Disinfection Data Integrity Workshop Conducted in Association with the Region 3 AWOP meeting in August

A disinfection data integrity workshop was piloted as part of the August Region 3 Regional planning meeting in Petersburg, West Virginia at their surface water treatment plant.  The workshop was similar to workshops that have been piloted in the State of Iowa for State Regional field staff, and most recently for some plant operators.  A recent sanitary survey report, including a current treatment schematic and a plan view of the baffling in the clearwell storage tank were provided to the workshop participants prior to the site visit.  After introductions, the site visit proceeded with a  plant tour that emphasized the disinfection process and then the group was broken into 4 smaller groups to conduct special studies on the integrity of the disinfection data.  One group conducted studies to verify the online instrumentation used for disinfection monitoring, one group verified the disinfection segments as identified in the CT analysis performed by the state of West Virginia, one group independently performed a CT analysis to compare with the historical state analysis and one group studied the handling of the disinfection data and reporting.  The feedback from the State participants was positive, most said they would try to find a way to integrate aspects of this workshop into their optimization and drinking water oversight programs.

Washington State’s Turbidity Verification Project

Inspired by an AWOP data integrity workshop in October 2013, regional office field staff from the Washington State Office of Drinking Water recently completed a turbidity data verification project.  We took the original AWOP workshop, which was a day-long effort involving three teams, and scaled it down to a 2 to 3 hour field visit with a team of two staff.  Over a period of about one year, we visited all 25 rapid rate filtration plants in our northwest region.   We found deficiencies in all 25 plants that could or did affect the accuracy of the turbidity data reported to the DOH.


Prior to each field visit, we contacted the lead operator by phone or email to schedule a convenient date.  We explained the background and purpose of what we were doing and were careful to emphasize that this was not a regulatory compliance activity.  We used the following language in communicating with utilities:

“We are working on a turbidity verification project, with the goal of improving the integrity/reliability of the turbidity data that gets reported to DOH.  The project grew out of a EPA training on data integrity that was done at the Anacortes filter plant last October. We are looking at the turbidimeter/controller settings to gain an understanding of industry practices and possible areas for increased data integrity.”

Prior to each visit, we asked the operator to supply the make and model of each on-line turbidimeter and controller, so we could review the equipment manuals ahead of time.  We also retrieved a recent monthly operations report to bring along.

Field Visit/Data Collection

We started each visit explaining again the background of why we were there.  We then interviewed the operator(s) about turbidimeter setup and maintenance practices at their plant (see the operator interview sheet: TVP Operator Interview Questions).

After the interview we toured the plant and inspected each on-line turbidimeter.  All of our plants used HACH equipment, so we structured our data sheet around the most common configuration:  HACH 1720E with an SC100 or 200 controller.  Since many operators were not familiar with the instrument setup screens on their equipment, we found it useful to set up the data sheet to match the menu screens in the equipment.

HACH 1720E SC100 Turbidity Settings

We ended each visit with a review of the monthly operations report.  We found it worked best to pick a random day and ask the operator to retrieve the data from that day and show us how the four hour readings and the maximum daily reading were extracted from the data.

For the field visit we found a team of two was ideal:  with one person you have trouble capturing the information; with too many people the dynamics of your group dominates the discussion and the interaction with the operator is not as effective.

Documentation and Followup

We followed up each visit with a one page summary including recommendations for changes.  This was emailed to the operator within a week of our visit.

Turbidity Verify Project Form

Example Data Record Sheet

Project Followup

During the project we uncovered one case of data falsification, six systems that had non-functional or inaccurate data recording and thirteen systems that were not correctly reporting daily turbidity values.  We are following up with each of these systems to correct the problems identified.  Recognizing that we needed better written guidance for turbidimeter setup and turbidity reporting, we worked with our other two regional offices to develop consistent guidelines.

Turbidity Monitoring Guidelines NWRO

We are currently working to communicate these to operators through our Water Tap newsletter, and local operator training events.   Staff in our other regional offices are working to extend the project to rapid rate plants throughout the state.

Nancy Feagin, PE
Regional Engineer
Washington State Department of Health

Steve Deem, PE
Regional Engineer
Washington State Department of Health

Alabama’s Latest “Drawing The Graph” Newsletter

Periodically the Alabama Drinking Water Branch publishes a newsletter highlighting significant activities of their Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP).  In the September issue of “Drawing the Graph”, the program announces its 15th Annual Surface Water meeting.  This edition also shares information about the importance of data integrity, the Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash (ETSW) Project at the Town of Berry’s water treatment plant, and an update on the Performance Based Training (PBT) for Drinking Water Distribution Systems in Cullman County.   Please enjoy the complete newsletter as an attachment to this post.


ATTACHMENT: Drawing the Graph – September 2012 Issue

Washington Surface Water Plants Beat or Meet Treatment Goals

The following article on the achievements of Washington’s optimization program will appear in “Water Tap” their drinking water program’s electronic newsletter.

10 years of over achievement
Surface water filtration plants beat or meet treatment goals

Eight Washington surface water filtration plants are bringing home silver and bronze certificates this year for feats in water treatment that are no less heroic than those of Olympic athletes.

