AWOP Planning Meeting Update – September 2010

One of the key components of the area-wide optimization program (AWOP) is the routine planning meetings held between participating state program personnel, EPA, ASDWA, and the contractor, Process Applications, Inc.  These meetings are part of the strategic implementation process used to sustain the AWOP partnerships and activities (e.g., the network).  The meetings accomplish multiple objectives including:  sharing ideas, agreeing on direction and priorities, providing multi-state support and encouragement to improve program performance, sharing technical and management information and approaches and overall sustaining the AWOP human infrastructure.   The AWOP planning and training activities conducted since the last issue of AWOP News in May 2010 are summarized below.

Region 3 Planning Meeting – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – June 15 – 16, 2010

The Region 3 AWOP planning group consisting of participants from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, EPA Region 3, EPA TSC and Process Applications, Inc. met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June 2010.  The state participants from Pennsylvania participated via teleconference and several participants from EPA TSC participated via video conference.  An update on Microbial Optimization Goals was presented for the states to consider.  Adopting some aspects of the new goals (e.g., one minute turbidity readings from filters) will require action on the part of the state’s water utilities to implement.  Each state reported back on their site selection and start-up considerations for participating in a DBP PBT.  Challenges existed in getting multiple facilities to participate.  Additionally the cost of equipment and testing was presented as a challenge for some states.  Further discussions were held on the potential models for implementing a multi-state DBP PBT.  The group decided that the individual states would go back and reassess their commitment to the training.  The format established for the training was that a “train the trainer approach” would be used with the training to be provided by NOLT and implementation being completed at a minimum of one facility in each participating state.  It is anticipated that a go or no go decision will be made at the next planning meeting.  The Region 3 AWOP group also conducted a multi-state CPE at the Washington D.C. Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant in August 2010.  The focus of this event was training for participating state personnel.  The next regularly scheduled meeting of this AWOP network group is scheduled for October 20 – 21, 2010 in Hershey, Pennsylvania and will focus on finalizing an implementation approach for the planned DBP PBT demonstration effort and as appropriate setting up the DBP PBT schedule.

Region 4 Planning Meeting – Montgomery, Alabama – August 3- 5, 2010

Region 4 AWOP planning group consisting of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Region 4, EPA, and PAI met in Montgomery, Alabama in August 2010.  Additional participants from North Carolina and EPA TSC participated via teleconference and web sharing.  Georgia and Florida were not able to attend the meeting due to financial and workload challenges.   A field training event on representative sampling in a distribution system was presented to solicit interest in pursuing development of distribution system optimization skills at future meetings.  It is noted that the heat index during the field efforts was 115 degrees!  The Region 4 states were interested in the distribution system optimization tools and concepts but all were concerned about potential compliance with the Stage 2 rules.  After considerable discussion, the group decided that they would likely be considering a “Targeted Technical Assistance” approach in the near term with the training focused on achieving Stage 2 compliance.  The content of this training might include strategic flushing, discussion of master meter water quality, tank spreadsheet concepts (water age and mixing etc.   All of the states reported a desire in the long term to continue to promote optimization and implementation of AWOP [e.g., try to keep DBP PBT running in the background as well as DS optimization (not aggressively, but keep it on the radar)].  The next Region 4 planning meeting is scheduled to be held in South Carolina December 7 – 9, 2010.  The group will be focusing on developing distribution optimization skills, specifically looking at procedures for conducting investigative sampling to identify potential sites with lower water quality.

Region 6 Planning Meeting – Baton Rouge, Louisiana – April 27 – 29, 2010

The Region 6 AWOP group met in Baton Rouge, LA at the end of April 2010.  Participants included representatives from Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, EPA Region 6, ASDWA, TSC, and PAI.  A full meeting schedule included two workshops – one on distribution system performance goals and monitoring and another on AWOP fundamentals.  The distribution system workshop was used to introduce a beta version of the new Water Quality Assessment Spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet has the ability to track multiple water quality parameters for up to thirty sample sites in a distribution system and assess performance relative to site-specific goals.  Participants used the spreadsheet to review distribution system performance data, identify trends, and assess impacts of special studies.  In addition, feedback was provided on the ‘user friendliness’ of the spreadsheet and suggested enhancements.  The final AWOP fundamentals workshop was conducted on the performance impacts component of the AWOP self assessment.  Strategic planning discussions during the meeting included topics on expanding state AWOP teams, turbidity data integrity, and implementing AWOP in a limited environment.  The next meeting of this AWOP group will be a videoconference scheduled for July 19 – 20, 2010.

Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting – Remote Meeting via Video Teleconferencing – July 19 – 20, 2010

The Region 6 AWOP group conducted a strategic planning and training meeting in July through the use of videoconferencing facilities.  Use of the videoconferencing allowed the participation of almost thirty network partners from Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, EPA Region 6, ASDWA, EPA TSC, and PAI.  Technical training in the region has recently focused on distribution system optimization, and part of the meeting agenda included a presentation and workshop on considerations for representative sampling.  The training provided the background for the fall meeting where the group will conduct a field sampling event at a water system in the Des Moines, IA area.  During the videoconference, the group presented their AWOP reports that included activities since the last meeting.  Arkansas participants reported on a turbidity calibration project conducted by a summer intern and a successful consecutive system DBP PBT series.  Iowa participants presented preliminary findings on a viability assessment tool that they are developing as part of their AWOP Integration Pilot Project.  Oklahoma participants reported on the outcomes from their DBP PBT projects and planning for a fall multi-state CPE.  Texas participants are conducting a DBP PBT with the assistance of Region 6 staff.  PBT Session 4 was recently conducted and plants identified DBP control strategies specific to their systems.  Louisiana participants discussed planning for a follow-up session of their microbial PBT series.  The latter part of the meeting included discussion on priority topics including use of MIOX for DBP control, event planning through 2011, and membrane system optimization.  The next meeting and field event is planned for September 20 – 23, 2010 in Des Moines.

Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting – Des Moines, Iowa – September 20 – 23, 2010

The Region 6 AWOP group traveled to Des Moines, Iowa in September to attend a fall planning meeting and 1 day field training event.  Participants included AWOP partners from Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, EPA Region 6, EPA TSC, and PAI.  The field training event was conducted in Urbandale, Iowa, a community located outside of Des Moines and one of the consecutive water systems served by Des Moines Water Works.  The training event included a distribution system overview presented by the water system, identification of critical sampling locations by reviewing system maps, and field sampling for chlorine residual, pH, and temperature using the new hydrant and tap sampling devices.  Each of the three sampling teams included one or two utility operators, and about eight locations were sampled in different areas of Urbandale’s distribution system.  The training exercise generated useful information for the water utility that the Iowa DNR staff will be presenting to the utility staff.  In addition, the participants were able to see how the first day of a distribution system field event unfolds since the training was set up to closely follow this protocol.  All of the participants provided positive feedback on the support provided by the water utility and the value of getting first-hand experience collecting samples using the dedicated sampling devices.  The planning meeting included a presentation and discussion on the turbidity goals updates including recent feedback on the goals survey that was sent to the AWOP states earlier this year.  The latter part of the meeting included discussion on priority topics including anticipated performance challenges related to DBP Stage 2 implementation, considerations for including ‘areas of strength’ in CPE exit meetings, verification of disinfection (CT) in plants and small ground water systems, and planning a successful PBT follow-up session.  The next meeting and training event is planned for March 1 – 3, 2011 in Little Rock.  Two technical training topics are under consideration – conducting a full-scale tracer study to support CT studies and presentations on Arkansas’ recently completed consecutive system PBT series.

Region 10 Planning Meeting – Remote event via Conference Call and iLinc – June 3 – 4, 2010

The Region 10 AWOP group conducted a strategic planning and training meeting in June through the use of Washington’s file sharing website (iLinc) and conference call facilities.  Participants included representatives from Alaska, Oregon, Washington, EPA Region 10, ASDWA, EPA TSC, and PAI.  State AWOP reports included a discussion by Alaska on their successful implementation of status component inspections to collect optimization information on their water systems, an overview of Washington’s second year at awarding optimization awards (14 plants received awards), and feedback on Oregon’s current microbial PBT project.  A presentation and workshop were included in the meeting agenda on the final AWOP fundamentals topic – the performance impacts component of the AWOP self assessment.  The group identified and discussed strategic AWOP topics including tracking a common microbial performance metric within the region, event planning through 2011, and working with troubled water systems.  The fall AWOP meeting scheduled for October 25 – 29, 2010 will be hosted by Washington and located in the Spokane regional office.  Field events will include an optional site visit to a slow sand filter pilot plant in Walla Walla, Washington and a membrane field event in Idaho.

Future activities are scheduled as follows:

October 20 – 21, 2010
Region 3 AWOP Planning Meeting – Harrisburg, PA

October 25 – 29, 2010
Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Spokane, Washington

Week of November 1, 2010
Region 6 Multi-State CPE – Oklahoma – No NOLT involvement

December 7 – 9, 2010
Region 4 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Rock Hill, SC

February 2 – 3, 2011
Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting and Conference Call using ilinc software

March 1 – 3, 2011
Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Event – Little Rock, AR

March 22 – 23, 2011
Region 4 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – R4 Atlanta, GA

Week of April 11, 2011
Region 3 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – West Virginia

May 17 – 19, 2011
Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Anchorage, Alaska

Week of June 20, 2011
Region 3 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Maryland

July 19 – 20, 2011
National AWOP Meeting – Cincinnati, OH

Week of October 3, 2011
Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Austin, TX

Week of October 17, 2011
Region 3 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Virginia

Week of October 24, 2011
Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Oregon

November 29 – 30, 2011
Region 4 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – NC

The Optimization State

News and views from the AWOP states.  Please use this for your enlightenment, enrichment and maybe even your entertainment!  AND think about what your state wants to share for the next AWOP News.


Pennsylvania and EPA Work on Distribution System Optimization Study: In a continuing effort by Pennsylvania to develop a distribution system optimization program that is consistent with the most recent protocols and monitoring techniques, Pennsylvania staff participated in an EPA Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) Distribution System Optimization field event in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on August 24-27, 2010.  This was the sixth detailed study conducted by the AWOP Distribution System Optimization Team on a Pennsylvania system.

Pennsylvania staff worked with a team of industry leaders in the field of distribution system optimization on a rigorous 4-day comprehensive evaluation of the Greater Johnstown Water Authority system.  The purpose of the field event was to gather comprehensive distribution system data utilizing a calculated flush time distribution system sample collection protocol.  The goal of this sample protocol is to establish a consistent method that will provide an accurate and representative sample of water quality at a specific point in the distribution system.  Both fire hydrants and residential taps were evaluated using this protocol.  Extensive staff interviews were also incorporated as part of this field event.  The interviews are used to evaluate the system’s administrative and management capabilities as it relates to the implementation of distribution system optimization.

