of basic equipment in a treatment plant that requires the same level of attention.”
Pumping 101 is geared toward anyone who needs to understand the inner workings of pump station design. Popeck said that utility managers and city engineering staff will benefit by learning what has to be incorporated into a pumping station and why. With this knowledge, they will have a good understanding of what they should expect to receive in a quality design project from their consulting firms.
“The purpose of this workshop is to give the attendees an understanding of some of the problems that can occur if the designer doesn’t properly consider all of the hydraulic aspects of a pumping station, including the total static head, the friction losses in the pipelines, and so on,” Popeck said. The workshop also will cover some subtle elements of wet-well design that affect the ability of a pump to operate successfully for a long period, he added.
Workshops 107 and 208, Wastewater Treatment Microbiology, also seek to introduce newcomers to a fundamental topic, according to Ron Schuyler, workshop chair. Schuyler is a senior project manager at Tetra Tech RTW (Denver). This is the 22nd year that the microbiology workshop has been held at WEFTEC, and it usually sells out.
“It’s a fun subject, and it’s the basis of all biological wastewater treatment, and people always seem to want to know a little bit about it,” Schuyler said.
The workshop provides a basis to understand the biological processes that are covered during other workshops and technical sessions, Schuyler explained.
“We’re not trying to make microbiologists,” Schuyler said. “We’re just trying to introduce people to a fun subject so that they can learn a little bit about it and not be afraid of it.”
This year, the up-to-the-minute offerings cover a wide range of topics, including microconstituents, green power, new requirements for headworks and primary treatment systems, and more. For example, Session 46, Microconstituents: What Is New and What Is Needed? includes presentations on tracking microconstituents through the water system and others that examine the biodegradation of particular compounds, according to Joseph Cleary, the session moderator. Cleary is a principal at Hydroqual (Mahwah, N.J.), an environmental consulting and engineering firm.
Research has shown that microconstituents in waterbodies can lead to the “feminization” of male fish — that is, fish can become female and lay eggs — Cleary said. This has prompted the question in the minds of the industry, as well as the public, of whether these low-level compounds in drinking water affect humans, and, if so, how?
Even though most of the evidence available indicates that microconstituents are not a health risk to humans, “we’re always trying to better the understanding of microconstituents,” Cleary said. “The challenge is learning more about this issue and communicating those results to the public.”
Another of-the-moment topic is the cost of energy. Just as individuals are looking to curtail rising energy costs, so is the wastewater industry. Session 61, Green Power: Renewable Energy Options for Water and Wastewater Utilities, addresses this growing trend.
Investigating these new opportunities, “just makes a lot of financial sense,” said Tim Schmitt, the session’s moderator and a senior environmental scientist at Limnotech (Ann Arbor, Mich.), a water sciences and environmental engineering firm. “With energy costs the way they are and the opportunities right within a wastewater treatment plant, I think it makes sense for wastewater treatment plants to look at the resources they already have right there.”
Schmitt noted that becoming more efficient and capturing green energy could be an alternative to raising rates to keep up with energy costs. “Instead of increasing rates and spending the money on the energy you’re using, I think there’s a lot of push to become more efficient,” he said.
Higher efficiency, more stringent treatment, and process optimization are all hallmarks of advanced treatment processes, such as membrane bioreactors and integrated fixed-film activated sludge systems, said Sarah Hubbell, director of technology at Entex Technologies (Chapel Hill, N.C.). But as the use of these technologies develops, the importance of upstream processes is becoming more apparent, she said.
To that end, Hubbell is moderating Session 24, Don’t Forget the Head of the Plant: Preliminary and Primary Treatment. Each of the three presentations that make up this half-session will touch on a different wastewater treatment step. The session will present cutting-edge information about headworks screening, grit removal, and primary settling.
With advanced technologies in place, “the upstream part becomes critical as well … to make sure that they don’t cause problems for the biological steps,” Hubbell said.
And Much More
These workshops and sessions are just a sampling of what’s available in just one focus area at WEFTEC this year. With 31 workshops and 115 technical sessions, the technical program has something for the newcomer seeking a basis in the fundamentals, the seasoned pro in search of the most up-to-date research, and everyone in between.
— Steve Spicer, WE&T
Team HRSD and the CReWSers will challenge last year’s winner
The wastewater treatment industry’s premier operations and maintenance competition, Operations Challenge, will take center stage Oct. 20 and 21 at WEFTEC®.08 in Chicago. This year’s competition, the 21st, is the largest yet, with 43 teams representing 26 member associations.