Department of Energy 200W earned silver for exceeding or meeting treatment goals for 5 years.

Town of Carson, City of Everett, City of Leavenworth, River Bend Water System, Thunderbird Terrace Water System, Water District 19 on Vashon Island, and City of Woodland all earned bronze for reaching the three-year milestone.

We present bronze, silver, and gold certificates to water systems the first time they meet the turbidity goals for three, five, and ten consecutive years, respectively. Nine other water systems have held their winning positions beyond the milestones. See winners listed below.

“These treatment plant operators have met or exceeded every challenge we threw their way,” said Office of Drinking Water Director Denise Clifford. “They indeed are winners. But their customers also win because the continuous improvements result in better public health protection.”

In 2001, the Office of Drinking Water challenged surface water systems to meet optimized filtered water turbidity goals. The idea of treatment optimization is to achieve the best treatment possible, using the existing treatment facilities. Participating in the program is voluntary. The Treatment Optimization Program’s (TOP) goals are a target and there are no consequences or repercussions for not achieving them.

So, you can imagine how proud we are to report that our 2011 monitoring results show our treatment plants, as a group, continue to improve their performance, affording better public health protection. With 10 years of continuous improvement, these systems definitely have something to brag about.

The performance of rapid rate filters for turbidity (particle) removal is a key element in protecting consumers from microbial contaminants and maximizing public health. The treatment optimization goals include:

  1. Meet 0.10 nephelometric turbidity units (NTU) or less in 95% of the maximum daily combined filter effluent (CFE) measurements taken during the year.
  2. Never exceed 0.30 NTU in any CFE measurement.

In addition, the water systems had to remain free of any drinking water violations during the evaluation period.

To learn more about TOP and treatment optimization visit us online at http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/DrinkingWater/SourceWaterProtection/RapidRateFiltration.aspx

This graph illustrates turbidity reduction performance improvement by all rapid rate treatment plants in Washington as a group from 2001 through 2011. Data points are the average of all included treatment plants for the given year.


 Congratulations, TOP Award Recipients!

Gold Award Recipients  10 or more years of continuously optimized performance, 2001-2011

  • Arlington Water Department
  • Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District – South Shore Water System
  • Pasco Water Department
  • Skagit County PUD #1 – Judy Reservoir System

Silver Award Recipients  Five to nine years of continuously optimized performance

  • Lake Chelan Reclamation District (2005-2011)
  • Stevens Pass Water System (2005-2011)
  • Hoquiam Water Department (2005-2011)
  • City of Kelso (2006-2011)
  • Department of Energy 200W (2007-2011)* – Congratulations 1st time winner!

Bronze Award Recipients  Three or four years of continuously optimized performance

  • Lummi Island Scenic Estates Community Club (2008-2011)
  • Ryderwood Improvement & Service Association (2008-2011)
  • Town of Carson (2009-2011) – Congratulations 1st time winner!
  • City of Everett (2009-2011) – Congratulations 1st time winner!
  • City of Leavenworth (2009-2011) – Congratulations 1st time winner!
  • River Bend Water System (2009-2011) – Congratulations 1st time winner!
  • Thunderbird Terrace Water System (2009-2011) – Congratulations 1st time winner!
  • Water District 19 (2009-2011) – Congratulations 1st time winner!
  • City of Woodland (2009-2011) – Congratulations 1st time winner!


Berry’s ETSW Project Concludes

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s (ADEM) Drinking Water Branch officially closed the Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash (ETSW) Project at the Town of Berry’s water treatment plant (WTP) on June 22, 2012. ADEM would like to thank Walt Taylor and his staff for their time and dedicated effort to see this project through to the end. The project, which started in May 2011, looked at how to implement ETSW at a WTP and if it was even possible to return a filter to service with a turbidity less than 0.10 NTU in less than 15 minutes and not have a rewash (filter-to-waste) spike.

The study conducted at the WTP looked a several aspects of the ETSW theory to determine what parameters were critical for success. The important parameters where narrowed down to two. The amount of water exchanged and the rate at which the water is backwashed through the filter. To minimize the variables evaluated changes were only made to the second half of the backwash sequence (e.g., the second low backwash duration and rate were changed). The air scour and high backwash rate were not changed during this project except during a period of time when the WTP was feeding more than fifty parts per million of powdered activated carbon to deal with a massive algae bloom. Then, the only change was to lengthen the high backwash rate by two minutes to ensure that any carbon fines were being removed from the filter.

After the initial attempt to implement ETSW resulted in a filter backwash sequence that allowed a filter to rewash in less than fifteen minutes and not have a turbidity spike, the study looked at how much water needed to be exchanged for ETSW to work. The second low backwash duration was altered to look at filter volume exchanges between one-half of a filter volume to little more than one filter volume of water. The study determined that at least one filter volume of water had to be exchanged for the filter to be rewashed to below 0.10 NTU in less than fifteen minutes without a turbidity spike.

