Optimization Potential of the Human Infrastructure

At the 2015 National AWOP Meeting, a workshop session was devoted to the topic of how to assess “optimization potential” and incorporate it into Status Component ranking criteria.  One potential tool is the Major Unit Process Evaluation which helps to determine if a plant has adequate design capability.  Existing CCP handbooks for water and wastewater plants provide guidance for conducting a Major Unit Process Evaluation.  Another aspect of optimization potential relates to the suitability and level of interest of plant managers and operators who would potentially participate in optimization activities.  Clearly, optimization resources are more wisely spent at facilities where there is motivation and capability on the part of its operators and managers.

As a follow-up activity to this workshop, a document was developed that provides potential interview questions to help assess the human infrastructure component of “optimization potential”.  Three sets of interview questions (for state drinking water personnel, plant managers, plant operators) were prepared to help gain insight into a plant’s interest in and suitability for optimization activities.  This approach is roughly the equivalent of a “job interview” for a candidate applying for an optimization training opportunity.

The document linked to this article may be useful to AWOP states when identifying utilities to consider for training activities.  If others in the AWOP network have ideas or approaches on how to assess the human infrastructure capability, they are encouraged to share them on AWOP News or by providing comments to this article. OptPot_25Apr2016

EPA Region 4 Hosts AWOP Meeting in Decatur, Georgia

EPA Region 4 hosted an AWOP planning meeting and training event in Decatur, Georgia on April 16 – 18.  The event packed meeting included workshops on the Distribution System CPE and turbidity monitoring instrumentation as well as the strategic planning meeting.  There was an excellent turnout with representatives attending from Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, ASDWA, Region 4, TSC, and PAI.

In anticipation of introducing the DS CPE to the Region 4 AWOP participants starting in the fall of 2013, a half-day workshop was conducted on this new optimization tool.  Participants learned about considerations for selecting a utility to host a DS CPE, the CPE team structure, typical activities, and implementation considerations.  The first DS CPE will be hosted by South Carolina in September, and two other CPEs will be conducted within the region over the next 2 years.

To support the ongoing interest in data integrity and process optimization monitoring, a status presentation was giving on recent turbidity data integrity findings from field events followed by an instrumentation workshop facilitated by representatives from Hach Company.  Participants had the opportunity to ask questions on monitoring issues that they have identified in their field work.  Example discussion topics included differences between online and lab turbidimeters, calibration requirements of chlorine meters, and vendor calibration of instruments.  The workshop also included a demonstration and calibration of a laser turbidimeter.

During the strategic planning meeting, participants presented their annual AWOP reports.  Discussion topics during the meeting included lessons learned from implementing Enhanced Terminal Subfluidization Wash (ETSW), an update on bromide monitoring and impacts on DBP formation, development of optimization tools for managers, and engaging large water systems in optimization.

The next Region 4 AWOP event will be a multi-state DS CPE the week of September 23rd in South Carolina.

ETSW Backwash Explored at the EPA Region 4 AWOP Meeting in Tuscaloosa

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management hosted the EPA Region 4 AWOP meeting in Tuscaloosa on December 11 – 12.  Participants included representatives from Alabama, Florida (by conference call), Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, EPA Region 4, TSC, ASDWA, and PAI.


Walt Taylor explains how ETSW was implemented at the Town of Berry Water Treatment Plant.

A field training workshop was conducted on developing and implementing a special study on the Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash (ETSW) approach for optimizing filter backwash recovery.  The event was hosted by the City of Tuscaloosa at their Ed Love Water Treatment Plant.  William McClimans with ADEM and Walt Taylor, the Chief Operator with the Town of Berry, started the workshop with an overview on ETSW concepts and a case history on the success of implementing ETSW at the Town of Berry plant over the last 2 years.  Perry Acklin, the Tuscaloosa Plant Manager, and Bernard Cassity, the Plant Chemist, provided an overview of the Tuscaloosa plant and assisted with the workshop.  Participants worked in teams focused on different aspects of the study (i.e., backwash procedure before and after the modification, performance impact of the modification).  Tuscaloosa has been practicing the ETSW procedure with their filter backwashes for several months and has been able to reduce their filter-to-waste times as well as their volume of backwash water used.  The city estimates that implementing this backwash modification will save them about 100 million gallons per year for an annual savings of $7,000. The workshop participants thought that the training provided the “need to know information” on how to implement ETSW in a plant and that additional studies would be needed to more fully develop the performance data and refine the backwash procedure.  Several of the states plan to implement an ETSW study with a local plant as part of their AWOP activities.


