2011 National AWOP Meeting was a Big Success

The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) and the Technical Support Center (TSC) in EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water sponsored the fourth National Area-Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) Meeting in Cincinnati, OH at the Hilton Netherland Plaza on July 19 & 20, 2011.  The conference provided existing AWOP States and Regions with an opportunity to meet and network with other AWOP participants and hear how they are implementing strategic knowledge in their programs.  Other states with an interest in AWOP and even visitors from Canada attended to become more familiar with AWOP tools and practices.   In a first for the conference, attendees also heard directly from a water system that has been the beneficiary of AWOP activities.  In addition to this exchange between participants, the conference also provided an opportunity to learn about national AWOP priorities and technical initiatives.  This conference follows a series of very successful AWOP National Meetings that began in 2005.

A returning feature of the meeting was the resource tables.  Here states and regions could share their training tools, awards, congratulation letters, optimization goals posters, and all the special things that make their program successful.  Other AWOP programs can use these as a resource to improve their own program.  A fun highlight of the conference (since we didn’t get to see the Reds – again!) was AWOP Bingo.  Through this icebreaker game, attendees found out who in the crowd has been scuba diving or drives a convertible (presumably not at the same time) or was a boy scout or girl scout or has never received a traffic violation (presumably these are the same people).   These fun facts make everyone more comfortable sharing the more serious facts about how AWOP is conducted in their state or region.

At the outset of the meeting, James Taft of ASDWA reminded us why we should attend the National AWOP Meeting and highlighted other important work ASDWA is doing.  Then Greg Carroll of TSC stressed AWOP’s importance to EPA.  After that introduction, participants jumped right into specific meeting topics described below:

Direction for the AWOP Program – Rick Lieberman provided all with some background on the AWOP program.  He showed how we get from point A to point B.  It may not be a direct route.  There are many forks in the road but we will be successful in the journey if we have faith in the AWOP process.  That includes strategic planning, developing tools, piloting tools, and finally demonstrating and facilitating the tools through the network.  He also shared a dream for AWOP to implement optimization of the multiple barriers protecting drinking water by expansion of our network.

State and Regional AWOP Reports – This is probably the most popular section of the agenda, and certainly the most active.  This year it was even the most efficient.  That means we finished early!  Each state and regional AWOP coordinator introduced the staff that were present and shared a brief update on their program – highlighting a current activity or challenge, or sharing their vision for the future.   Our visitors also shared why they came and what they hoped to gain from the meeting.

ASDWA Web Page and Communications Tools – There has been a major emphasis on improving communications among the AWOP community over the last couple years.  Anthony DeRosa of ASDWA shared the various tools that he has developed on the ASDWA website and beyond to facilitate the exchange of strategic knowledge.  The group learned about the use of the ASDWA Forums to ask questions and get answers, the location of the document library on the website for accessing the latest AWOP tools, and how the new AWOP blog is changing the way the AWOP News is developed.

AWOP Impacts – Under AWOP Impacts we learned that Cincinnati residents are served by a high quality of baseball even when the Reds aren’t in town, as evidenced by Nate Lieberman’s 0.471 batting average and home run swing. We also learned that residents of various AWOP states are served by a high quality of drinking water as evidenced by documented impacts of AWOP on their water systems.  Whether it is the Washington state “X graph” or the graphical representation of the population served by optimized system in South Carolina, there is a process that each state goes through to collect and manage the data needed to document the success of the state’s AWOP.   After attendees saw how the experts do it, a workshop got them all to develop their own ideas.  Participants developed a flowchart describing how they could turn their own state’s data into a graph or other representation of AWOP impact in their state.  Participants not representing states were also asked to consider an ideal process for turning AWOP generated data, on a local or national scale, into an ideal representation of the impact of AWOP.

Data Integrity – Larry DeMers explained how AWOP is all about the data.  You can’t tell the true story without good data.     State representatives explained particular data issues discovered in their states.  Arkansas determined that turbidimeter calibration was an issue there and has used summer engineering interns to conduct checks in the field.   Texas uses formal data assessments to uncover problems with data recording and reporting on Monthly Operating Reports (MORs).  In Iowa, the conduct of routine AWOP activities like CPE’s and PBT pointed out where data integrity issues were present in the state so appropriate response could be initiated.  The panel presentations stimulated a lively question and answer session.

Distribution System Optimization – Although still relatively new, the distribution system optimization initiative has already developed some good tools like the sample flushing methodology and the hydrant sampler.   The program has already identified challenges to distribution optimization such as an inadequate monitoring program and no clear line of responsibility for water quality in the distribution system.  Megan Sekhar shared these facts and the future direction for distribution system optimization.  Pennsylvania then showed how one state has begun to implement a distribution program and through case studies gave us documentation how good, bad, or ugly it can be in the field.  After that introduction, it was all made real by a workshop where participants identified specific things they could do to add elements of distribution system optimization to their AWOP.