This year’s Operations Challenge has a change in the schedule. In past years, the Godwin maintenance event, the collections systems event, the laboratory event, and the safety event were held on the same day. This year, the laboratory event will be held Oct. 20, along with the process control event, and the other three events will be held Oct. 21. An awards ceremony will be held at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers from 6 to 7:30 p.m. following the competition.
In addition to providing its participants the opportunity to compete, Operations Challenge also gives competitors the chance to improve their abilities as operators. Wesley Warren, a member of Team HRSD (Hampton Roads [Va.] Sanitation District), said that Operations Challenge has helped him gain knowledge in equipment and processes, as well as improve his leadership skills.
“The leadership role I’ve had to play has helped me out in my career,” Warren said.
Stacey Walker, team captain of the 2007 Operations Challenge Champion Commode Commandos, said the competition has helped her career by providing a glimpse into what goes into operating a treatment plant.
“You get a better appreciation of what everybody does and contributes toward making the whole plant work,” Walker said.
The Defending Champions
At the 20th annual Operations Challenge in San Diego, the Commode Commandos from the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association (WEA) clinched the Division I win without placing in any individual event. This year, the defending champions, who work at the Littleton–Englewood (Colo.) Wastewater Treatment Plant, return intact. The team includes Walker, Chong Woo, Caleb Vannice, and Brian Pritekel, with Leonard Robb serving as the team’s coach.
The team began practicing in early August with the same lofty goal as last year, to win the competition.
“We’re not the overall fastest, but if we can do a clean run relatively quickly and get few penalty points, that seemed to work pretty well last year,” Walker said.
While practicing, the Commandos will put extra focus on the process control event. Walker said that while the team did a passable job in the event at the 2007 Operations Challenge, they want to excel in the event at this year’s competition.
If the Commandos do not win the 2008 Operations Challenge, they still expect to do well.
“We strive to get within the top five overall each year,” Walker said. “We figure that’s pretty darn good, because the competition is pretty tough.”
Walker said that the biggest obstacle to her team’s repeat chances is the pressure they put on themselves. However, she offers a simple reason to explain why the team excels in Operations Challenge. “We work well together,” she said.
Challengers to the Championship
The TRA (Trinity River Authority) CReWSers, from the Texas WEA, won Operations Challenge at WEFTEC.05 in Washington, D.C., and WEFTEC.06 in Dallas. This year, the team is looking to get back into the winners’ circle after finishing third at the 2007 challenge.
“It was the greatest feeling ever to win something twice after having tried for so many years and falling short,” said Dale Burrow, CreWSers team captain. “We feel like we beat ourselves last year, and we know what this team is capable of if we make clean runs.”
The CReWSers began practice for the 2008 Operations Challenge in July. The team is focusing on the process control event in training, and, if everything goes as planned, the CReWSers will be near the top of the standings, according to Burrow.
“If we can keep mistakes to a minimum, I think we will be in the hunt,” Burrow said.
The 2006 and 2007 Operations Challenge runner-up, Team HRSD, will be looking to take the next step and win the title this year in Chicago. The team started training for this year’s competition in August and is focusing on two events in particular: the process control event and the Godwin maintenance event.
“Process has hurt us the last couple of years,” Warren said. “We didn’t do as well as we would have liked to, so we need to focus a little more on that this year.” He also said that mental mistakes have hurt the team in the Godwin maintenance event.
“The little mental mistakes cost you enough to keep you from winning, so we need to be where we know the routine inside and out,” Warren said.
As for his team’s prospects this year, Warren said the team expects to at least finish in the top three, as they have done for the last 7 years.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good shot,” Warren said.
Force Maine from the New England WEA won the Division II title at the 2007 Operations Challenge. The team — Brian Cataldo, Mary Anne Peck, Travis Peaslee, and Dan LaFlamme — returns intact and will be looking to repeat its victory in Chicago.
In 2007, Brown Tide, from the New York WEA, finished in second place, and the Fort Worth Regulators from the Texas WEA finished third. This year, Wasted Gas from the Utah WEA and the Influents from the South Carolina WEA, are expected to challenge Force Main for the Division II championship.
