July 2006, Vol. 18, No.7

From the Editors

WE&T Prelude

Clean Sweep

If only real life were as simple as one of those home improvement TV shows. You know the ones. A team of professional declutterers, designers, and carpenters descends upon your house, and 48 hours later, voilà — you have a brand-new space and improved quality of life.

In reality, the process is quite different. Whether you are spring-cleaning your closet or organizing your office, it can be difficult to part with things even if they have been gathering dust for years. After all, you never know when you will need that Ab Buster you always meant to use, or that file from a 10-year-old project. It’s hard to throw out something that just might have potential one day.

When it comes to replacing equipment at your plant, it’s not an emotional decision as much as a financial one. And the consequences can be much more serious because of the capital expenditure involved. Rather than relying on their staff’s best judgment, some utilities are bringing in third parties to assess the condition of their equipment, and make recommendations whether to repair or replace each asset.

This type of evaluation can provide a much-needed outside perspective that allows utilities to fine-tune their asset management programs. It also can help utilities avoid making detailed assessments of noncritical equipment. By taking this risk-based approach to asset replacement decisions, the Orange County (Calif.) Sanitation District was able to save more than $100,000 in planned condition assessments. And that’s not counting the money the district saved by eliminating unnecessary repairs and replacements. 

- Melissa Jackson, editor mjackson@wef.org

Operations Forum Editor's Note

Monster Machines

As I prepared for a recent camping trip, I rummaged in the closet for the basics: tent, sleeping bags, lantern, camp stove, and cooler. Then I found the fun stuff. I have all kinds of weird outdoors gadgets. From a detachable pot handle to walkie-talkies with a 3-mi range to a magnetic bear bell, I think I have a doodad for every possible circumstance, and I love every one.

Even though I only use this stuff once or twice a year, it completely fascinates me. In much the same way, the equipment and tools you use to keep your collection and treatment systems running fascinate me. I don’t think I’m odd in that I love all things mechanical (and electronic and computer-based). I think most people would be in awe at a series of contraptions that can collect all of the water from a town and make it clean again, if they took the opportunity to see them.

The pumps, motors, control systems, and other equipment that you operate, maintain, and repair daily are amazing mechanical marvels. Many people cannot see the astonishing job that those machines perform because they’re used on wastewater. Proof of that lies in an amusement park in Hershey, Pa. Hershey Park has a ride that is nothing more than a tour of how chocolate is made. It includes massive pieces of equipment churning and pumping, heating and cooling the chocolate, and people flock to it. While the processes and products are vastly different, it’s still awesome to watch both in action.

I feel lucky that I have the chance to go on plant tours and see how these machines work. I hope that as the public becomes more environmentally savvy, more people take advantage of the opportunity. 

-Steve Spicer, editor sspicer@wef.org