After determining how much water needed to be exchanged, the rate at which the water was exchanged (second backwash rate) was examined. The low backwash rate was evaluated for two reasons, first to determine the maximum low rate range as not all backwash pumps or control valves are designed to run at these low rates. Secondly it was desired to determine the rate that would give the best performance from the filter following the backwash. The rate of backwash was varied between 5 gallons per minute per square foot of filter area (gpm/sq ft) to 10 gpm/sq ft. The results showed that flow rates of 9 gpm/sq ft or less did not impinge on the outcome of the ETSW procedure. The test at a flow rate of 10 gpm/sq ft did not result in a turbidity spike, but the rewash time extended out from an average of 11 minutes to 23 minutes before the turbidity dropped to below 0.10 NTU.

The results of varying the low backwash flow rate determined that the low backwash rate should be 9 gpm/sq ft or less and exchange at a minimum one complete filter volume of water. Further evaluation indicated that the preferable flow rate should be in the 5 – 7 gpm/sq ft range as these tests had the shortest rewash time to achieve filter water below 0.10 NTU. It is noted that some rewash turbidities never went above 0.10 NTU during these evaluations.

During the study the filter media was examined using the floc retention analysis test. The first set conducted in July 2011 showed that the backwash sequence was adequately cleaning the media. The second test conducted in June 2012 after one year of implementing ETSW also showed that the media was being adequately cleaned. Based upon these tests, the modified backwash procedure resulted in no adverse affect on media cleanliness.

Additionally, ETSW trials have been started at other water treatment plants in the state. Based upon these trials it appears that filters with air scour or surface sweeps can both benefit from ETSW as long as the surface wash mechanism works (no plugged nozzles or holes). The age of the media also does not appear to be a factor. One particular WTP which has surface sweeps and old media (about 15 years old) was able to implement ETSW and have incredible results. The filters rewash to approximately 0.03 to 0.04 NTU in less than ten minutes.
In conclusion, based upon the Berry ETSW Project and other ETSW trials, the procedure can be expanded to any surface water treatment plant utilizing conventional filters if they are able to control the backwash flow rate in the desired range (5-7 gpm/sq ft).

The benefits of pursuing ETSW are minimized backwash spikes and backwash and rewash water savings. Alabama has rewash capability on all of its conventional surface water plants so spike control is not as significant an objective as plants without rewash capability. However, the water savings during a backwash/rewash cycle is significant and offers a benefit to implementing ETSW.

Area-Wide Optimization Programs Strengthen Public Water System Supervision Programs

By Rick Lieberman, EPA TSC

An area-wide optimization program’s (AWOP) drinking water quality and monitoring goals typically exceed what is required by regulation.  This fact has contributed to the misconception that AWOP is only applicable to high performing water systems and does not help a Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) program ensure regulatory compliance within its jurisdiction.  In reality, PWSS programs that have adopted the optimization goals and effectively implemented AWOP have documented broad-scale water quality improvements from a variety of water systems.  AWOP implementation cultivates excellence while simultaneously bolstering compliance with the baseline requirements.  This article describes how AWOP implementation has been used to perform some of the key activities of a PWSS program and has been a cost effective way to strengthen PWSS programs.

The US EPA website describes the PWSS Grant Program as follows:  “Since 1976 EPA has annually received a Congressional appropriation under section 1443(a) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to assist states, territories, and tribes in carrying out their Public Water System Supervision programs.”  States and other agencies that have been delegated Primary Enforcement Responsibility (Primacy) for the Public Water System Supervision Program are eligible to receive grants.

PWSS programs implement the requirements of the SDWA and ensure that public water systems comply with the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.  Key activities carried out under PWSS programs include:

  • Developing state drinking water regulations
  • Maintaining an inventory of public water systems (PWSs) state-wide
  • Managing a database of PWS compliance information
  • Conducting sanitary surveys of PWSs
  • Reviewing PWS plans and specifications
  • Providing technical assistance to managers and operators of PWSs
  • Carrying out an enforcement program to ensure that PWSs comply with state requirements.

The first and last PWSS program activities listed above involve establishing and enforcing drinking water regulations.  AWOP tools have been an integral part of the drinking water regulations through the Composite Correction Program (CCP) which was once used to assess the ability of water treatment plants (WTPs) to meet the requirements of the Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR) (54 FR 27486, June 29, 1989).  The CCP has subsequently been included in the Interim Enhanced SWTR, the Long Term 1 Enhanced SWTR, and the Filter Backwash Recycling Rule.  These regulations require the implementation of CCP or a Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (CPE) under certain conditions.  AWOP implementation provides ample opportunities to gain experience with CCP protocols and concepts, thus enabling agency staff members to directly implement those requirements of the regulations more effectively than states without CCP experience.

The ability of optimization approaches to successfully address PWS violations and facilitate the production of high quality drinking water without major capital improvements has been documented.  In fact, during the revisions to the SWTR, data collected from CCP activities were used in the regulation development process to help determine water quality levels that could typically be achieved without major capital costs.  Thus the optimization program has a history of supporting and strengthening the regulations by bringing real world experiences and measureable impacts to the regulation development process.

