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Chemical Plant Fire Impacts on Community Water Treatment

January 24, 2023
By Greg Johnson, Director of Water/Wastewater, WSB

A major chemical plant fire occurred at the Carus Chemical Company plant in LaSalle, IL during the morning of Wednesday, January 11. This facility is a leading producer of chemicals that are commonly used for water and wastewater treatment including potassium permanganate, sodium permanganate, and phosphate-based corrosion control chemicals (see EPA link for additional information). 

Chemical Plant Fire and Potential Impact on Supply Chain Disruptions | US EPA

What does this mean?

This event will affect the global supply chain for these chemicals and may impact water utilities across the United States. Sodium and potassium permanganate are commonly used in municipal water treatment to address manganese in the groundwater through conventional gravity and pressure filtration methods. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has implemented the following health advisory limits for consuming manganese: 100 parts per billion (ppb) for infants and 300 ppb for adults and children.  Studies have indicated that consuming manganese above these levels for a lifetime can affect memory, concentration, and motor skills.

What are the alternatives?

A very cost effective and natural method for treating manganese, iron, and ammonia in drinking water without the use of sodium permanganate, potassium permanganate, and chlorine is a process called biological filtration. This process uses microorganisms, rather than chemicals, to remove compounds biologically and has been commonly used in the wastewater industry since the early 1900’s.

In the last 20 to 30 years this treatment method has gained popularity in the United States. Minnesota water suppliers are showing an increasing interest in this water treatment method in order to combat rising costs of chemicals, address an increased desire for green technology and to meet federal regulations that limit the formation of disinfection by-products (DBP’s).

Most Minnesota groundwaters already have the balanced nutrient conditions necessary to grow microorganisms that remove compounds biologically. Therefore, modifications of existing conventional filtration plants to operate biologically are often straightforward and very cost-effective.

The ultimate benefit of implementing biological filtration for water treatment is the reduction or elimination of treatment chemicals, which results in significant operational savings over time.  

Where to start?

A biological filtration pilot study is the first step required by MDH to verify its effectiveness to treat contaminants in a community’s water source.  These studies typically require 3 to 4 months to complete before an engineering report is submitted to MDH for review and approval.

WSB has completed successful biological filtration studies for the cities of St. Martin, Baxter, Worthington, Hastings, Plymouth, and Andover using our own biological filtration pilot plant and trailer. This set up allows us to perform the necessary pilot study without disrupting the existing infrastructure and to identify the ideal treatment solution based on the area’s water conditions. If it is determined that biological filtration is a good alternative, the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority (PFA) can provide funding to implement treatment of emerging contaminants such as manganese in drinking water through the Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund. WSB has worked with many clients to secure this funding.

Learn more about how WSB’s water treatment pilot study program works.


Greg is the Director of Water/Wastewater at WSB with over 26 years of water and wastewater engineering experience in project planning, design, and construction administration of water treatment facilities as well as with groundwater and surface water supplies, water storage structures, water distribution systems, wastewater treatment facilities, and lift stations.

gjohnson@wsbeng.com | 651.286.8466

Greh Johnson
Wastewater treatment

Top 5 Challenges Wastewater Utilities Are Facing Today

By Ursinio Puga, Professional Engineer, WSB

Managing local water and wastewater systems can be a complicated and challenging task that has a huge impact on residents and local businesses. Waiting to find solutions just isn’t an option. Below we discuss the top five challenges facing city wastewater systems today. Addressing these challenges before they become a real problem is key to continued success in your community.

Aging Infrastructure: The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave our nationwide infrastructure (including wastewater treatment plants) a D+ grade. Minnesota wastewater treatment facilities are not immune to the aging infrastructure issue. Wastewater treatment facilities generally have a design life of 20-years. The need to start planning for repair and replacement of facilities is a continuous cycle.

Funding: Utilities know upgrades are needed due to growth and capacity limitations, aging infrastructure, and new effluent limits. Funding sources in Minnesota for improvement projects include Public Facilities Authority (PFA) low interest loans and new limits are typically eligible for Point Source Implementation Grants (PSIG). The best funding option for each facility will depend on its unique situation. It is important that utilities manage connection fees and user rates appropriately to ensure funds are available to pay for improvements.

