Alabama’s September AWOP Newsletter

AWOP1_72dpi_2x2Alabama’s AWOP recently released its “Drawing the Graph” newsletter which informs their public water systems about important optimization issues and helps promote AWOP.  This edition highlighted two very important topics for the AWOP community – data integrity and corrosion control.  The newsletter also featured a piece about Mobile, AL chief operator Carl Hanke who shared his experience using AWOP’s tank spreadsheet tool at the AWOP National Meeting this summer.  See all the Alabama AWOP news in the attachment.

Drawing the Graph – September 2017 Issue


Kansas Kick-off Meeting

The TSC Optimization Team and ASDWA held a kick-off meeting with Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) drinking water program representatives in Topeka July 12-13, 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to review the Area-wide Optimization Program (AWOP) structure, activities, benefits, and participant roles/responsibilities. Based on that review, KDHE representatives decided to formally commit to the program. The meeting then focused on the details of: data management and other activities needed to adopt the program goals; informing water utilities of the state’s commitment to the program; and monitoring water treatment plant performance against optimization goals. KDHE staff explored methods of tracking plant performance within the existing state data collection activities and developed action steps to begin program implementation. The optimization team is excited to welcome the KDHE as the most recent addition to the AWOP network. (Rick Lieberman, US EPA, TSC)

Development of Disinfection Dosing Protocol

On May 27th and 28th, the optimization team partnered with staff from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to pilot a protocol that was developed to assess process control of chlorine and ammonia dosing at two chloraminated water systems in the Pittsburgh area.  The ratio of chlorine-to-ammonia in the finished water entering a distribution system should be consistently maintained within a desired range to decrease the likelihood of nitrification and increase the stability of monochloramine in the distribution system.  Feedback from participants will be used to enhance the protocol, which will become a component of future comprehensive performance evaluations for chloraminated distribution systems.  (Matthew Alexander & Alison Dugan, US EPA, TSC)

Optimization Team Presentation at Pennsylvania Stakeholder Meeting

On May 26, the optimization team presented to the Board of the Small Systems Technical Assistance Center as part of their process to consider increasing the minimum disinfectant residual requirement for water systems in Pennsylvania, from the current level of “detectable.”  The presentation, entitled Area-Wide Optimization Program’s (AWOP) Approach to Maintaining Distribution System Water Quality, highlighted the water quality and monitoring goals that AWOP promotes. It also described optimization-based evaluation and water quality management strategies that AWOP state partners teach to water systems working to address disinfection byproduct and disinfectant residual concerns in their plant and distribution system.  (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

Distribution System Comprehensive Performance Evaluation

During the week of September 23rd members of the Optimization Team demonstrated the Distribution System Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (DS CPE) approach in Easley, SC to the Region 4 Area-Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) program participants.

Elevated storage tank in Easley, SC

Elevated storage tank in Easley, SC

This is the first of several planned training CPEs intended to transfer DS CPE skills to the State AWOP participants. The training will ultimately enable these personnel to conduct DS CPEs and provide other technical assistance to water systems challenged with meeting the Stage 2 DBPR requirements or consistently maintaining a disinfectant residual in their system. (Alison Dugan & Matthew Alexander, US EPA TSC)

Rick Hiers (SC DHEC) and Lindsey Bounds (SC DHEC) collecting samples for the Distribution System Influent Hold Study

Rick Hiers (SC DHEC) and Lindsey Bounds (SC DHEC) collecting samples for the Distribution System Influent Hold Study

Continuous chlorine monitor used for the Storage Tank Assessment Special Study

Continuous chlorine monitor used for the Storage Tank Assessment Special Study

Distribution System Performance Based Training in Alabama

On September 4, the US EPA Optimization Team, in partnership with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), conducted Session 9 of a Performance Based Training (PBT) pilot project focused on distribution system optimization. The participating operators developed and presented case studies about some of their accomplishments during this PBT project. Examples included water quality enhancements through operational changes in the distribution system (i.e., tanks, optimizing automatic flushing) and reduced staff burden associated with maintaining water quality in the distribution system (i.e., fewer customer complaint, less time spent manually flushing the system). Participants also discussed possible approaches for documenting impacts of the project: stabilizing distribution system chlorine residual levels (either at a single site, or system wide); reducing disinfection by-products system-wide; and improving water quality in the system. The afternoon workshop focused on assessing the impact of rerouting water in the system to improve water quality. The final session is planned for December. (Matthew Alexander & Alison Dugan US EPA TSC).

Alabama Publishes “Drawing the Graph” Newsletter

As a part of their state’s Optimization Program, Alabama periodically publishes a newsletter called “Drawing the Graph”.  This publication covers various activities in their AWOP as well as general optimization information for their surface water systems.  The newsletters include articles on their annual surface water meeting, the optimization awards program, technical information for new optimization areas like membranes and DBPs, plus real life experiences related by water system operators.

The two latest newsletters are attached for your review and as a source of ideas for your own AWOP.

Thanks to Alabama for sharing this excellent publication.

Drawing the Graph – May 2013 Issue

Drawing the Graph – September 2013 Issue

AWOP Projects Featured in EPA Webinar and ASDWA Conference

Many of the important lessons learned from implementing the Area Wide Optimization Program can impact the effectiveness of the entire drinking water effort.  A recent EPA webinar contained some good examples.  On October 10, EPA hosted a webinar for states and EPA Regions called “Review of Inactivation by Disinfection”.  A number of state presenters shared projects related to disinfection that originated in their state’s optimization program.