The origins of the optimization program were in direct support of the drinking water regulations, but the focus of AWOP has always been to help PWSs achieve water quality goals that are generally more stringent than the regulations.  Although AWOP goals are not enforceable they appeal to many water systems because of the greater public health protection associated with meeting those goals, and the additional “insurance” optimized performance provides against incurring a violation.  Furthermore, the methods used to help a PWS achieve the optimization goals can be used in an enforcement situation.  An AWOP protocol known as performance-based training (PBT) has been used by states in enforcement actions to bring water systems into compliance.  The protocol is focused on optimized performance, but PWSs striving to attain high levels of water quality through PBT often meet and surpass the regulatory requirements.  One AWOP state utilized a PBT format to bring together a parent system and multiple consecutive systems that were projected to be out of compliance with the DBP rules, based on monitoring data collected prior to promulgation of the rules.  The training project focused on in-plant as well as distribution system DBP control strategies.  These water systems attended periodic training sessions with their state trainers and facilitators, and the project impact included improved performance and compliance by most of the water systems.

Other key activities that are to be conducted as part of a PWSS program include maintaining state-wide inventories of PWSs and managing databases to hold PWS compliance information.  AWOP implementation simply builds off of those activities to establish a method of using PWS data in a strategic way to proactively address performance problems.  This typically involves enhancing the type and amount of data traditionally collected by the state agency and the processes used to manage the data.  It essentially takes the concept of a performance assessment for individual PWSs and expands it to an area-wide approach, enabling the primacy agency to look inside the “black box” of a PWS and assess if each treatment process and distribution system operation is optimized for producing and maintaining a high water quality for the consumers.  Rather than relying on enforcement to fix a problem that has potentially already put the public at risk, state resources can be targeted to optimize barriers that are not fully in place.  When implemented, these modifications to existing PWSS program data handling procedures can strengthen the public health protection and regulatory compliance responsibilities of the PWSS program.

Next on the list of key activities of PWSS programs is the requirement to conduct sanitary surveys of PWSs.  The surveys typically assess compliance with overall drinking water regulations in eight areas that range from source to distribution and include equipment, operation, and maintenance.  Surveys can be conducted by trained agency personnel (or other designated party) who interview system operators based on a ‘check-list’ type of evaluation.  Sanitary surveys typically involve limited, if any, review of performance data or the fundamentals of how compliance is achieved (e.g., how turbidimeters function, how disinfection credit is determined, etc.).  Many of the states implementing an AWOP have built upon existing sanitary survey protocols and included performance data to achieve a greater awareness of the PWS performance status by the regulated community.  The modification encouraged inspectors to review annual charts of raw, settled, individual filter effluent, and combined filter effluent data trends with operators during the surveys.   Some states have reported significant state-wide performance improvements due to this modified protocol.  States have also used information gained during the implementation of PBT or CPEs to modify sanitary survey questions.  These enhancements will enable inspectors to detect conditions that can contribute to an inaccurate determination of disinfection credit.  Modifications to the state’s permitting process have also been suggested to help identify situations where the C x T values may need to be reevaluated.  This will assist inspectors as they review operating permits prior to conducting sanitary surveys.

States have also reported the discovery of poor equipment calibration and improper sampling through AWOP implementation.  This has resulted in the development and implementation of additional procedures to determine if samples are representative of filter performance or if performance data are captured during the filter-to-waste cycle.  One state reported that it initiated an equipment calibration audit program as a result of finding equipment calibration problems during several CPEs.  Results of this ongoing audit have been documented over time (see Figure 1 below) and presented to representatives of states in the AWOP network to make them aware of the issue.  State staff members implementing AWOP have indicated that these data integrity problems were not detected prior to applying optimization protocols.  Figure 1 shows that the problem is persistent and widespread.

Figure 1 Results of State-Wide Turbidimeter Calibration Checks

Reviewing PWS plans and specifications is another key PWSS program activity that has been strengthened through AWOP implementation.  Reviews were typically focused on compliance with 10 States Standards – Recommended Standards for Water Works, but some states have incorporated specific comments that contribute to WTP optimization or alert the PWS to potential Disinfection By-Products formation problems due to excessive water age caused by the proposed project.  One state’s implementation of AWOP resulted in a better understanding of treatment process performance which allowed for the use of cost-effective methods to increase WTP capacity.  State staff members directed the use of special studies by a PWS to collect performance data.  The results of these studies justified re-rating permitted flows and allowed the PWS to avoid plant construction to gain additional capacity.  The insights gained from AWOP implementation have therefore been beneficial for state staff during their review and approval of new drinking water facilities as well as modifications to existing facilities.

Permitting and review of plans and specifications for new or unique drinking water facilities can be a challenging PWSS program activity.  Participation in AWOP provides the opportunity for states to easily tap into the expertise of the optimization network to answer specific questions on new or unique treatment technologies.  In recent years the network has been tapped multiple times (through the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators website discussion forums, AWOP meetings, etc.) with inquiries on areas such as ballasted sand sedimentation, membrane filtration, UV disinfection, and storage tank mixing.

Another key activity that is carried out under a PWSS program involves providing technical assistance to managers and operators of PWSs.  States have provided many examples of strengthening their technical assistance capability through AWOP implementation.  In particular, the use of PBT has enhanced the technical assistance capability of state staff members through their roles as trainers and facilitators.  Participation in AWOP activities at the treatment system level provides state staff with unique opportunities to understand how treatment processes work and the ongoing challenges that operators face each day in achieving their treatment objectives.  At the root of this success are the concepts of “drawing the graph” and “data based decision making.”  Through AWOP training and experience, state and EPA regional office staff have become very good at using performance data and goals to assess the impact of their activities at the utility (and customer) level.