— Michael Bonsiewich, WE&T
Operations Challenge 2008 Teams*
2008 Operations Challenge Events List
Process Control Event. Teams must answer a number of multiple-choice questions, some short math questions with multiple-choice answers, and as many as four operational-type scenarios with four to six questions each that may require considerable calculations. The event is timed, with a maximum of 25 minutes allowed for completion. If a team completes the test before the end of the event, its actual time is recorded. The event should be viewed as an opportunity for team members to demonstrate their collective knowledge of wastewater treatment and skill in plant process control. This year’s event includes extended multiple-choice questions and fewer regular multiple-choice questions, partial credit for work shown in operational scenarios, and decreased penalties for wrong answers. The only difference between the Division I and Division II events is the number of operational scenarios.
Godwin Maintenance Event. This event will test the teams’ ability to respond to a pumping station outage through the routine maintenance and operation of an emergency backup pump. Teams will prepare a Godwin Pumps of America (Bridgeport, N.J.) Dri-Prime model CD100M, diesel-driven, solids-handling, trailer-mounted pumpset for service at a disabled lift station. Tasks include removing, installing, and rebuilding various parts. Procedures are outlined in an operations and maintenance worksheet.
Collections Systems Event. Teams will remove a section of in-service 200-mm (8-in.) gravity polyvinyl chloride pipe, fabricate a replacement section with a 100-mm (4-in.) service saddle, and install the replacement section with flexible repair couplings. Teams also must install a Sigma 900 Max sampler, manufactured by Hach Co. (Loveland, Colo.). After completion, judges will evaluate the repair’s water-tightness.
Safety Event. Teams will respond to an unconscious colleague in a manhole. After testing the atmosphere and ventilating the confined space, they will assemble fall-protection equipment and descend from a Fibergrate Composite Structures (Dallas) training platform to retrieve the victim. During the rescue, teams also must assemble DBI/SALA fall-protection equipment manufactured by Capital Safety (Red Wing, Minn.).
Laboratory Event. Teams must perform all steps of a biochemical oxygen demand analysis using Orion 3-Star Plus benchtop dissolved-oxygen meters and portable pH meters manufactured by Thermo Fisher Scientific (Waltham, Mass.). Teams must follow all method requirements as outlined in Method 5210B of the 18th edition of Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater (with the exception of using transfer pipettes instead of wide-bore volumetrics for planting seed correction series and samples).
The Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) Operations Challenge Committee and participating Member Associations welcome the following teams to the 21st annual Operations Challenge in Chicago.
AIDIS Argentina Todo Terreno
LRWU Connection (Arkansas WEA)
Canadian Cross Connection (British Columbia Water and Waste Association)
L.A. Wrecking Crew (California WEA)
North Bay Ryders (California WEA)
SRCSD Interceptors (California WEA)
Pumpers (Central States WEA)
Shovelers (Central States WEA)
Centrifugal Force (Chesapeake WEA)
Lauderdale Knights (Florida WEA)
Orange Crush (Florida WEA)
Maui Reclaimers (Hawaii WEA)
Windy City Wizards (Illinois WEA)
Rowdy Rotifiers (Indiana WEA)
Midland Microbes (Michigan WEA)
Cross Connection Saints (Missouri WEA)
Reno–Sparks Rattlers (Nevada WEA)
Fecal Matters (New England WEA)
Force Maine (New England WEA)
Seacoast Sewer Snakes (New England WEA)
Cape Shore Workers (New Jersey WEA)
Bowery Bay Boys (New York WEA)
Brown Tide (New York WEA)
Weirwolves (North Carolina WEA)
s.C.R.A.P.P.E.R.S. (Ohio WEA)
Silly Eights (Ohio WEA)
OCWA Jets (WEA of Ontario)
Sludge Hammers (WEA of Ontario)
River Rangers (Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association)
Toxic Force (Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association)
DELCORA Loonatics (Pennsylvania WEA)
Die-Jesters (Pennsylvania WEA)
Aurora’s Ascending Aerobes (Rocky Mountain WEA)
Commode Commandos (Rocky Mountain WEA)
Influents (WEA of South Carolina)
Liquid Force (WEA of South Carolina)
Aqua Techs (WEA of Texas)
Power SAWS (WEA of Texas)
TRA CReWSers (WEA of Texas)
Wasatch All Stars (WEA of Utah)
Wasted Gas (WEA of Utah)
Terminal Velocity (Virginia WEA)
Team HRSD (Virginia WEA)
*Complete list at press time.
Each team in the Operations Challenge competition is sponsored by a Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) member association or a recognized operator association. Winners are determined by a weighted point system that scores the teams in five events. All five events are aimed at testing the diverse skills needed to operate and maintain wastewater treatment facilities, their collection systems, and laboratories effectively.