Surface water and GWUDI systems must provide treatment of Giardia, Cryptosporidium and virus to meet their rule requirements.  States need to assure that the water systems are meeting the appropriate removal/inactivation, but work in the AWOP states has identified challenges that all states need to consider.  Vanessa Wike of Alaska described their “status component inspection” project.  Alaska conducted focused inspections of all their surface water systems to confirm the treatment that is operating at each facility and document the inactivation or removal credit for that treatment.  Alaska’s extensive CPE work had pointed out that completely understanding the treatment process at each facility was critical for accurately documenting compliance.  Jennifer Bunton of Iowa shared the work that they have done to improve the calculation of CT by water systems.  Here again, CPE’s had identified common problems.  The calculation of CT is a problem at water systems because the original basis for CT determination was unknown, treatment plants and processes had changed, or operators do not understand how to do the calculations correctly.  Iowa is using a combination of site visits and training to address these issues.   Craig Corder of Arkansas presented information on similar challenges with CT.  Taking it a step further, Arkansas uses data audits, meter calibration checks, and other data integrity related activities to make sure the data used to make decisions are accurate.  For AWOP “drawing the graph” is a critical element.  Without good data, how do we know the graph represents the true condition of the water system?

We are glad that EPA recognized the importance of this work and asked states to share in the webinar presentation.  You can view the webinar slides on ASDWA’s Regulatory web page.

AWOP efforts were also featured at the ASDWA Annual Conference held in October in Little Rock, AR.  Three presentations highlighted AWOP activities around the country.  Craig Corder gave an expanded description of their data integrity work.  JD Douglas of West Virginia shared how his state has made the Performance Based Training of AWOP a part of their drinking water operator certification and training program.  Finally, Noble Johnson of Texas reported on the ground water optimization pilot and its impact on the Texas water systems that participated.  The PowerPoint slides from all three of these presentations are available on the ASDWA 2012 Annual Conference web page.

Berry’s ETSW Project Concludes

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s (ADEM) Drinking Water Branch officially closed the Extended Terminal Subfluidization Wash (ETSW) Project at the Town of Berry’s water treatment plant (WTP) on June 22, 2012. ADEM would like to thank Walt Taylor and his staff for their time and dedicated effort to see this project through to the end. The project, which started in May 2011, looked at how to implement ETSW at a WTP and if it was even possible to return a filter to service with a turbidity less than 0.10 NTU in less than 15 minutes and not have a rewash (filter-to-waste) spike.

The study conducted at the WTP looked a several aspects of the ETSW theory to determine what parameters were critical for success. The important parameters where narrowed down to two. The amount of water exchanged and the rate at which the water is backwashed through the filter. To minimize the variables evaluated changes were only made to the second half of the backwash sequence (e.g., the second low backwash duration and rate were changed). The air scour and high backwash rate were not changed during this project except during a period of time when the WTP was feeding more than fifty parts per million of powdered activated carbon to deal with a massive algae bloom. Then, the only change was to lengthen the high backwash rate by two minutes to ensure that any carbon fines were being removed from the filter.

After the initial attempt to implement ETSW resulted in a filter backwash sequence that allowed a filter to rewash in less than fifteen minutes and not have a turbidity spike, the study looked at how much water needed to be exchanged for ETSW to work. The second low backwash duration was altered to look at filter volume exchanges between one-half of a filter volume to little more than one filter volume of water. The study determined that at least one filter volume of water had to be exchanged for the filter to be rewashed to below 0.10 NTU in less than fifteen minutes without a turbidity spike.

After determining how much water needed to be exchanged, the rate at which the water was exchanged (second backwash rate) was examined. The low backwash rate was evaluated for two reasons, first to determine the maximum low rate range as not all backwash pumps or control valves are designed to run at these low rates. Secondly it was desired to determine the rate that would give the best performance from the filter following the backwash. The rate of backwash was varied between 5 gallons per minute per square foot of filter area (gpm/sq ft) to 10 gpm/sq ft. The results showed that flow rates of 9 gpm/sq ft or less did not impinge on the outcome of the ETSW procedure. The test at a flow rate of 10 gpm/sq ft did not result in a turbidity spike, but the rewash time extended out from an average of 11 minutes to 23 minutes before the turbidity dropped to below 0.10 NTU.

The results of varying the low backwash flow rate determined that the low backwash rate should be 9 gpm/sq ft or less and exchange at a minimum one complete filter volume of water. Further evaluation indicated that the preferable flow rate should be in the 5 – 7 gpm/sq ft range as these tests had the shortest rewash time to achieve filter water below 0.10 NTU. It is noted that some rewash turbidities never went above 0.10 NTU during these evaluations.

During the study the filter media was examined using the floc retention analysis test. The first set conducted in July 2011 showed that the backwash sequence was adequately cleaning the media. The second test conducted in June 2012 after one year of implementing ETSW also showed that the media was being adequately cleaned. Based upon these tests, the modified backwash procedure resulted in no adverse affect on media cleanliness.

Additionally, ETSW trials have been started at other water treatment plants in the state. Based upon these trials it appears that filters with air scour or surface sweeps can both benefit from ETSW as long as the surface wash mechanism works (no plugged nozzles or holes). The age of the media also does not appear to be a factor. One particular WTP which has surface sweeps and old media (about 15 years old) was able to implement ETSW and have incredible results. The filters rewash to approximately 0.03 to 0.04 NTU in less than ten minutes.
In conclusion, based upon the Berry ETSW Project and other ETSW trials, the procedure can be expanded to any surface water treatment plant utilizing conventional filters if they are able to control the backwash flow rate in the desired range (5-7 gpm/sq ft).

The benefits of pursuing ETSW are minimized backwash spikes and backwash and rewash water savings. Alabama has rewash capability on all of its conventional surface water plants so spike control is not as significant an objective as plants without rewash capability. However, the water savings during a backwash/rewash cycle is significant and offers a benefit to implementing ETSW.