The Capacity Development program is another PWSS activity that has been strengthened through AWOP implementation in some states.  The primary goal of capacity development is to assure that technical, managerial, and financial (TMF) capacity is in place for all water systems.  In recent years the program has also included infrastructure needs within its scope.  All states must have a strategy in place that supports the program.  In 2003 a brochure was published by the EPA Office of Water[1] that explored the areas where AWOP could support a Capacity Development program.  The main focus at that time was the TMF capacity for surface water treatment plants.  Since surface water treatment systems represented a significant number of water systems and population served in many states, several states utilize part of their Capacity Development program set-aside funding to support their state AWOPs.  Elements of AWOP that directly support the Capacity Development program include the public health risk-based prioritization of water systems and targeted performance improvement activities.  Many AWOP states have CPEs and/or AWOP formally included in their Capacity Development strategies.

A fundamental goal of AWOP is improving water quality at individual water systems, and natural activities to support this goal are technical assistance and operator training.  Many AWOP states have conducted one or more PBT events that were funded through Capacity Development Program set-aside funding as well as Operator Training Grants.  Some states plan to include all of their surface water treatment plants in a PBT series.  Through this training, operators as well as managers gain key skills in goal setting, performance data tracking, problem solving and priority setting.  PWS staff members participating in PBT have provided testimonials about the effectiveness and benefits of the training, through letters and press releases.  Many PBT participants report that the training was the best ‘hands-on’ training that they have ever received within their state.  They continue to utilize the skills they learned to maintain their treatment performance and address new treatment challenges.

The purpose of this article has been to describe how, throughout the history of AWOP, states have been able to utilize their optimization expertise to strengthen their PWSS programs.  Several examples were provided in this discussion, and many more exist in the AWOP network.  In times of tight budgets and diminished resources for PWSS program implementation, some decision makers may be tempted to view an AWOP as focused on high performing water systems and as a luxury that they cannot afford.  However, as mentioned above, optimization applies to all water systems and AWOP is not typically implemented as a stand-alone, “extramural” program.  Although AWOP implementation involves unique activities that are distinguishable from traditional PWSS activities, they are typically accomplished by existing staff members through enhancement of existing PWSS program activities.  The resulting benefits to public health protection and the robust and creative approaches to fulfilling PWSS program responsibilities are too numerous and significant to ignore.

Two Choices this Time for AWOP News

In AWOP, we are looking at optimization for new technologies like membranes, dissolved air flotation, and proprietary sedimentation/filtration equipment.  Well, we are also exploring new technologies with AWOP News.  This fall edition of AWOP News is available in the traditional, newspaper-like, print-focused format and in this newer blog format.  The announcing email you received about this edition provided you with access to either version of the Fall AWOP News.  You are obviously reading the blog version now.  We encourage you to also look at the other version and consider the differences and which you like best.   In fact, you can download the PDF-version of AWOP News by clicking the link in the right sidebar.

The two versions have a lot in common.  The content is the same with both means of publication.  Both can be read on-line or printed out in a hard copy form for distribution or physical posting.  Both versions will be archived for later research by current readers and new staff.     However, there are some differences.  The traditional version is more familiar, especially as a printed document, and may be more appealing for that reason.  With the blog format, articles can be posted as they are written, providing more immediate access to information than a scheduled publication date for the traditional version.  The blog version also offers some more options for how readers are notified when new News articles are available; offering both email and RSS notifications.  Email notifications can be configured based on the individual user’s desired frequency – immediate notification, a daily summary of posts, or a weekly summary of posts. For those who prefer to receive notifications via RSS, subscriptions are available for blog posts [http://awopnews.asdwa.org/feed] and post comments [http://awopnews.asdwa.org/comments/feed/].  The blog format also allows for content searches to be performed on the entire collection of articles.  With the traditional printed format, there is no way to offer a content search for every article across every edition of AWOP News.  There are also a number of differences in how the edition is prepared, but what matters most is how it is perceived by the readers.

You can learn more about the different editions on ASDWA’s website at http://www.asdwa.org/awopnews, which has been redesigned slightly to account for some new features the blog format offers –  you’ll notice the Table of Contents for this issue is a series of clickable links that go directly to the corresponding article online.

Please browse both versions of this AWOP News and provide your feedback.  Click the “Leave a Comment” link near the title of this post to share your thoughts, or comments can be directed to Anthony DeRosa of ASDWA at aderosa@asdwa.org.  AWOP News will also be a topic for regional planning meeting discussions.

It’s Never Too Early to Begin Thinking About the 2011 National AWOP Meeting

Every two years since 2005, the National Optimization Leadership Team (NOLT) has sponsored a national meeting of all the AWOP states and regions in Cincinnati, Ohio.  2011 will be another national meeting year.   The event is scheduled for July 19 and 20, 2011 at the historic Netherlands Hilton in Cincinnati.  Please mark your calendar.