Left to Right: Dale Froneberger, William McClimans, Walt Taylor, and Bernard Cassity discuss ETSW considerations during plant tour.


Left to Right: Alison Dugan, Arshasamine Tellis, Laura Taylor, and Janine Morris brave the Alabama winter to inspect the ETSW filter in Tuscaloosa.










A key discussion topic during the planning part of the meeting was the optimization training focus for 2013 and beyond.  The group decided to embark on an ambitious training schedule focused on learning the skills needed to conduct distribution system CPEs.  Over the next 2 years each of the states will host a distribution system CPE that will provide the opportunities to learn these new skills.  Additional topics discussed during the meeting included individual state approaches for optimizing turbidity removal from their plants, the role of AWOP in operator certification programs, and specific state issues related to optimization (e.g., performance of superpulsator clarifers during startup).

The next Region 4 AWOP meeting will be hosted by EPA Region 4 in Atlanta on April 16 – 18.  The meeting will include an overview presentation on the distribution system CPE approach, discussion on site selection considerations for hosting a CPE, and a workshop on data integrity and operational aspects of continuous reading turbidimeters.

Louisiana Hosts the Region 6 AWOP Meeting in Baton Rouge

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals hosted the Region 6 AWOP meeting in Baton Rouge on July 31 – August 2.  Participants included representatives from Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma (via conference call), Texas, EPA Region 6, TSC, ASDWA, and PAI.

Backwash team calculates the ETSW settings (from left, clockwise: John French, Julie Leblanc, Mark Moeller, Austin Lee, Jatin Mistry)

A field training event was conducted on developing and implementing a special study on the Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash (ETSW) approach for optimizing filter backwash recovery.  The event was hosted by the St. John Parish Lions Water Treatment Plant.  In addition to providing their plant as a 1-day research facility, they also served up some good ole Louisiana jambalaya for everyone to enjoy.  Participants worked in teams focused on different aspects of the study (i.e., backwash procedure, filter bed expansion, performance impact, and data integrity).  This plant would be an excellent candidate to benefit from this optimization approach based on the performance team’s assessment of their post backwash turbidity spikes and length of rewash.  Based on the backwash procedure team’s calculations, the last low wash duration during filter backwash would need to be extended to about 11 minutes from the current 1 minute length.  During the implementation of the ETSW step, the plant operator was surprised to find out that their filter control program limited the length of the final low backwash duration to 3 minutes.  Unfortunately, this finding limited the ability of the team to implement the ETSW approach during the training event; however, the plant staff and LDHH plan to continue pursuing the approach and reporting on the outcome at a future AWOP meeting.

Discussion topics during the planning meeting included identification of approaches for re-engaging in AWOP activities following a program slowdown, field testing issues related to chloramine residual, state input into SDWIS Next Gen to support optimization, a planned Region 6 THM stripping pilot project, and technical assistance approaches for dealing with manganese treatment issues.

Bill Davis is always happy to optimize whatever he gets his hands on … even retirement!

The Region 6 AWOP group also took advantage of this meeting to recognize Bill Davis for his outstanding support and direction he provided to the group over the last 15 years.  Bill will be retiring from EPA at the end of September and will be greatly missed at future AWOP events.  Jatin Mistry has taken over Bill’s AWOP leadership role in the region and has plans to continue the region’s strong support for AWOP into the future.  The next Region 6 AWOP event is a multi-state CPE the week of November 5th in Tyler, Texas.

Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting: June 19 – 20, 2012

The Region 10 AWOP group conducted a strategic planning meeting in June using Adobe Connect and conference call facilities.  Participants included representatives from Alaska, Oregon, Washington, EPA Region 10, ASDWA, TSC, and PAI.  State AWOP reports included a discussion by Alaska on applications for their completed water system Status Component Inspections. Completing the inspections at all of their surface water systems was a large undertaking given the size and geography of the state. Benefits of this effort include targeting appropriate plants for CPEs and training and use of the information by local funding agencies to prioritize system modifications.  Oregon reported on their development of a data integrity work group to investigate ways to incorporate data integrity into operator training and outreach.  Washington discussed the success of their optimization awards program.  Since its inception in 2009, they have awarded a total of 38 award certificates to 26 different systems.  This represents 41% of the total number of plants in the state.

