Alabama’s Latest Issue of “Drawing the Graph”

Here is the newest issue of “Drawing the Graph”, the Alabama Area-Wide Optimization Program’s newsletter on optimization activities.   This edition includes articles on the upcoming 14th Annual Surface Water Treatment Meeting, the Tuscaloosa Comprehensive Technical Project, the relationship between parent and consecutive systems, and results of a special study on Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash.

Drawing the Graph – September 2011 Issue

Let ASDWA know if you have a newsletter to share.

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.

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.

The Optimization State – Alabama

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.

Alabama has recently released their latest AWOP newsletter – Drawing the Graph.  The newsletter highlights activities in the state’s optimization program.  This issue shares how many of the state’s surface water systems are optimized – 38%.  There is also an article on the “costs” of optimization that really shows what a water system gets for their investment.  On the technical side, the newsletter examines automatic flushing for DBP control and Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash.

You can review the Alabama newsletter HERE.   Is this something your state might be able to do?

The Optimization State – Kentucky

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.

The Kentucky AWOP team bid farewell to Jim Hamon, a founding member of the Kentucky AWOP, when he retired on October 1, 2010.  Even with budget constraints, Russell Neal was hired to fill that vacancy on January 16, 2011.  Russell comes to the group with a BS in Biology with a minor in Chemistry and a MS in Aquaculture and Aquatic Science from Kentucky State University.  Russell began his environmental work at the Kentucky State University in performing aquaculture research.  Russell will be providing technical assistance to drinking water systems that are located in the Hazard & Frankfort Regional offices.

The first quarter of 2011 has been full of activity, with the Kentucky AWOP team working to update the AWOP.  Kentucky made the decision to split the AWOP into two categories, a Microbial AWOP and a Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts (D/DBP) AWOP.  For the Microbial AWOP, the updates have not affected the existing goals, but rather the awards criteria.  Kentucky presents Microbial Optimization Certificates annually.  To receive an Optimization Certificate for being optimized, in addition to meeting the Microbial AWOP goals, the system must have no turbidity violations for the calendar year.  Systems must also submit turbidity data monthly.

For the D/DBP AWOP, specific D/DBP goals were set for both the treatment plant and distribution system.  Plant tap goals include TTHM and HAA5 limits, treated TOC limits, TOC performance removal ratio limits, and CT requirements.  Distribution goals include both short and long term TTHM and HAA5 limits, flushing requirements, and disinfectant residual limits.  Kentucky will be presenting D/DBP Optimization Certificates annually.  To receive an Optimization Certificate for being optimized, in addition to meeting the D/DBP AWOP goals, the system must have no Disinfection Byproduct violations for the calendar year.  Systems must also submit Plant Tap TTHM and HAA5, Distribution TTHM and HAA5, and Plant TOC data quarterly.

These new rules were put in place to further encourage systems to protect public health and maintain compliance.  Now for both the Microbial and D/DBP AWOP, in order for systems to be considered for optimization they must formally commit to AWOP.  To do this they must submit a letter of commitment, formally adopt the goals, and post them at a prominent location at their plant. To be in the running for either the Microbial AWOP Champion Award or the D/DBP AWOP Champion Award, a three year longevity award, the system will not be considered if they have any SDWA violations for the three year period.

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.

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

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.” ♦