Past agendas have featured program updates, technical topics, workshops on AWOP issues, a display table for tools and innovations, and panels of states sharing their experiences.  And let’s not forget the exciting and fun icebreaker game!  Although past meetings have been very well received, the NOLT strives to do better every year.  In the coming months, a planning committee will be working on the agenda and other details for the meeting.  Members of the committee are Rick Lieberman (TSC), Bob Hegg (PAI), Jim Taft and Darrell Osterhoudt (ASDWA).  The committee welcomes input from the AWOP community to help them plan an even better event for 2011.  Please offer your ideas to any of the committee members or provide input when the national meeting is discussed during regular regional planning meetings. Your ideas and your attendance are both important to the success of the meeting. See you in 2011!

Groundhog Day

By Megan Sekhar and Alison Dugan – EPA

What do you think about when you hear the term “groundhog presentation?”  Do you think of the “classic” Bill Murray film?  Do you think about how much you love winter, or look forward to spring?  Or do you think about your last Regional AWOP meeting and how much you enjoyed hearing the host state kick-off the meeting with a beloved presentation?!?  The focus of this article is on how you might enhance your groundhog presentation and really “WOW” your fellow AWOPers and management the next time your state hosts its regional AWOP meeting.

The Area Wide Optimization Program has been around since the late 1990s and many states have participated in their regional AWOP for over 10 years!  In the beginning, quarterly AWOP meetings were actually conducted four times per year, and the agenda of each meeting always included an opening presentation by the host state AWOP team members to their managers.  The purpose of this presentation was to provide a general understanding of the program for each set of state managers.  The presentation would include information on the AWOP goals, targeted performance improvement activities, status component rankings, maintenance activities, and performance impacts.  The initial presentation was developed by the NOLT and provided to each state’s AWOP team.  In the early days, there was very little modification of the initial presentation, so that the regular AWOP participants heard the same presentation over and over as it was used by different states.  That is when one clever AWOPer from the early days applied the phrase “Groundhog Day presentation” to this opening act, and the name stuck.  [Hint:  that clever AWOPer lives in New Orleans and serves up a mean Crawfish Boil, Cajun style]

Eventually the opening presentation by the host state became outdated and redundant even for management as some of the managers had already sat through the original a few times.  The groundhog presentation did not adequately describe how AWOP had evolved since the early days, and expanded to include disinfection by-product (DBP) optimization and the development of groundwater and distribution system optimization programs.  The groundhog presentation may not have to lose its popular name, but should be changing to keep current with the changes in AWOP so that our managers (and each of us) are well informed and can accurately describe the elements of the program.  This article will provide some suggestions for revamping those worn-out “groundhog” presentations and infusing new energy into the opening act of our AWOP quarterly meetings!

The host state’s presentation is typically held immediately before all of the state report-outs.  If the host agency managers are unfamiliar with AWOP, the presentation should include a healthy dose of AWOP basics, but if the managers are familiar with AWOP, the presentation might go easy on the AWOP basics and instead showcase AWOP activities and long-term performance impacts.  It is suggested that states separate the introductory presentation from the report out of recent specific activities; which typically follows immediately after the groundhog presentation.   The opening presentation can be anything you want it to be, this is an opportunity to gain support for the program and showcase the great work that you do!

Potential Outline of a “Robust” Groundhog Presentation

  • AWOP 101 (background, why optimize, program components, etc): The first part of the presentation might include a description of AWOP, objectives of optimization (especially  public health impacts), the benefits of AWOP, and the AWOP components (Status, Targeted Performance Improvements (TPI), and Maintenance).  This description could also include a map of the AWOP network and brief description of the history of your state program. All of these resources are available on the ASDWA website’s “AWOP: Background Information” page [www.asdwa.org/awopbackground] and “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” page [www.asdwa.org/awopstatesonly].
  • Your State’s [INSERT STATE NAME] AWOP: Under this section, consider discussing the technical areas of focus and water quality goals that your state has adopted.  Your status component criteria and system rankings could be discussed, as well as the TPI activities your AWOP implements, and maintenance activities (in-staff training, integration, etc) that you do.  Remember to include all technical areas (e.g., DBPs, distribution system, membrane, slow sand optimization), not just turbidity – and include as much – or as little – of this information (as appropriate for the audience).  A summary of all of the optimization goals are in the “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” section of the ASDWA website [www.asdwa.org/awopstatesonly].
  • State’s AWOP Impacts: The third part of the presentation should be focused on AWOP impacts.  AWOP impacts can be documented in many forms, including “population served by optimized water” graphs, graphs of system-specific performance improvements, testimonials, cost savings examples, number of plants in your awards program, or pictures of your optimization team in action.  Be creative – and for inspiration you can refer to the AWOP Impacts presentations from the 2009 National AWOP meeting in the “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” section of the website [www.asdwa.org/awopstatesonly].
  • Regional and National AWOP: The fourth part of the presentation is an opportunity to highlight your state’s role as part of the regional and national AWOP network.  This can be a great opportunity to discuss the regional activities that your state has participated in and what is going on at the national level.  Examples might include multi-state technical training activities, training activities that were conducted during regional planning meetings, the biennial national AWOP meeting, etc.  You could mention the DBP optimization program, distribution system optimization program, groundwater optimization program, or integration project, especially if your state AWOP is expanding to include these activities.  This material can be extracted from NOLT reports included in past Regional planning meeting notes packages, available on the AWOP States Only Regional pages of the website [Regional pages are accessed through the AWOP States Only page at http://www.asdwa.org/awopstatesonly%5D.  NOLT facilitators could also provide current information on these activities.
  • State’s AWOP Vision and Goals: The final part of the presentation should focus on program goals and needs.  You might discuss a planned TPI activity (e.g., starting up PBT) and what support is needed to achieve this goal.  You could discuss the areas of the Self Assessment that you want to improve on and how you plan on doing this.  You can refer to the State AWOP Self Assessment and/or the NOLT’s vision, mission, and values statements in the “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” section of the website.  Ultimately, this is your opportunity to show your vision for the program and hopefully, how your manager could assist you in achieving that vision.