The group identified and discussed several AWOP topics related to priorities and issues in the region.  Washington and EPA Region 10 discussed the results of their successful multi-state microbial CPE that was conducted in Ilwaco, WA in early June.  Washington plans to continue to build in-house capability to conduct future CPEs at their rapid rate filtration plants.  Progress continues to be made on developing optimization criteria for slow sand and membrane filtration systems.  Several national slow sand filtration experts have provided comments on the proposed goals.  Future membrane filtration system activities planned by the group include identifying membrane systems to work with one-on-one to gain a better understanding of key operating and performance parameters and a possible multi-day field event hosted by Oregon in 2013.  Washington discussed their successful application of optimization principles to a small ground water system treating for arsenic removal using oxidation, coagulation, and filtration processes.

The fall AWOP meeting is scheduled for October 23 – 25, 2012 and will be hosted by EPA Region 10 in Seattle.  A turbidity data integrity field event is being planned at a local treatment plant.

EPA Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting and Training Event: May 8 – 10, 2012 Dallas, Texas

A Region 6 AWOP planning meeting and field training event was hosted in May by the Region at their Dallas office. Participants included AWOP partners from Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, EPA Region 6, TSC, and PAI. The 1-day training event included an overview of turbidity data integrity activities that have occurred in the AWOP network since the fall field event in Austin. Presenters were also invited to the session to discuss recent instrumentation developments with turbidity measurement and integration with SCADA systems. Representatives from Hach Company presented information on low level turbidity measurement including features of their laser turbidimeter and a calibration demonstration. A representative from Schneider Electric presented information on SCADA system design and applications for water treatment. The training event also provided opportunities to discuss common turbidity data integrity issues that the network has identified in plants and possible solutions. One example is the capping of data from IFE and CFE turbidimeters. Options for modifying existing analog signal outputs as well as upgrading to digital signal outputs were discussed by the speakers.

The planning meeting included discussion on priority topics such as developing a DBP Status Component based on Stage 2 data, approaches for internal development of AWOP teams, and limits for algae (cyanobacteria) in filtered water. The next meeting and training event is planned for July 31 – August 2, 2012 in Baton Rouge. The training event will include a field demonstration of the Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash (ETSW) method that can be used to potentially lower filter backwash recovery turbidity and reduce the volume of water required for filter-to-waste.

Mike Sadar with Hach Company demonstrates the features of a laser turbidimeter and associated bubble trap to the group.

Julie LeBlanc with Louisiana AWOP displays the cookie baking skills of Jose Rodriquez with EPA Region 6. Jose was very popular at the meeting!

Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting and Training Event: Tumwater, WA – March 20 – 22, 2012

A Region 10 planning meeting and training event was hosted by the Washington Department of Health AWOP team in March 2012 at the health department’s offices in Tumwater. Participants included AWOP partners from Oregon, Utah, Washington, EPA Region 10, TSC, ASDWA and PAI. The meeting included a training event on turbidity data integrity and turbidity monitoring instrumentation. Representatives from Hach Company attended the training session and presented a chronology on the development of water quality monitoring instruments with a focus on one of the newest online turbidity monitoring instruments that uses a laser as its light source. The training event provided an excellent exchange of information between the instrument vendor and field staff on a wide range of topics from support for out-of-date instruments to fully utilizing the capabilities of the newest instruments (e.g., use of the RSD function).

The planning meeting included updates by the states, region, and NOLT and discussion on priority topics such as planning for the next multi-state CPE in Ilwaco, WA in June, tools and resources for developing training on arsenic treatment and optimization, and approaches for sustaining AWOP in the current funding environment. The next meeting and training event for the group will be a remote conference call and Internet meeting on June 19 – 20, 2012. Technical topics under consideration for the meeting include feedback on the Ilwaco CPE, optimization approaches for arsenic treatment, and draft membrane optimization goals.

Bill Chamberlain (EPA Region 10) and Alvin Smith (Hach Co.) discuss features of a laser turbidimeter and steps to calibrate the instrument.

Ethan Moseng (WA) and Darrell Osterhoudt (ASDWA) discuss ideas on including turbidity data integrity activities into AWOP field events like Performance Based Training.