AWOP Integration – Bob Hegg explained how integration fits into the Maintenance Component of AWOP and the panelists showed specific examples of integration in their region and states.  Region 10 has been a leader in developing funding options for AWOP through DWSRF set asides and the Expense Reimbursement Grant.  Iowa’s innovative project to directly integrate AWOP principles into their capacity development can be a model for other states.  Kentucky takes a different approach and uses AWOP tools, as appropriate, in the Corrective Action Plans for water systems as part of their Enforcement Management Strategy.  After these presentations to stimulate their thinking, the participants completed a work shop on Integration Implementation.  In the workshop, those at the table shared a specific integration example with their peers.  Then they developed additional ideas for use in their state/region.

DBP Implementation – Alabama has been a leader in addressing DBP issues through AWOP.  Working with TSC and the City of Tuscaloosa on a Comprehensive Technical Assistance (CTA) project has given them more insight into DBP issues and especially the influence of the distribution system.  This led to development of the “artificial demand device” (otherwise known as an automatic flusher) as a cost effective tool for DBP control when implemented with a well designed flushing program.  The CTA not only helped the state but had a direct influence on the city.  Bernard Cassity of Tuscaloosa shared their experience working with the state and EPA and showed how they have been able to use the lessons learned from the CTA to support DBP control decisions.

All in all it was another successful National Meeting.  Plan to be there in 2013!

The Optimization State – Texas

These are some news and views submitted by 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 Optimization State.

A long time member of the Texas Optimization Core Team, Don Tharp, has retired after working for the State of Texas for 35 years.  Don began his career with the state as a Registered Sanitarian at the Texas Department of Health and he continued to work in the Public Drinking Water Program when it was transferred to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  He joined the Core Team in 1997, when two dedicated optimization positions (DOPs) were added in the Field Operations Division Regional Offices.  Don participated in field events, provided technical assistance to operators, and was a valued resource for TCEQ staff and management.  He plans to continue to be active in the drinking water community.

The Core Team has a mandatory Comprehensive Performance Evaluation scheduled in May and a Special Performance Evaluation and Data Audit planned for June.  We will be participating in the annual Public Drinking Water Conference in August, where we will present findings from the Disinfection By-Product Performance Based Training (DBP PBT).  The PBT participants will have a follow-up meeting in conjunction with the conference and will present updates on their projects.

The annual Public Drinking Water Staff Training was cancelled due to budget constraints, so we will provide training to the field staff by video-teleconference (VTC) later in the year.  We’re also working with EPA Region 6 to provide a workshop on rules and SDWIS, which will be available throughout the state via VTC.

Since the state’s 2012-2013 budget has not been finalized, the Team’s work plan for fiscal year 2012 has not been finalized either.  However, we are looking forward to hosting the Region 6 AWOP quarterly planning meeting in October and we’re making arrangements for providing training on different methods of acquiring electronic data at surface water treatment plants.

AWOP Planning Meeting Update – Region 3 April 2011

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.

Region 3 Planning Meeting – Falling Waters, West Virginia – April 12 – 14, 2011

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 Falling Waters, West Virginia in April 2011. In addition representatives from North Carolina attended the meeting.  A major objective of this meeting was to kick off a train the trainer series on the DBP PBT protocol.  The focus of the first session was to introduce and develop DBP PBT facilitator skills.  Each of the state participants are expected to take the training materials back to their respective state programs and, if necessary, train other state facilitators to support actual DBP PBT events for selected water utilities in their states.  The training materials used for this initial session represent the current enhanced materials from the South Carolina and Kentucky DBP PBT pilot development programs.  The train the trainer approach being used in Region 3 is designed to encourage immediate implementation of the newly acquired skills transferred to the state program attendees.  Some of the challenges is the train the trainer approach were discussed and plans made to implement training efforts at the individual states.  Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina are planning implementation with multiple facilities.  Maryland and Virginia are planning on starting with an individual system.  The next session will cover presentation of Session 1 of the DBP PBT protocol and will be held on June 21 – 22, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.

AWOP Planning Meeting Update – Region 4 March 2011

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.