Now that you are motivated to update your groundhog presentation, you might refer to some example presentations from the AWOP network.  Several examples of state groundhog presentations are included on the ASDWA website under the “AWOP States Only: Available Resource Documents” section of the website.  If you would like to request a username and password to access the AWOP States Only pages, or need assistance locating the referenced materials, please contact Anthony DeRosa of ASDWA at aderosa@asdwa.org.

We look forward to seeing a new generation of groundhog presentations!

Results of the Turbidity Optimization Goals Survey

By Larry D. DeMers – Process Applications, Inc.

The May 2010 issue of AWOP News included an article on the updated turbidity optimization goals preferred by the NOLT as the basis for AWOP.  Concurrently, the NOLT Communications Workgroup developed a survey to determine how the turbidity goals are being implemented within the network and to document state-specific variations of the goals.  The survey was initially sent to the AWOP regional contacts in Spring 2010 and was subsequently forwarded to the AWOP states.  Completed survey forms were received from fifteen of the AWOP states.  Due to the timing of the article, the survey responses, and feedback from three regional AWOP meetings, feedback from states on their plans to update their turbidity goals has also been obtained.  This article summarizes the responses to the turbidity goals survey and the feedback received thus far on the turbidity optimization goals updates.

Turbidity Goals Survey Response

The survey asked the AWOP states if they have formally adopted the optimization goals and sent letters to appropriate water systems.  All of the responding states have introduced the goals to their systems, either through formal letters, posters, or presentations at annual operator schools.  Several states provided example letters that they sent to their water systems, encouraging them to participate in AWOP and to outline the goals.  The Louisiana AWOP letter includes the optimization goals, the annual performance data summary from the Optimization Assessment Spreadsheet, and the plant ranking.  It is sent to all of the surface water systems annually.

A summary of the updated sedimentation basin optimization goals presented in the survey is shown in Table 1.  All of the states responding to the survey have adopted the 1 to 2 NTU settled water turbidity goal based on average raw water turbidity.  The basis for assessing the goal is split, with 60 percent of the states basing the goal on individual sedimentation basin performance and the remainder on combined settled water turbidity.  The response to frequency of sampling was typically four-hour intervals; however, three states only required sampling once per day.  At least three states are proposing to update this goal area by including the 15-minute frequency for plants using continuous reading turbidimeters to monitor their sedimentation process.  Although not specifically mentioned in the optimization goals survey, a few states provided information on their goals for raw water turbidity monitoring.  Virginia’s optimization goals include monitoring for raw water turbidity on a minimum two-hour interval.


Table 2 includes the updated filtration optimization goals.  Responding states almost universally selected 0.10 NTU as their filtration turbidity optimization goal.  The Texas AWOP team has developed an expanded filtration goal that considers four criteria (i.e., 100 percent of all filter readings ≤ 0.5 NTU, 99 percent of all filter readings ≤ 0.3 NTU, 95 percent of all filter readings ≤ 0.1 NTU, and 90 percent of individual filter readings ≤ 0.1 NTU).  About half of the states apply this goal to both individual filter effluent (IFE) and combined filter effluent (CFE).  The remaining states apply the goal to either CFE (four states) or IFE only (three states).  In response to frequency of sampling, state responses reflect changing regulations as well as the proposed optimization frequency.  For those states applying the filtration goal to IFE turbidity, the frequency of sampling was typically at least 15 minutes, and four states are proposing changing the frequency to one minute.  For those states applying the goal to CFE, the frequency was at least every four hours, with one state proposing changing the frequency to one minute.  Most of the states identified 0.30 NTU as the maximum individual filter turbidity optimization goal, although one referenced the LT2 regulation.