In addition, continual monitoring equipment was deployed at two of the system’s storage tanks.  The equipment monitored for turbidity, free chlorine, pH, conductivity and temperature.  Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is the only state agency to utilize this valuable monitoring equipment.

The data collected by the team was used to develop a chlorine map of the distribution system, which is a method of comparatively estimating water age and disinfection by-product (DBP) formation at key locations.  Samples were shipped to a certified lab for definitive TTHM and HAA5 levels to compare with field data.  Ultimately, the data will be used to evaluate the overall chlorine mapping process as an accurate indicator of DBP formation throughout the distribution system.  The information and experience gained during this field event will help assure that Pennsylvania’s distribution system optimization program is developed in a manner consistent with national protocols and standards.  Pennsylvania’s participation on this team of industry leaders is extremely beneficial and will continue via monthly conference calls and semi-annual field events.

Pennsylvania will follow up with the Greater Johnstown Water Authority with the final report as well as to determine if any special studies or operational changes are occurring based on the information gathered during the event.  A special study approach has been established and was presented to the system to ensure that educated process control decisions are made towards optimization without compromising public health.

The contact for this activity is Paul Handke at (717) 783-3900 or


Texas Optimization Program (TOP): The Texas Optimization Program’s Core Team has had a busy summer, having done a mandatory Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (mCPE), an Optimization CPE (oCPE), and two Special Performance Evaluations (SPEs) since the beginning of June.  Additionally, the team, along with Region 6 EPA, held Session 4 of the Disinfection By-Product Performance Based Training (DBP PBT) in July.

The Optimization CPE, also a joint project led by Region 6, was done at the City of Port Arthur’s 24 MGD Water Purification Plant.  The City of Port Arthur was selected by EPA as an Environmental Justice Program focus site and the CPE demonstrated that while not optimized, the water treatment plant is not a cause for concern.

The DBP PBT has been a success with the participating operators, the Core Team, and Region 6.  The original 7 plants are continuing to gather data and have recently begun implementing their individual control strategies.  Session 5 is being held in Austin on October 14 and at that time, the operators from each plant will present data demonstrating whether or not their chosen control strategy has been successful, discuss the findings with the other operators and the trainers, and make a decision on whether or not to continue with that strategy or to try something different.  The final PBT session will be held in Austin in January, 2011.

Texas continues to participate in the Region 6 AWOP.  Two representatives attended the quarterly meeting in Des Moines in September and they will be participating in the multi-state CPE in Oklahoma in November.

Microbial Optimization Goals – Then and Now

By Larry DeMers and Bob Hegg – Process Applications, Inc.

The microbial optimization goals provide the basis for the national Area Wide Optimization Program.  These goals were introduced to the AWOP states at the beginning of the program and were used to encourage a different level of performance from surface water treatment plants than the regulatory requirements at the time.  However, the initial development of these goals goes back even further in time.  The first Composite Correction Program handbook published by EPA in 1991 for water treatment optimization does not specifically list performance goals.  Performance is discussed under the “Conducting Performance Assessment” section of the CPE methodology and reference is made to achieving 2 NTU from sedimentation basins and 0.1 NTU from filters.  Included in a discussion in filter performance after a backwash, acceptable performance is described as a turbidity increase of 0.2 to 0.3 NTU for less than 10 minutes after a backwash.  Moving on to the 1998 edition of the Composite Correction Handbook, Chapter 2 is devoted to protection of public health from microbial pathogens, and the research basis for the optimization goals and specific performance goals are described within the chapter.  The turbidity performance goals, which all AWOP participants are familiar with, are summarized below.

Individual Sedimentation Basin Performance

  • Settled water turbidity less than 1 NTU 95 percent of the time when annual average raw water turbidity is less than or equal to 10 NTU.  This goal increases to 2 NTU when the annual average raw water turbidity is greater than 10 NTU.

Individual Filter Effluent Performance (IFE)

  • Filtered water turbidity ≤ 0.1 NTU 95 % of the time (excluding 15 minute period following backwashes) based on maximum values recorded during 4-hour time increments.
  • Maximum filtered water turbidity of 0.3 NTU.
  • Initiate backwash after turbidity breakthrough has occurred and before turbidity exceeds 0.1 NTU.
  • Maximum filtered water turbidity following backwash of < 0.3 NTU.
  • Maximum backwash recovery period of 15 minutes (i.e., return to < 0.1 NTU).

Although specific goals were not established for combined filter effluent turbidity (CFE) in the 1998 edition of the handbook, the same goals as with IFE are applied to CFE when interpreting performance at this location.  This point is demonstrated in the handbook in the CPE methodology section on assessing plant performance.

Further discussion on interpreting the filter backwash recovery performance goals occurs in Chapter 4 under supplemental data collection.  This section states that the same goals (i.e., limit turbidity spike to < 0.3 NTU and recover to ≤ 0.1 NTU within 15 minutes) should be used to assess filters with filter-to-waste capability.  The 15 minute recovery period starts when the filter begins filtering during the filter-to-waste period.  The rationale for this approach is that the filter-to-waste period is a key indicator of a plant’s process control, and monitoring of performance should start immediately after the filter is placed back in service.  This description is important to remember, since NOLT has made changes to this interpretation that are currently being applied during Targeted Performance Improvement (TPI) activities (e.g., CPEs, PBT), and they will be discussed later in this article.