Region 4 Planning Meeting – Decatur, Georgia – March 22 – 23, 2011

Region 4 AWOP planning group consisting of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Region 4, and EPA/PAI/ASDWA met in Decatur, Georgia in March 2011.  Additional participants from North Carolina and EPA TSC attended the meeting via teleconference.  Georgia was not able to attend the meeting due to financial and workload challenges.  A presentation and workshop was held on the first day to introduce and solicit feedback on the revised State AWOP Self Assessment.  Feedback on the content of the new self assessment was provided by the workshop participants.  In general the states felt that the self assessment had been enhanced.  A joint presentation on the approach and outcome of the second DBP PBT pilot program in KY was presented by TSC and KY.  The presentations established the much revised approach to the DBP PBT materials and demonstrated improved performance at multiple KY utilities.  KY is pursuing a DBP PBT on their own with an additional six facilities following the successful completion of the pilot.  The state presented their annual AWOP reports which continued to demonstrate the positive impacts on plant performance, cost savings, training benefits and increased professionalism provided by AWOP participation and implementation.  A broad range of topics was discussed during the planning meeting demonstrating the maturity of the Region 4 AWOP.  All of the states are pursing the construction of hydrant samplers and have plans in various stages of development to transfer representative distribution sampling to their constituents.  The next meeting will be held in Tallahassee, FL on November 29 – 30, 2011.  The technical topic to be discussed will be the tank mixing spreadsheet supplemented by case histories from EPA and/or various utility examples provide by the participating states.

AWOP Planning Meeting Update – Region 6 March 2011

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. Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Event:  Little Rock, Arkansas – March 1 – 3, 2011 The spring Region 6 AWOP meeting and field training event was held in Little Rock, Arkansas in early March.  Participants included AWOP partners from Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma (by conference call), Texas, EPA Region 6, TSC, and PAI.  The field training event was conducted in Malvern, Arkansas, a community located about 40 miles southwest of Little Rock.  The training event, coordinated and facilitated by AR staff, included an in-plant special study on determining the T10/T ratio for a clearwell used for disinfection credit.  The group was divided into four teams, and each team was responsible for measuring either a fluoride or sodium tracer over time and determining the resulting T10/T ratio.  The training exercise proved to be a valuable experience on the details required to set up a tracer study and provided practical information that the states could use in assessing disinfection capability in their plants.  The planning meeting included a presentation and workshop on the updated AWOP self-assessment.  The feedback provided by the participants focused primarily on the ability of the states to assess performance for multiple water quality goals and different numbers and types of water systems as well as how the revised self-assessment results would be interpreted by others.  The latter part of the meeting included discussion on priority topics including ‘optimizing’ the meeting time to include more time for discussion topics, addressing data integrity issues identified during plant inspections and CPEs, and approaches for conducting field staff training.  The next meeting and training event is planned for October 4 – 6, 2011 in Austin.  The field event will focus on turbidity data integrity and methods of reviewing on-site plant performance data (e.g., operational logs, SCADA downloads).

Region 6 AWOP Team 3 – Cindy Haynie (TX), Mac Faulkner (AR), Bill Davis (EPA R6), Don Fiegel (AR)

The Optimization State – Florida

Here are some news and views submitted by 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 Optimization State.

The Florida AWOP team is pleased that the program is gearing up again after budget constraints resulted in a reduction in traveling and therefore a reduction in site visits and system evaluations.  In September, AWOP team member Greg Parker retired from FDEP after many active years in the program.  Greg’s position was filled by Jennifer Porter, P.E.  Jen joins FDEP from the private sector, where she spent 15 years specializing in water and wastewater treatment plant design, distribution system design, and utility planning.  Prior to that work, Jen graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Environmental Engineering.  In October 2010, Jen got her first experience with AWOP when she attended a multi-state AWOP Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (CPE) in North Carolina.  Jen plans to utilize the DBP-CPE techniques learned during that AWOP event in order to assist systems in Florida that are experiencing issues with DBPs.

With disinfection byproducts as the focus for this year in Florida AWOP, we have identified candidate systems for CPEs based on non-compliance with TTHM and HAA5 standards.  Our first CPE was conducted for the City of Cocoa in May.

Florida will be hosting the Region IV AWOP Planning Meeting in Tallahassee on November 29 and 30, 2011.  During that meeting, and with a few statewide CPEs under our belt, we hope to gain insight into maintaining a successful program from other Region IV AWOP teams.  Proposed meeting topics include the development of performance-limiting factors for DBP CPEs.

AWOP Planning Meeting Update – Region 10 February 2011

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.

Region 10 Planning Meeting – Remote event via Conference Call and iLinc Web Hosting:  February 2 – 3, 2011

The Region 10 AWOP group conducted a 2-day remote planning meeting in February using conference call and web hosting facilities.  Participants included representatives from Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Utah, EPA Region 10, ASDWA, TSC, and PAI.  State AWOP reports included an update by Alaska on common findings from their status component inspections and implications with other drinking water program activities, a discussion by Washington on the significant changeover in their agency management positions as well as planning for their third PBT series, feedback on Oregon’s efforts to develop their first state-wide turbidity performance graph, and discussion from Utah on strategies to gain internal support for their AWOP efforts including recognition by EPA Region 8.  An update was provided during the meeting from the Slow Sand Filtration Work Group on the identification of appropriate performance goals for this biological filtration process.  Priority topics discussed during the meeting included identifying internal support strategies for program managers, further defining the consensus approach for turbidity performance trending in the region, and developing membrane filtration CPE criteria.  A late spring AWOP meeting is scheduled for May 17 – 19, 2011 and will be hosted by Alaska in their Anchorage office.  A field event is planned on demonstration of Alaska’s Status Component Inspection protocol and application of this tool to other Region 10 AWOP activities.

