A Bench Scale Special Study on DBP Precursor Removal

On November 06, 2014, the Optimization Team conducted a second special study to evaluate bench-scale removal of DBP precursors at the Western Fleming Water District in Ewing, KY. During this study, jar test simulations of the drinking water clarification processes were conducted, comparing TOC removal under the plant’s operational conditions and under alternative plant settings. The outcome of this and other special studies will impact the implementation of DBP optimization training and technical assistance approaches. (Ouro Koumai & Alison Dugan, US EPA, TSC)

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

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

Region 10 AWOP Training and Strategic Planning Meeting

The TSC Optimization Team, in partnership with Region 10 and ASDWA, led a strategic implementation meeting and technical workshop from October 7-9, 2014 in Portland OR. State representatives from the drinking water programs in Alaska, Oregon, Utah and Washington reported on ongoing AWOP implementation efforts. Region 8, Colorado and North Dakota drinking water program staff members also attended the meeting and technical workshop to learn more about AWOP. The workshop was conducted at the City of Silverton, OR water treatment plant in cooperation with the plant staff and consulting engineer. The objective was to augment previous disinfection data integrity workshops by providing real world experience with tracer study techniques, the results of which are used in calculating CT values. The workshop was followed by discussions on technical and implementation topics which resulted in action items for effective optimization program implementation. Representatives of R8, CO and ND were very positive about the value of AWOP and will pursue discussions in their home offices about future participation. (Rick Lieberman, US EPA TSC).

Distribution System Comprehensive Performance Evaluation

During the week of September 8th, members of the Optimization Team, in partnership with the EPA Region 6 and Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), conducted a field event to support the development of a Distribution System Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (DS CPE) for chloraminated water systems. The DS CPE protocol was originally developed for water systems that use free chlorine as a secondary disinfectant. As a result, the existing DS CPE protocol is in the process of being modified to apply to chloraminated water systems, which was supported by the findings and experience gained from this event. The field event was hosted by two systems, Marion County Regional Water District, a parent system, and Yellville Water Works, one of their six consecutive systems. Typically DS CPEs are only conducted at a single water system, so this event allowed the unique opportunity of implementing the tool at two systems with a parent-consecutive system relationship. Both systems welcomed the feedback from the team during the exit meeting and the Optimization Team will request updates on their mutual pursuit of optimization from ADH staff. (Matthew Alexander, Alison Dugan, & Tom Waters, US EPA TSC)

Aim High Campaign Finalist

On September 17th, members of the optimization team from TSC and Region 4 participated in a video teleconference with Administrator McCarthy to discuss the Public Health Protection and Water Efficiency through the Drinking Water Optimization Program. This project, along with four others, was selected as a finalist in the Aim High Campaign on Protecting Water: A Precious, Limited Resource. The optimization project highlighted Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) efforts within the Region 4 states and a tribal system to effectively implement an enhanced backwashing procedure (Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash, or ETSW). ETSW can significantly improve finished water quality and often has a secondary benefit of water savings during filter backwash. One example cited was from the State of Alabama, where AWOP efforts resulted in an annual savings of 500 million gallons of water among 14 water treatment plants. The Administrator appreciated that this work has a direct impact on public health protection, in addition to the resulting water savings. (Alison Dugan & Rick Lieberman, US EPA TSC)

Distribution System Comprehensive Performance Evaluation

During the week of August 26, members of the Optimization Team, in partnership with the Region 4 Area-Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) team, demonstrated the Distribution System Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (DS CPE) in Lawrenceburg, KY. Sixteen trainees participated in this CPE, including representatives from Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Region 4. This CPE was the final in a series of three training CPEs conducted with this AWOP. States anticipate that they will implement this tool (either fully, or “pieces”) to support their Stage 2 DBPR compliance assistance activities, primarily targeting systems with compliance challenges who have a desire to optimize and improve water quality in their system. (Alison Dugan & Matthew Alexander, US EPA TSC)

Region 3 AWOP Training and Strategic Planning Meeting

The TSC optimization team, in partnership with Region 3 and ASDWA, led a strategic planning meeting and technical training event from August 12-13, 2014 in Petersburg, WV. Participants included state drinking water program representatives from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The workshop, held at the Petersburg water treatment plant, focused on disinfection data integrity (assessing the accuracy and consistency of the disinfection monitoring data from sampling through reporting). Other topics for the meeting included broad-scale implementation of distribution system optimization, membrane treatment and SCADA, and the use of third party technical assistance providers to support optimization. Meeting participants plan to incorporate the workshop concepts into their respective state’s PWSS program activities. (Rick Lieberman, US EPA TSC).

Distribution System Optimization Training

On July 29 and 30th the Optimization Team, in partnership with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health (BPH) Area Wide Optimization Team, provided distribution system optimization training to plant and distribution system operators from ten water systems. This training “module” is based on Performance Based Training (PBT) concepts and approach, with the intent of engaging more water systems (compared to a traditional PBT project) with limited facilitation (as opposed to PBT). The training focused on the importance of maintaining an adequate disinfectant residual and minimizing disinfection byproducts in the distribution system, as well as approaches for monitoring water quality (including site selection) and water quality data handling. The BPH provided hydrant samplers to all of the participating systems to help them accurately characterize water throughout their systems. Two members from the State of Virginia’s AWOP team also attended and are considering implementing this training with water systems in their state. A second module is planned for spring of 2015, focused on operational strategies to improve water quality once areas of poor water quality have been identified. (Alison Dugan & Tom Waters, US EPA TSC)

Distribution System Comprehensive Performance Evaluation

During the week of June 23rd, members of the Optimization Team, in partnership with the EPA Region 4 Area-Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) members, demonstrated the Distribution System Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (DS CPE) to the Region 4 AWOP in Mt. Airy, NC. This was the second in a series of three planned training CPEs intended to transfer DS CPE skills to the State AWOP participants; ultimately enabling them to conduct DS CPEs with and/or provide technical assistance to water systems challenged with meeting the Stage 2 DBPR or with maintaining a disinfectant residual in their system. Nineteen trainees participated in the CPE, which included representatives from Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and EPA Region 4. (Alison Dugan & Matthew Alexander US EPA, TSC)

Washington State’s Turbidity Verification Project

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


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

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

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

Field Visit/Data Collection

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

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

HACH 1720E SC100 Turbidity Settings

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

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

Documentation and Followup

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

Turbidity Verify Project Form

Example Data Record Sheet

Project Followup

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

Turbidity Monitoring Guidelines NWRO

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

Nancy Feagin, PE
Regional Engineer
Washington State Department of Health

Steve Deem, PE
Regional Engineer
Washington State Department of Health