Region 6 Planning Meeting – Remote using Adobe Connect and Conference Call: January 31 – February 1, 2012

The Region 6 AWOP group conducted a 2-day remote planning meeting the end of January using Adobe Connect and conference call facilities.  Participants included representatives from Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, EPA Region 6, TSC, ASDWA, and PAI.  State AWOP reports included an update by Arkansas staff on expanded data integrity efforts focused on distribution system chlorine residual reporting, a discussion by Iowa staff on prioritizing their AWOP Integration Pilot efforts on training field office staff on turbidity data integrity issues at their plants, an overview by Texas staff on how they use their directed assistance modules to train plant staff on monitoring and process control, and feedback from several states on their presentations on AWOP impacts at the Region 6 Five State Meeting.  Region 6 staff conducted a workshop during the AWOP meeting on identifying in-plant DBP control strategies based on the successful DBP PBT series that they facilitated with the Texas staff.  Discussion topics during the meeting included training on verification of turbidimeter signals in SCADA systems (both reporting and logging), balancing optimization and compliance activities within state AWOPs, application of the Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash (ETSW) approach for backwashing filters, and status of the ground water optimization pilot in Texas (i.e., next steps).  The next meeting is scheduled for May 8 – 10, 2012 and will be hosted by EPA Region 6 in their Dallas office.  A training event is being planned to expand the group’s understanding of how plant instrumentation signals (including turbidimeters) are reported and recorded on plant SCADA systems.

Verification of turbidimeter signals at the plant SCADA screen and data logging locations is a data integrity area that the Region 6 AWOP group has investigated during past field events.

Region 10 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Event: Portland, Oregon – October 25 – 27, 2011

A Region 10 planning meeting and field training event was hosted by the Oregon Health Authority AWOP team in October 2011 in Portland. Participants included AWOP partners from Alaska (by conference call), Oregon, Utah, Washington, EPA Region 10, TSC, ASDWA (by conference call) and PAI. The meeting included a field event at the North Clackamas County Water Commission, a unique water utility in the Portland area that utilizes both slow sand filtration and membrane technology to meet their water production needs. The membrane treatment and optimization theme of the meeting was kicked off with a presentation by Sam Perry with WA DOH. Sam discussed a range of topics from membrane system approval in Washington to design, operation, and potential optimization considerations for membrane systems. During the one day field event the group toured both the slow sand and the membrane plants and collected detailed information on membrane design, operation, maintenance, and administration. EPA Region 10 provided additional support for the field event by connecting their new laser turbidimeter to one of the membrane cells and monitoring performance for a 2-day period. The overview presentation and field event provided additional information that the Region 10 AWOP group is using to develop optimization strategies for non-conventional treatment technologies.

The planning meeting included updates by the states, region, and NOLT and discussion on priority topics such as next steps for membrane optimization development, an update on the slow sand filtration performance goals, and AWOPs role in compliance assistance. The next meeting and training event for the group will be hosted by Washington DOH in Tumwater on March 20 – 22, 1012. A workshop is planned in conjunction with a turbidimeter vendor on instrument calibration, maintenance, operation, and data integrity issues.


Submerged membrane cell showing air wash lines and top of membrane modules

Region 6 AWOP Planning Meeting and Field Event: Austin, Texas – October 4 – 6, 2011

The fall Region 6 AWOP meeting and field training event was held in Austin, Texas in early October. 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 Lakeway, Texas, a community located along Lake Travis just outside of Austin. The 1-day training event focused on the topic of turbidity data integrity. As part of the training event, the plant staff conducted a tour of their 7 MGD conventional treatment plant that primarily focused on their turbidity monitoring locations and equipment. Following the tour, three work groups were formed to focus on selected data integrity topics including: 1) turbidimeter maintenance and calibration, 2) impact of turbidimeter configuration on output, 3) tracing turbidity data from source to reporting, 4) reporting turbidity data from online turbidimeters, 5) retrieval of turbidity data from storage, and 6) turbidity data invalidation procedures. The participants were very enthusiastic about their field event experience, and states planned to use the workshop to support future training events for their internal staff and operators.  They also suggested that a similar field event on disinfection (CT) data integrity would be useful for the network.

The planning meeting included a presentation and workshop on the updated AWOP self-assessment and updates on state, region, and NOLT activities. The latter part of the meeting included discussion on priority topics such as maintaining state AWOPs, enhancing the remote meeting experience, and next steps for continuing to improve data integrity. The next meeting and training workshop is planned for January 31 – February 1, 2012 and will be a remote meeting using conference call and Internet file and video sharing software. The workshop will focus on identifying disinfection byproduct control strategies and be based on the Texas DBP PBT project.

Region 6 AWOP team adjusts turbidimeter data aquisition frequency [pictured from left: Noble Johnson (TX), Bob Arthur (AR), Mark Moeller (IA), Austin Lee (AR)]