Since the last update of the turbidity performance goals in 1998, further research using higher resolution turbidimeters and particle counters have confirmed the validity of these goals and provided the basis for refinements.  One specific refinement is the use of two significant figures when referring to the filtration goals (i.e., 0.10 in place of 0.1 NTU, 0.30 in place of 0.3 NTU).  One specific research project that is included in the “Why Optimize” presentation during PBT references work conducted by Emelko (Water Quality Technology Conference, 2000) on Cryposporidium removal during filtration.  The researchers were able to demonstrate 5 to 6 log removal during optimized, stable filter operation, and the measured turbidity during this period of operation was approximately 0.04 NTU.  At the end of the filter run the log removal decreased to 2 to 3 log with a corresponding turbidity increase to approximately 0.10 NTU.  Advances in turbidimeter resolution also support the refinement in turbidity readings.  A common low range process turbidimeter currently used in water treatment plants (i.e., Hach 1720E) has an accuracy of ± 2 % of the reading or ± 0.015 NTU from 0 to 40 NTU.

A recent refinement to the sedimentation and filtration optimization goals was reported in the August 2009 edition of AWOP News.  This article described a recommended approach for establishing the frequency of data collection for continuous reading turbidimeters when pursuing process optimization.  For sedimentation basins a frequency of at least 15 minutes is recommended.  For individual filters and combined filter effluent at least a 1 minute frequency is recommended.  Additional information on this refinement can be found in the article.

For the last microbial goal refinement discussed in this article, revisions to the filter-to-waste performance goal will be reviewed.  The performance goals for plants without filter-to-waste capability remain the same, other than the change to using two significant figures.  These plants should strive to limit their turbidity spike following backwash to < 0.30 NTU and should achieve ≤ 0.10 NTU within 15 minutes of return to service.  Recent experience from PBT plants implementing special studies has shown that filter backwash spikes can be reduced substantially through use of practices such as filter rest periods and the extended terminal subfluidization wash (ETSW).  In many cases filter spikes can be reduced to < 0.10 NTU.  For filters with filter-to-waste capability the performance goals have changed to the following:

  • Minimize the turbidity spike during the filter-to-waste period (i.e., record the highest turbidity and direct optimization efforts at minimizing this value).
  • Return the filter to service at ≤ 0.10 NTU.

This refinement does not establish a maximum turbidity value or length of time to the filter-to-waste period.  The primary reason for this change is that, under the revised goal, filters are not returned to service until the turbidity is ≤ 0.10 NTU thus limiting the need to establish specific maximum turbidity and duration goals for water that is going to waste.  The revised goal recommends that plant operators monitor performance during filter-to-waste and minimize the turbidity spike during this period, a practice that has not been pursued by plants in the past but is a key activity during PBT.  The magnitude of the spike during the filter-to-waste period can be used as a relative indicator of filter conditioning prior to the filter going into service.  Most plant operators have a desire to keep filter-to-waste periods short, since they want to minimize wasting production water.  Consequently, operators are motivated to achieve ≤ 0.10 NTU as quickly as possible during filter-to-waste.

An example post filter backwash assessment from a recent Oregon PBT session is shown in the chart below.  These turbidity data describe the performance of a filter during the filter-to-waste period.  During the initial part of the period the turbidity reflects the quality of the backwash water exiting the filter.  Once this water is removed, settled water passes through the filter, and the maximum turbidity of 0.13 NTU occurs at about 12 minutes into the period.  A turbidity of 0.10 NTU is reached between 17 to 18 minutes.  At this time the plant operator changed from filter-to-waste to filter-to-clearwell operation.

It is important to understand that the initial lag in the turbidity response can be impacted by the size of the filter, including the underdrain volume, as well as the filter-to-waste rate.  Ideally, the filter-to-waste rate is similar to the filtration rate; however, this is not always the case for plants with different size waste piping.  It is also important to understand that the potential exists to minimize the turbidity spike and duration of the filter-to-waste period described by the performance in the chart.  As described previously, many PBT operators have been able to utilize the special study approach to maintain the turbidity spike during filter-to-waste at ≤ 0.10 NTU.

Almost 20 years after the publication of the Composite Correction Program handbook for surface water treatment plants, the basis for the turbidity goals remains in place.  The refinements described in this article have been made based on industry research, changes in instrumentation capability, and the considerable amount of experience gained through implementing AWOP activities.

Update on Status of Microbial Performance Based Training

By Bob A. Hegg and Larry D. DeMers – Process Applications, Inc.  

BACKGROUND:  The Microbial Performance Based Training approach is a key Targeted Performance Improvement tool used by the AWOP network to allow operators and managers at water utilities to achieve the full capability and performance potential of their existing facilities.   This protocol, originally piloted in 1999 has been demonstrated on a broad scale (an estimated 22 states and 200 water utilities) and has documented performance data available as well as documented state and operator skill improvement available to show overall impact.  From a microbial perspective operational skills for participating facilities have been enhanced to allow utilities to aggressively pursue optimized performance goals for filters of <0.10 NTU.  The protocol has impacted the way training is done for water utilities in many states.  In addition the protocol is being developed to apply to disinfection by-product and groundwater optimization efforts.  The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the significant enhancements to the protocol that have occurred over the last ten plus years of PBT experience.  

CURRENT STATUS:  The current PBT approach has evolved and been enhanced with almost each training series that has been conducted, however, the basic protocol that was developed over 10 years ago has remained the same.  The protocol is applied at multiple treatment plants using a multi-faceted long-term training process.  Five strategic centralized training sessions are used to introduce key optimization concepts and skills to representatives from each of the participating plants and to facilitators.  The sessions are conducted over a 12 to15 month period.  The training emphasis of each session is:  Session 1 – Adopt Goals and Assess Data, Session 2 – Developing Priority Setting and Problem Solving Skills, Session 3 – Coagulation Control Tool Development, Session 4 – Assessing Current Plant Performance/Applying Skills and Tools, Session 5 – Reporting on Success.  