Effluent Limits:  Ever evolving effluent limits are a constant challenge for wastewater utilities. Wastewater facilities in Minnesota are receiving stringent effluent phosphorus, total nitrogen, total dissolved solids (TDS), and chloride limits. Each of these limits typically require upgrades or additional processes to the wastewater facility. A unique situation for utilities is the lower chloride effluent limit. This may require upgrades to a community’s drinking water treatment plant to provide softened water to users so that chlorides are not added to wastewater streams by private water softeners.

Biosolids Handling:  Biosolids are very challenging to treat and dispose of for any wastewater facility.  The processing of biosolids generally depends on available resources/funding at the utility and the staffing levels of wastewater operators. Stringent effluent limits such as lower phosphorus limits are significantly increasing the volume of biosolids generated at wastewater treatment facilities.  Emerging PFAS regulations are adding further challenges to the final disposal of biosolids from wastewater treatment facilities.

Operations Personnel:  Like many industries, the wastewater treatment industry has been greatly impacted by a shortage of operations staff. This shortage of operations staff is due to an aging work force retiring and smaller numbers of replacement staff entering the operations field. The shortage of operations staff is also enhanced by reclassification of wastewater treatment facilities to Class A and B facilities to meet stringent effluent limits. Utilities need to plan accordingly to minimize impacts from operational staff shortages by promoting education, training, and advancement of operation staff. Utilities must also implement a staff retention plan or engage with an outside consultant to maintain or increase their staffing levels.

WSB’s team of experts are available to help with any or all the wastewater challenges discussed here. We leverage and advance technology to provide system assessments, facility plans, funding services, engineering design, construction administration and observation, and on-going personnel support for wastewater systems. 


Ursinio provides infrastructure planning, modeling, design, bidding, and construction administration services to both industrial and municipal clients across the Midwest. He has extensive experience in a wide variety of treatment pilot projects ranging from biological filtration of drinking water to UV disinfection of wastewater.

upuga@wsbeng.com | 612.499.9018

Water Sustainability and Community Planning

By Alyson Fauske, Sr Project Manager, WSB

Last summer, Minnesota experienced a drought due to above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. This created a significant challenge for many community leaders and public agencies. To keep up with demand, wells were pumping at or near capacity over much of the summer, and communities were forced to implement water restrictions for the first time in decades. Some cities banned lawn sprinkling all together, though this is not water sustainability.

Heading into 2022, Minnesota is still facing drought conditions in some parts of the state. There are a number of things that communities and public agencies can do to plan for and respond to drought conditions using sustainable water planning.

Water Sustainability
The graphics above from the U.S. Drought Monitor track the progression of drought conditions beginning in June, 2021.

Limit Water Usage

In drought conditions, limiting water usage is critical and often the first step taken. Communities can help limit water use by developing water reuse systems and plans. They can also implement landscaping practices that require less watering including native plants and drought resistant plantings and grasses. Native plants also have the added benefit of supporting local wildlife health and helping to protect pollinator populations.

Tap Into Local Grants & Resources

In 2021, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) put together a Drought Assistance Proposal. This proposal includes a request for $13.3 million in funding to help cities address the effects of last year’s drought. WSB is tracking the funding package as it moves through the legislature and will be prepared to assist clients with grant applications for any approved funding, as well as identify other funding opportunities that are tied to this effort.

Long Term Water Sustainability

A significant portion of the budget for the Drought Assistance Proposal is set aside for proactive water conservation measures that would help combat the effects of potential future droughts.

Municipal engineering and sustainability go hand in hand. Municipal engineers develop plans and projects that maintain infrastructure, considering the whole life cycle of the project while aiming to minimize the amount the taxpayer needs to provide to routinely maintain the infrastructure.

Proactive water conservation measures allow communities to be better prepared for the next potential drought. These measures may consist of finding and repairing leaks, increasing irrigation efficiency, or incentivizing residential and business customers to install water-saving devices.