The updated post filter backwash performance goals are summarized in Table 3, and they are differentiated by the availability of filter-to-waste (FTW) capability.  Three of the responding states did not report having post filter backwash performance goals.  The remaining responding states have performance goals almost identical to those listed in Table 3 for plants without FTW capability.  The related Texas goals allow plants without FTW capability 30 minutes to achieve the 0.10 NTU goal.  States reported performance goals for plants with FTW capability the same as those identified in Table 3, with three exceptions.  Oregon, Texas, and Virginia have established a maximum turbidity goal during FTW (i.e., 0.30 NTU for Oregon and Texas, 0.3 NTU for Virginia) and a maximum FTW duration (i.e., 15 minutes for Oregon and Virginia, 30 minutes for Texas).  Alabama requires all of their surface water plants to have FTW capability.  Regarding the submittal of post backwash performance data to the state, two responding states, Texas and Virginia, receive these data through their MORs.  A previous article in the August 2009 edition of AWOP News describes the Virginia Optimization Program, including the data submittal requirements for plants to participate in the Virginia Excellence in Performance Awards program.  The Iowa and Oregon AWOP teams reported that they have plants collecting these data if they have been or are currently participating in a Performance Based Training series.  This is also the case for other AWOP states recently completing microbial PBTs (i.e., Louisiana, West Virginia).

The most common response regarding data collection to determine plant performance relative to the optimization goals was use of the monthly operating reports (MORs) to obtain turbidity data.  Some states reported success with the plant staff entering their turbidity data into the Optimization Assessment Spreadsheet (OAS).  The Iowa AWOP team reported that at least 30 percent of their plants are submitting turbidity data using the OAS.  The Pennsylvania AWOP team has established a data entry portal (WebOAS) on their drinking water website for plant staff to enter their turbidity data.  At least six states reported that turbidity data is submitted electronically to their office, either through use of an electronic MOR, submittal of data using the OAS or simpler spreadsheet template, or data entry to a website.



Some overall observations from the turbidity optimization goals survey are summarized below for the responding AWOP states.

  • States have provided their optimization goals to their surface water systems through a combination of mechanisms, including direct letters to the systems, distribution of posters, and presentations at annual training schools.
  • All states have consistently adopted the sedimentation turbidity optimization goals of 1 and 2 NTU based on source water turbidity targets.  States are split on applying the goals to individual sedimentation basins versus combined settled water.  A perception may exist for some states that a performance goal can only be established if data is being submitted to the state to assess performance against the goal.
  • All states have consistently adopted the filtration optimization goal of 0.10 NTU, with some minor variations.  Differences exist on whether this goal is applied to individual filters, combined filter effluent, or both.  As is the case with the settled water goal, a similar perception may exist with some states that a performance goal can only be established if data is routinely available to the state so that performance can be assessed against the goal.
  • A few states responded that they have not adopted post filter backwash turbidity goals.
  • Those states having post filter backwash turbidity goals responded that their goals were very similar to the updated goals.  Two states responded that their post filter backwash goals are the same, regardless of whether the plant has FTW capability.
  • Most states responded that MORs are the most common source for turbidity data to assess performance relative to the goals.  At least six states are receiving turbidity data in an electronic format from some of their plants.

Network Feedback on Updated Turbidity Goals

A few states have either updated their initial optimization goals or are in the process of doing so.  The Oregon AWOP team updated their goals in 2009 to reflect changes in continuous turbidimeter data acquisition and to provide clarification on data collection following FTW.  The updated goals are included on their drinking water program website, along with an extensive collection of drinking water optimization content (http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/dwp/swt.shtml).  The Alabama AWOP team is considering updates to its goals.  In anticipation of the changes, it recently published background information on the updated goals (from AWOP News) in the Alabama optimization newsletter, Drawing the Graph (Sept. 2010 issue).  This information was enhanced further with an article on experience gained through their CPEs and PBT projects, specifically, the impact of changing plant flow rates and filter backwashing on operating filter performance.

As of the publication time of this edition of AWOP News, feedback had been received on the updated turbidity optimization goals at three of the four regional AWOP meetings.  Some of the highlights are summarized here.

  • Several states have used 0.10 NTU (versus 0.1 NTU) for several years as their filtered water turbidity goal.
  • Modification of state AWOP goals could have an impact on existing awards programs.
  • Several states plan to publicize the updated goals by sending letters to their water sys-tems or through their newsletters and websites.
  • All surface water treatment plants are now required to have at least 15-minute data acquisition on individual filters.  Changing the optimization goals to reflect this existing condition would be straight forward.
  • Requiring at least one-minute data acquisition for IFE and CFE could present a major challenge for plants to meet the 0.10 NTU goal.  Excessive operator time may have to be diverted to tracking down short turbidity spikes that are not performance-related.  In addition, there could be a cost required for some plants to modify their SCADA system to provide more frequent data acquisition capability.
  • It is likely that many water systems can capture one-minute turbidity readings from their filters, but obtaining these data from the systems could be challenging.
  • Stating that the turbidity spike during FTW should be minimized may be overlooked by operators.  Consider either excluding this language or including a specific turbidity goal (e.g., 0.30 NTU, similar to the maximum goal for plants without FTW).
  • Implementation of these updated goals (especially the one-minute data acquisition for filtered water) and improved filter backwash recovery performance could significantly enhance public health protection and take optimization to the next level (approaching performance from membrane systems).

    Continue the Discussion

    With this issue of AWOP News, we’re launching our new AWOP News blog.  One advantage that this new format allows is the ability to comment on articles.  Since the turbidity goals update topic is relevant to all AWOP states, continued feedback and discussion on this article is encouraged.  Click the link near the title of this article  to “Leave a Comment”!