Between the training sessions, training facilitators work with the individual plants through limited site visits and phone contact to encourage implementation of the concepts and skills presented during the training sessions.  The impact of project activities on plant performance is measured by comparing turbidity data for the one-year periods before, during, and after the projects.    

ENHANCEMENTS:  Enhancements made to the training protocol have been based on an expanded experience base in implementing the protocol.  Some of the significant enhancements will be described in more detail in this article.  

  • Facilitator Training Session:  It was recognized after several initial PBT efforts that facilitator training was just as important during PBT as training for the actual utility personnel.  It was also recognized that facilitation skills vary widely.  Currently a formal one and ½ day facilitator training session has been developed and implemented.  This session focuses on providing an overview of PBT, teaching facilitation skills such as avoiding troubleshooting, teaching the facilitators how to obtain initial jar calibration settings for a utility, recognizing sampling challenges to supporting PBT data collection, and identifying on site activities.  Additionally this training is supplemented by phone consultation and routine facilitator/trainer conference calls throughout the PBT effort.  An associated major change has been that the jar test calibration spreadsheet is no longer taught or introduced in the training sessions.  Alternatively, facilitators are trained on using the spreadsheet, and they collect the necessary data and determine the initial settings.  The facilitators provide this information to their utility participants during or shortly after Session 3.  The utility staff is trained to “tweak” these settings using special studies to make the jar test tool specific to their plant.  As a component of the facilitator training session, a plant is visited and the initial jar calibration parameters are calculated using the jar test spreadsheet.  The facilitators that have been through this training have commented positively on the support this provides for their efforts.
  • Filter Backwash Performance Trending Spreadsheet:  This spreadsheet has been added to PBT and is used to collect data from participating PBT facilities on post filter backwash performance.  The spreadsheet was previously described in the August 2009 issue of AWOP News.  An example graph from the spreadsheet is shown in Figure 1

Figure 1: Example Spreadsheet Chart Showing Multiple Days of Backwash Recovery Data


  • Session 2 Homework:  Session 2 covers development of priority setting and problem solving skills.  The concept of special studies is introduced in this session, and the related homework assignment is to conduct two special studies.  In response to consistent feedback that the participants like visiting other facilities, assignments are now made to pair up the utilities and have them jointly conduct one of their special studies together.  For those ‘partner’ plants that have been able to complete the exchange of special study efforts the feedback has been positive.  The quality of the joint special studies has also improved.  It has been a challenge for some of the partner utilities to find the time to complete the joint efforts.
  • Session 2 and Session 3 Workshops:  The data collection for the workshops associated with Session 2 and Session 3 has been modified to be very prescriptive (e.g., data collection tables are provided in the workshops with the number and time for sampling specified).  This has allowed the data to be compiled during the workshops and graphically displayed at the end to enhance data interpretation during the training sessions, a critical skill needed for problem solving.
  • Session 3 Quality Control Special Study:  As a jar test calibration workshop activity during Session 3, some of the participants are requested to complete a quality control special study.  This study involves collecting equal amounts of raw water in two jars (2L each), adding equal amounts of coagulants at the same time and mixing simultaneously with equal amount of energy.  Once the mixing is complete, the water is drawn out at the same time from both jars at predetermined time intervals (i.e., 0, 1, 2,  4, 6, 8, and 10 min) and measured for turbidity.  Graphs (settling curves) are developed for each jar by plotting turbidity vs. time, and the results are then compared with each other.  If reproducible results cannot be achieved, then jar test techniques need to be developed further before the next steps of jar test calibration can be pursued. 

Variability in jar test results can occur for a variety of reasons such as:   

  • Inconsistency with filling up the jars to 2L mark with raw water
  • Inconsistency with dosing the exact amount of coagulant 
  • Inconsistency with opening the jar valves (taps) for sampling
  • Variability in the optical sensitivity of the round sample cells
  • Turbidity meter variability
  • Inconsistent mixing of samples before measuring turbidity

Despite these variations, proper technique should allow similar curves to be developed.  A spreadsheet-based tool has been developed to allow a comparison of settling curve results.  Two methods have been developed to determine how well settling curves match each other.  The first method assumes that the two settling curves are similar (i.e., they match) if the data fall within a range of +/- 15 percent of the average of the two curves.  Another method uses the development of an “Absolute Difference Ratio” to assess the similarity of the developed curves.  The data collected to date indi­cates that a ratio of less than 1.0 and preferably less than 0.7 indicates good quality control and settling curves that match each other.  This 15 percent difference and the ratio are automatically calcu­lated when the data is entered into the jar test calibration spreadsheet.  The objective is to work on jar testing technique until settling curves that are similar to each other can be developed (i.e., meet the +/- 15 percent criteria or meet the < 0.7 ratio).  Figure 2 shows results demon­strating good jar testing tech­nique.   


