October 2008, Vol. 20, No.10

From the Editors

Operations Forum Editor’s Note

Ounces, Pounds, and Curveballs

Steve Spicer

We’ve all heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Its meaning is pretty clear: Taking a few minutes to nip a problem in the bud eliminates the hassle of cleaning up the mess that results from doing nothing. What the saying fails to account for is the unknown.

If the guy you saw changing his tire on the side of the road last week knew he was going to have a flat, he might have maintained the tires better and driven more gently. But even these precautions wouldn’t have helped with the nail he ran over in the parking lot.

Maintenance timing is tricky to perfect. Perform it too frequently, and you’re wasting money by cutting short the useful life of parts and fluids that are replaced as well as increasing labor hours. If you don’t perform it frequently enough, you risk a breakdown that requires a pound of cure. And, sometimes, things just go awry.

That’s what happened to the plants described in “Sewer Corrosion vs. Permit Violation”. The collections system staff implemented accepted and effective methods to reduce hydrogen sulfide generation, and therefore, pipe corrosion, as a preventive maintenance measure. But the changes in water chemistry were a gut punch to the biological nutrient removal system.

The authors detail the remedies that enable the sewers to be protected and nutrient removal to continue without problems. The key to finding these remedies is collaboration among the collection system and treatment plant staffs. They write, “There is no single right answer. There are only poor decisions made due to incomplete information.”

Perhaps we should rewrite that old saying to say, “An ounce of communication prevents a pound of headache.”