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


Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Water Treatment Optimization Approach Development Meeting with Ohio EPA

TSC’s Optimization Team met with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) on April 19, 2016 to discuss a joint water treatment optimization pilot project for HABs. Project objectives include developing optimization tools and approaches for water systems and state staff, including a Comprehensive Performance Evaluation (CPE) to identify factors that could limit plant performance during a HAB. Meeting attendees included Ohio EPA managers, Central Office staff, and staff from each of Ohio EPA’s five district offices. Discussions focused on understanding Ohio EPA’s experience with HAB treatment, and developing and prioritizing site selection criteria. The team also discussed project scope, vision, and schedule, roles and responsibilities, and next steps. (Tom Waters, Rick Lieberman, & Alison Dugan, US EPA, TSC).

Automated Hydrant Flushing Program in Flint, MI

TSC’s Optimization Team, in collaboration with ORD, developed a low-flow automated flushing program to improve chlorine residual throughout the City of Flint while not disturbing the development of scale in pipes. During the week of April 11th, approximately 130 samples were collected throughout the City to identify areas of low chlorine residual. During the week of April 18th, 13 automated flushing devices were installed on hydrants in areas where low chlorine residual was identified. Both of these activities included training for utility staff by the Optimization Team. TSC will continue to support the City of Flint as they carry out and expand their automated flushing program and engage in other distribution system optimization activities.  (Matthew Alexander,  Alison Dugan, & Ouro Koumai, US EPA, TSC)

Alabama’s “Drawing the Graph” Newsletter

Alabama’s Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) has recently published Drawing the Graph – April 2016 Issue highlighting optimization activities in the state.  This newsletter includes information about the status of Alabama’s water systems compared to the optimization goals and a model news release to help the plants receiving awards publicize their success.  The newsletter also includes a listing of all the optimization goals for Alabama.  Check out this newsletter to see how your colleagues in Alabama are doing with AWOP.

Introduction to Comprehensive Performance Evaluations (CPEs)” Webinar Training for Ohio EPA

The TSC optimization team led webinar-based CPE training for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on April 7. This training was conducted as the first activity in a pilot project with Ohio EPA. The project objective is to develop water treatment optimization tools and approaches for use by water systems and state staff to prepare for and respond to harmful algal bloom (HAB) events and assist in addressing toxin removal at water treatment plants. Forty-five (45) staff from Ohio EPA’s Central Office and five districts participated. (Tom Waters, US EPA, TSC).

Region 3 Area-Wide Optimization Program

The TSC optimization team, in partnership with Region 3 and ASDWA, held a strategic planning meeting and technical workshop April 5-7, 2015.  The state of Connecticut, which has participated as an “adopted” member of the EPA Region 3 AWOP for several years, hosted the meeting. Representatives from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, and EPA Region 1 attended to learn more about the program and were joined by participants from the Region 3 AWOP states (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia).  States reported on their optimization program activities and continue to document positive impacts.  The Region 1 states discussed their respective interest in AWOP and several requested additional information from TSC.

The technical workshop focused on disinfection data integrity, teaching participants how to investigate areas of disinfection data generation, collection and reporting that may be inaccurate (and potentially have a significant impact on public health). Other topics included: applying optimization concepts to corrosion control; helpful start-up tips for new-states (data collection and applicable tools); simultaneous compliance challenges; and approaches for conducting water system inspections using a team approach.  (Alison Dugan, US EPA,TSC)

Region 4 AWOP Planning Meeting Explores Involving Technical Assistance Providers in AWOP

EPA’s Technical Support Center optimization team, in partnership with Region 4 and ASDWA, led a training exercise and Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) strategic planning meeting March 29-31, 2016 in Charleston, SC.  Participants included state drinking water program representatives from Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. State staff members presented an overview of their AWOP activities and 2015 accomplishments, and utilized the forum to discuss a variety of relevant drinking water program implementation issues.


A special feature of the meeting was the presentation of a possible pilot program to involve third party technical assistance (TA) providers in implementation of AWOP, specifically distribution system optimization (DSO).  TA providers attended from the region’s Rural Water affiliates (Alabama Rural Water Association, Florida Rural Water Association, Tennessee Association of Utility Districts, South Carolina Rural Water Association, Kentucky Rural Water Association, North Carolina Rural Water Association), and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) organizations (Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Communities Unlimited).   All attendees participated in a day long workshop which focused on facilitation of technical approaches to achieve distribution system optimization at water systems.  The proposed approach divides the training and facilitation duties, with state staff providing the technical training for water systems.  The TA providers would then facilitate the activities with water system staff as they implement the technical tools in their own distribution systems.  After completing the workshop and becoming more familiar with the expectations for all parties, the TA providers and states all embraced this joint implementation approach. Several of the state and TA representatives agreed on action plans to implement this collaborative DSO training approach with water systems during the coming year.  The AWOP National Optimization Leadership Team will monitor the success of the Region 4 pilot and consider expanding the pilot to other regional AWOPs in the future.

Drinking Water Optimization Training

During the week of March 7, 2016, the TSC Optimization Team led a training class for drinking water staff with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). Topics addressed during the 2½ day class include surface water treatment optimization; assessing water system turbidity performance and data interpretation; and turbidity sampling, testing, and data development. A turbidity data integrity workshop was conducted at a nearby water treatment plant and provided participants the opportunity to identify challenges that may lead to inaccurate turbidity and disinfection data. Participants concluded their training by summarizing their findings and developing action steps to implement aspects of their training in their work.  This was the first class in a series of three that the KDHE will complete as they prepare to join the EPA Regions 6/7 Area-Wide Optimization Program (AWOP). (Alison Dugan, US EPA, TSC).

Region 10 AWOP Remote Strategic Planning Meeting

On February 9-10, the Optimization Team, in partnership with ASDWA, held a strategic planning meeting (via teleconference) with EPA Region 10.  Representatives of drinking water programs from Oregon, Utah, and Washington reported on ongoing AWOP implementation efforts.  Drinking water program staff from Alaska and Idaho also reported on optimization activities and current challenges prohibiting full AWOP implementation.  Representatives from Colorado, Montana, and EPA Region 10 also participated.  Colorado reported on plans for the April 2016 Partnership for Safe Water Summit in Denver and Montana reported on plans to engage in additional AWOP training.  The meeting also included a presentation and data analyses from a pilot project to develop optimization strategies for contact adsorption clarifiers (CAC) technology.  Action items, including paths forward for distribution system and membrane optimization, were discussed.  (Tom Waters, US EPA, TSC).

Region 10 AWOP Strategic Planning Meeting

The TSC Optimization Team, in partnership with ASDWA, led a strategic planning meeting for the Region 10 AWOP program from November 3 to 5, 2015 in Kent, WA. Representatives of drinking water programs from Oregon, Washington, and Utah reported on ongoing AWOP implementation efforts. US EPA Region 8, Colorado, Idaho and Montana drinking water program staff also participated in the meeting. The technical topic focused on distribution system optimization (DSO) involving investigative sampling in the City of Kent, WA water distribution system. Workshop participants reported on their investigative sampling efforts and indicated interest in implementing DSO in their states. Additional discussion included technical aspects of effective optimization program implementation, including treatment for harmful algal blooms, data integrity, membrane optimization, one-day plant-specific technical assistance activities, and managing chlorine residual in distribution systems. (Tom Waters, US EPA, TSC).