FIGURE 2. Example of Settling Curves That Demonstrate



  • PBT Follow-up Meetings:  A PBT follow-up session (i.e., 1 year later) was initiated with the Idaho PBT series in 2006 and a similar session was added to the DBP PBT pilot series in South Carolina.    The sessions were added to provide motivation for the PBT graduates to continue to focus on performance data collection and special studies after Session 5.  Minimal facilitation is provided during this post PBT period.  The agenda for these sessions includes a review of the performance data and short summaries of significant special studies that have been completed.  Feedback from attendees has been positive, and the effort encourages ongoing data collection and sustaining of the operator “network “.
  • State Enhancements:  Several of the AWOP states have made other enhancements to the PBT protocol to suit specific types of plants (KY – developed materials specifically for ActiFlo Plants;  AL – utilized a multi day Session for Session 3; IA inserted a session 2A to better emphasize special studies; and PA modified Session 3 to include running zeta potential on participants water. 


The results of PBT projects indicate that it remains a viable training tool for achieving performance improvements at multiple treatment plants, including small systems.  It also results in enhanced skill development and optimization implementation potential for utility personnel as well as for personnel fulfilling the facilitator role.  After 10 years of successful implementation the PBT protocol has proven to be a successful training approach, and enhancements have been an ongoing process to make this TPI tool even more effective.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Pilot Program Aims to Improve Drinking Water Quality by Optimizing Publicly-Owned Treatment Works’ (POTW) Discharges

By Mark Neville, PA DEP

Expanding Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) to include Sewage Treatment

Under terms of Pennsylvania’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund set-asides, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) filter plant programs section recently began a new project aimed at improving surface water quality before raw water reaches the filtration plant. This new project looks at improving the effluent water quality from publicly-owned treatment works (POTW) within five stream miles upstream of the intakes to potable water filtration plants by replicating the successful Filter Plant Performance Evaluation (FPPE) format for sewage treatment works.  The analogous evaluation, conducted out of the department’s Operations, Monitoring, and Training division at the Bureau of Water Standards and Facility Regulation, is the Wastewater Plant Performance Evaluation (WPPE).

A WPPE is a six-to-eight week on-site study performed by two DEP evaluators who are licensed sewage treatment operators, with the voluntary cooperation of a system’s official Operator-in-Charge, who continues to make operational adjustments to his plant, and the blessing of the POTW’s supervisors (boards or authorities.)  The project starts with a multi-paged performance evaluation that looks at the facility’s past operations, data, and equipment and seeks to locate “limiting factors” that affect effluent quality.  Using this evaluation as a guide, the operators then look for ways to improve the plant’s performance without incurring major capital expenditures.  Usually, the adjustments can be as simple as changing an aeration timer for a sequencing batch reactor (SBR) or by adjusting where raw wastewater is introduced to a treatment process (step feed vs. plug flow.) 

Figure 1: Instrumentation installed at WPPE site, Masontown, November 2009

The evaluators use modern instrumentation, including digital-recording ion probes purchased from HACH Corporation, to obtain continuous, on-line monitoring of plant performance throughout the duration of the site study.  In addition, for those facilities which may lack some laboratory equipment necessary for consistent process monitoring, the evaluators lend a wet-methods wastewater lab, including digital microscope, spectrophotometer, centrifuge, and portable ion meters, to the plant operators, while working to instill an ethic of consistent and regular process monitoring as a necessary precursor to making process control decisions.  This trouble-shooting and on-the-job-training aspect of the WPPE attempts to assure that plant operators will continue to pursue the goal of improved effluent water quality long after the evaluators have left the scene. 

Following on-site work, the evaluators prepare WPPE reports with reviews and recommendations tailored to each facility’s peculiar situation.

Figure 2: Laboratory Equipment staged at Lickdale, November 2009

An initial goal of the program has been to determine if non-cost-intensive operational adjustments could be used to reduce the concentration of waterborne pathogens entering downstream filter plants.  The evaluators have conducted sampling for Giardia cyst and Cryptosporidium oocyst at the outset, during, and at the completion of each evaluation.  The sampling plan includes background testing upstream of the point source, the treatment plant effluent, and the raw water entering the downstream filtration plant.  It was initially theorized that the pathogen counts would have a direct relationship to the amount of suspended solids in sewage plant effluent, and that destruction of pathogens directly correlates to turbidity in disinfection processes.

Figure 3: WPPE Evaluators Bob DiGilarmo and Marc Neville

To date, though, the evaluators have found that, without large-scale changes to disinfection technology, often incurring major capital expenditures, parasites like Cryptosporidium and Giardia are strongly resistant to destruction by conventional techniques or minor operational changes.  Therefore, one tentative conclusion drawn by the WPPE Program is that potable water filtration plant operators need to be highly attentive to these pathogens found in surface source waters.

Figure 4: Evaluator explains to Plant Operator how to interpret data from probes

 An area where substantial savings may be seen is the reduction of energy costs through effective management of treatment processes.  At one facility, where initially little control of excess dissolved oxygen concentration in the treatment process was causing high energy costs for a small municipality, evaluators were able to achieve cost savings by controlling solids levels and reducing the need for additional in-service capacity.  Use of on-line digital monitoring allowed the operator to reduce blower usage from a constant two motors to a variable both or one, creating an estimated savings of up to $8,000 per year in electricity costs.

The most “bang for the buck” has been found in nutrient reduction through process optimization.  At many of the facilities participating in the WPPE program, evaluators found that minor operational changes have helped reduce both ammonia-nitrogen and effluent nitrate concentrations, with smaller, concurrent reductions in phosphate-phosphorus.  With a large geographical area of Pennsylvania lying within the Susquehanna River drainage basin, the recent Chesapeake Bay Initiative to reduce nutrient contamination and its resultant eutrophication of valuable shellfish beds has made nutrient reduction the “holy grail” of wastewater treatment.  Many facilities are struggling with limited budgets to reduce effluent nutrients.