AWOP Planning Meeting Update – Region 4 December 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.

Region 4 Planning Meeting – Rock Hill, South Carolina – December 9 – 11, 2010

Region 4 AWOP planning group consisting of Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Region 4, and EPA/PAI met in Rock Hill, South Carolina in December 2010.  Additional participants from Alabama and EPA TSC participated via teleconference.  Georgia and Florida were not able to attend the meeting and due to financial and workload challenges.   A field training event was conducted in conjunction with the Rock Hill Utilities staff.  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 sampling devices.  Each of the three sampling teams included one plant operator and one person from the distribution system staff.  Approximately fifteen locations were sampled in different areas of Rock Hill’s distribution system.  The training exercise generated useful information for the water utility who participated in the workshop associated with the field training event and discussions of the findings.  The training event also showcased the first day of the National Leadership Team’s distribution system field development events.  It was explained that the training activities were a component of the distribution optimization system protocol that is currently being developed.    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.  A major discussion at the planning meeting was methods to initiate distribution system optimization by the state programs.  All of the states are planning on demonstrating the representative sampling procedure in some venue or another.  The next Region 4 planning meeting is scheduled to be held in Decatur, Georgia on March 22 – 23, 2011.

AWOP Planning Meeting Update – Region 10 October 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.

Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Events:  Spokane, Washington – October 25 – 28, 2010

A Region 10 planning meeting and field training event was hosted by the Washington DOH treatment optimization team in October 2010 in Spokane, Washington.  Participants included AWOP partners from Alaska (by conference call), Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, EPA Region 10, TSC, ASDWA (by conference call) and PAI.  The meeting included two field events – one conducted in Walla Walla, Washington at a slow sand filtration pilot project and a second conducted near Sandpoint, Idaho at a membrane treatment plant.  The first field event was included in the meeting agenda on the front-end travel day since Walla Walla was located on the travel route for several of the meeting participants.  The city and their engineering consultant provided a presentation and tour of their slow sand filter pilot plant that they are evaluating to meet the LT2 surface water treatment requirements.  The field event provided an opportunity to learn about design considerations for slow sand filter pilots, review performance data, and build the knowledge basis on optimization considerations for this process.  The second field event was conducted at a small water system that had experienced failed membrane modules.  The system operators and accountant provided a tour of the system and described the treatment and financial issues they have faced with their system.  This field event provided an opportunity for the Region 10 AWOP group to contrast a troubled membrane system with well-functioning systems that have been visited during past field events.  Planning meeting topics included developing a consensus approach for developing a region-wide turbidity performance graph and identifying the next steps in developing slow sand filtration optimization criteria.  The next meeting for the group will be a conference call supported by web hosting to be conducted on February 2 – 3, 2011.

AWOP Planning Meeting Update – Region 3 October 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.

Region 3 Planning Meeting – Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – October 20-21, 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 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in October 2010.  Several additional participants from EPA TSC participated via phone. Each state reported back in detail on the various components of the site selection guidelines that had been provided to them by the NOLT to select candidates for a DBP PBT..  It was formally established that each of the Region 3 states would participate in a “train the trainer approach”.  Training will be provided by NOLT and implementation will be pursued by each state at a minimum of one facility in each participating state.  Every state brought information for at least two facilities and if they prove to be viable candidates it is anticipated that a minimum of two utilities per state will participate.  The states are planning on involving multiple staff in the training and implementation effort.   The cost of equipment and testing to support the project remained a challenge.  It was also established that North Carolina, a Region 4 AWOP state, may be interested in joining the Region 3 DBP PBT effort.   A call is scheduled for January 2011 to finalize participants and the site selection activities.  Additional topics addressed during the meeting were approaches for addressing potential DBP compliance challenges associated with the new regulations and methods of using set aside funds to support AWOP activities.  Several states mentioned that Connecticut was expressing preliminary interest in AWOP and they were interested in inviting them to be part of the Region 3 AWOP efforts.     The next regularly scheduled meeting of this AWOP network group is scheduled for the week of April 11, 2011 at a West Virginia utility.  The meeting will focus on DBP PBT facilitator training for the participating state personnel.