Figure 5, below, shows how a simple process adjustment as converting from a plug-flow, contact stabilization treatment to step-feed, extended aeration reduced toxic ammonia content in the plant’s effluent to almost nothing.

Figure 5: Reduction of ammonium ion concentration in mixed liquor, Atglen, August 2009

A second histogram, Figure 6, shows how nitrate-nitrogen was reduced at an extended aeration facility by allowing already-present microorganisms to convert nitrate to molecular nitrogen (denitrification,) thus removing nitrate from the raw water intake of the borough’s water plant downstream:

Figure 6: Reduction of nitrate ion concentration in mixed liquor, Masontown, December 2009

As the WPPE Program moves forward, the evaluators are hoping to expand the scope of the project to include any facility where assistance is needed most, working in conjunction with another department initiative that provides on-site operations assistance to sewage plant personnel. 

The ultimate aim of the WPPE Program is to improve wastewater treatment plant effluent quality through education and practice, expanding from a pilot project to an established statewide program.  Currently, evaluators located in Ebensburg and Harrisburg divide the state into two territories, with each evaluator conducting six WPPEs per year for POTWs directly influencing filtration plant intakes.  Eventually, the program may be offered to any POTW that requests the service.

For additional information, please contact Mr. Marc Neville, PA DEP Filter Plant Programs, at or Mr. Robert Digilarmo, PA DEP Filter Plant Programs at

AWOP Planning Meeting Update – March 2010

One of the key components of the area-wide optimization program (AWOP) is the routine planning meetings held between participating state program personnel, EPA, ASDWA, and the contractor, Process Applications, Inc.  These meetings are part of the strategic implementation process used to sustain the AWOP partnerships and activities (e.g., the network).  The meetings accomplish multiple objectives including:  sharing ideas, agreeing on direction and priorities, providing multi-state support and encouragement to improve program performance, sharing techni­cal and management information and approaches and overall sustaining the AWOP human infrastructure.   The AWOP planning and training activities conducted since the last issue of AWOP News in December 2009 are summarized below.

Region 3 Planning Meeting – Culpeper, Virginia – March 30 – 31, 2010

The Region 3 AWOP planning group consisting of participants from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, ASDWA, EPA Region 3, EPA TSC, EPA DWPD and Process Applications, Inc. met in Culpeper, Virginia in March 2010.  A presentation was provided on site selection and start-up considerations for a DBP PBT and discussions were held on the potential models for implementing a multi-state DBP PBT.  Because of the numerous questions concerning logistics and site selection it was decided to have the individual states initiate site selection efforts at a few utilities and also to assess the availability of laboratory support for the effort.  An initial bias was to utilize a “train the trainer approach” with the training to be provided by NOLT and implementation being completed at three facilities in each state.  Further discussions on the approach will be conducted at the next planning meeting.  A presentation and workshop on the AWOP fundamentals performance impacts component was also completed.  The next regularly scheduled meeting of this AWOP network group is scheduled for June 15 – 16, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and will focus on finalizing a site selection and implementation approach for the planned DBP PBT demonstration effort.

Region 4 Planning Meeting – Lexington, Kentucky – March 9 – 10, 2010

Region 4 AWOP planning group consisting of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Region 4, and EPA/PAI met in Lexington, Kentucky in March 2010.  Georgia and Florida were not able to attend the meeting.  Region 4 is unique in that much of the development work on the DBP PBT has been completed or is currently underway in Region 4 states.  South Carolina was the development state for the initial pilot of DBP PBT and Kentucky is currently the location of the second pilot effort.  Additionally Kentucky is starting a second series of DBP PBT efforts in March 2010.  Alabama has completed two DBP PBT efforts on an individual state basis and is initiating a third series.  The Region 4 group was rewarded from these efforts by having the states that have participated provide lessons learned on the start up and site selection efforts required to support a DBP PBT.  Materials provide will be available through the ASDWA website posting of the meeting documentation.  Additionally North Carolina reported on their continuing active efforts at implementing and assessing the Extended Terminal Sub-fluidization Wash (ETSW) technique for controlling/minimizing backwash spikes from granular filters.   A workshop on AWOP fundamentals (Performance Impacts Component) was completed.   The next Region 4 planning meeting is scheduled to be held in Alabama on August 3 – 4, 2010.  The group will be focusing on developing distribution optimization skills, specifically looking at procedures for conducting investigative sampling to identify potential sites with lower water quality.

Region 6 Planning Meeting – Baton Rouge, Louisiana – April 27 – 29, 2010

The next Region 6 AWOP meeting is scheduled for April in Baton Rouge, and training will be conducted on distribution system optimization goals, the water quality assessment spreadsheet, and application of the sampling guideline.

Region 10 Planning Meeting – Portland, Oregon – March 3 – 4, 2010

Oregon DHS hosted the regional AWOP meeting in Portland in March 2010.  AWOP network participants included Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Region 10, EPA TSC, and PAI.  Utah participated in the meeting through a conference call and use of the Washington Internet file sharing software (i.e., iLinc).  A presentation and workshop were included in the meeting on an AWOP fundamentals topic – Maintenance Component.  An additional presentation and workshop was conducted by Idaho and Oregon staff on continuing the development of slow sand filter status component criteria.  The next Region 10 AWOP meeting will be conducted using conference call and iLinc facilities.  The meeting is scheduled for June 3 – 4, 2010.  Two multi-state CPEs are scheduled for this summer.  One is tentatively planned in Idaho in July and a second CPE is planned for a tribal water system in Washington in August.

Future activities are scheduled as follows:

Date                                                                                                    Activity

May 18 – 20, 2010                              NOLT Planning Meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio

June 15 – 16, 2010                              Region 3 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event in Region 3 (Philadelphia)

June 23 – 24, 2010                              Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting – Remote event via conference call and iLinc

Week of July 12, 2010                        Region 10 AWOP Multi-State CPE – Pierce, Idaho? – No NOLT involvement

July 19 – 20, 2010                               Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting – Remote meeting via Video Teleconferencing

July 27 – 28, 2010                               NOLT Planning Meeting Conference Call

August 3 – 4. 2010                             Region 4 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Alabama

Week of August 9, 2010                     Region 10 AWOP Tribal CPE – Makah Reservation, WA – No NOLT involvement

Week of August 16, 2010                   Region 3 Multi-State CPE Training Event – Washington D.C.

September 20 – 23, 2010                     Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Des Moines, IA

October 20 – 21, 2010                         Region 3 AWOP Planning Meeting – Hershey, PA

Week of October 25, 2010                 Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event in Spokane, Washington

November 9 – 10, 2010                      Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting – Remote event via VTC and Internet file sharing

November 30 – Dec. 1, 2010            NOLT Planning Meeting Conference Call

December 7 – 8, 2010                         Region 4 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Training Event – Florida

The Optimization State

News and views from the AWOP states.  Please use this for your enlightenment, enrichment and maybe even your entertainment!  AND think about what your state wants to share for the next AWOP News.


Greenfield Success Story

In fall of 2007, the Iowa DNR field staff offered training in the use of the Optimization Assessment Software (OAS) to all of the state’s 32 surface water systems.  In response to the training, several water system operators began using OAS and sending it in to the central office for review each month.  One of these was Water Plant Foreman Garry Miller of the Greenfield Municipal Utilities (GMU) water plant.  The plant utilizes water from six wells, Greenfield Lake, Nodaway Lake, and the Middle Nodaway River to produce water for a population of approximately 2,300 people.  Potassium permanganate is added at the Greenfield Lake inlet, and then water flows by gravity to the treatment plant, where coagulant is added.  Flocculation/sedimentation is accomplished through a Trident Microfloc clarifier/filtration system followed by disinfection and fluoridation.  Because of the lack of sedimentation in this process, the plant is classified as direct filtration.

Miller began using the OAS software in November of 2007, and he noted with his first electronic submittal that the plant had filter to waste, but that filters were put back in service once turbidity dropped below 0.40 NTU.  He thought he could lower that to 0.20 NTU or lower.  He also mentioned that he was in the process of finding a computer programmer to repair a problem in the software that he thought would reduce the combined filter effluent (CFE) to less than 0.1 NTU 95 percent of the time.  On November 29, 2007, the computer programmer arrived and found that at 12:01 a.m. each morning, the computer program was taking that combined filter effluent turbidity measurement and adding it to the 12:00 a.m. measurement and recording it in the spreadsheets as the reading for 12:01 a.m., effectively doubling the reading.  Many times, this 12:01 a.m. reading was the highest reading of the day.  The OAS spreadsheet showed an immediate effect following the fix.  The 95th percentile for CFE did not change from 0.19 NTU, but GMU went from meeting the CFE optimization goal of 0.10 NTU 17.5 percent of the time, to meeting it 49.5 percent of the time after the computer program fix.  It also provided a more accurate picture of how things were going at the plant.

Program fix to more accurately portray CFE turbidity

After taking a look at the data in the OAS spreadsheets in November and December of 2007, Jennifer Bunton of IDNR contacted Miller about days with very high turbidities and found that Garry was reporting turbidity data even on days when filter maintenance was being performed, because he hadn’t realized these numbers were not considered valid for compliance.  They also discussed the fact that most of the maximum daily values were occurring during backwash and filter to waste.  Miller thought about this and decided that maybe there was a problem in the control panel, because the relays were supposed to block turbidity data from reaching the plant computer and spreadsheets during backwash and filter to waste.  He thought that perhaps the input signal to the relay was coming from the wrong terminal in the plant PLC, so he talked with his manager about it, and they agreed this could be a problem.  In November of 2008, Miller and the Utilities Superintendent, Duane Armstead, were able to negotiate a deal with the control panel technician and he came out to fix the problem.  Results were evident immediately, as the OAS data showed. 

Control panel fixed to eliminate recording during backwashes and filter to waste periods

In the year since the backwash and filter to waste data were blocked from recording, GMU has gone from meeting the individual filter goal of 0.10 NTU zero percent of the time to meeting the goal 68.8 percent of the time—a drastic improvement.  The GMU plant is also now meeting the CFE goal 97.3 percent of the time.  There have not been a lot of operational changes at the plant, and Miller has not been able to participate in the state’s Performance Based Training program because of demands on his time, but GMU now has more representative data to use for optimization purposes.  This shows a very different picture from what IDNR saw during its initial data collection efforts in 2006, and it also shows the benefit of just providing optimization information to systems in a format that is easy to understand.  Miller agrees, saying, “I guess I never paid too much attention to all this before I started using the OAS spreadsheets…Thanks for planting the seed as far as keeping a closer eye on how your plant is truly performing.”

Miller says he is a “behind the scenes kind of guy,” but Bunton disagrees.  “It’s only because Garry took the initiative to start thinking about why his data looked the way it did that he was able to convince his manager to make the changes necessary to portray the true picture of what was going on at the GMU plant.  His attitude and persistence are to be commended and his actions show that he is truly a professional.” ♦