Climate change and a greater risk of drought impacts community planning, and leaders who implement sustainability measures that are proactive, and not just reactive to an immediate crisis, will fare better in managing drought.

If you want to learn more, contact Alyson Fauske, Senior Project Manager at 612-263-1736 or afauske@wsbeng.com.

With 20 years of engineering experience in the municipal industry, Alyson Fauske has built her career providing municipal engineering services throughout the Twin Cities. Her portfolio of work includes street and utility reconstruction, technical analysis and field observations, direct project planning and management, and comprehensive and capital planning services.

afauske@wsbeng.com | 612.263.1736

Chlorides

The Road to Reducing Chlorides

By Chris Petree, Director of Operations, Alison Harwood, Director of Natural Resources, and Ray Theiler, Water/Wastewater Engineer

Understanding chlorides and making responsible decisions about them is challenging at best. They serve important functions in our everyday life, but they can also create lasting damage to the world around us. Learn more about how the chlorides are used on a day-to-day basis, what the long term affects are, and what options are available to properly manage them.

What are chlorides and how do they play a role in our lives?

Simply put, chlorides are salt. They play a big role in Minnesota life. Primarily, they are used in our water softeners to treat the state’s notoriously hard water and for de-icing the roads during winter months.

What negative impacts does over usage of chloride have?

Overuse of chlorides can affect our communities in a variety of ways. Understanding their full impact can be nearly impossible to calculate. Below are just a few of the ways people should be aware of.

Community water supplies: Many of our communities get their water from groundwater wells. They pull water from the ground to provide a public water supply. Excessive use of chlorides leads to groundwater contamination which makes its way into lakes and rivers and ponds, ultimately infiltrating the groundwater. When the groundwater develops high chloride levels or contamination, it becomes a safety issue that communities need to address.

Plants and wildlife: When concentrations of chlorides get high enough, it begins to kill plant life and setting off a domino effect in the eco systems. High levels of chloride destroy plant roots in aquatic systems resulting in fewer plants rooted to the lakebed. The lack of supportive root systems compromises bed stabilization and leads to more opportunity for sediment to be churned up, resulting in reduced water transparency and water quality. Salt used on roads can negatively affect wildlife and local pets. These animals often eat the salt used on roadways which can lead to illness or death. Even animals who need added salt in their diet are in danger, they are attracted to roadways (i.e., deer) causing safety concerns for the animals and drivers.

Infrastructure and transportation: Regardless of the application, we know that salt can be destructive and can lead to damage. Metal is particularly susceptible to salt damage.

  • High levels of chlorides on the streets have historically had a negative affect on vehicles. The salt on the roads builds up on the vehicles leading to premature rusting.
  • Pumping water with high chloride levels through pipes can lead to corrosion within water distribution systems, which in turn leads to issues with lead and copper in our water system.
  • The chlorides in the water cause premature degradation and failures of storm sewer systems, specifically in catch basins and manholes.

What are the benefits of reducing chloride usage?

The benefits of reducing chlorides are a long list that includes protecting the environment, the health of the community, and local infrastructure. However, often cost is the factor that really creates urgency around reducing chlorides.

Introducing the chlorides into the environment will ultimately require repair and rehab of groundwater systems, storm water systems, water infrastructure, wetlands, etc. All these systems have costs associated with them.

Acquiring the salt is another expense. Whether a small city, county, or state, the budget needed for de-icing is huge. Salt and de-icing chemicals are not produced locally. They can only be delivered by truck, train, or barge from the South. Taxpayer dollars are the how this transportation is funded, reducing chlorides frees up tax dollars to support other needs.

How to do you continue to maintain safe roadways in the winter, while meeting environmental regulations?

Technology and training are key.

It used to be that a salt truck was sent out with only a lever and a couple of dials for the operator to control salt usage. The technology and equipment currently available allows operators to apply the exact amounts of de-icing chemical needed based on precipitation type, air temperatures, and pavement temperatures. It is critical these staff are trained to use the equipment properly. Equipment and training will require an upfront investment but will ultimately save significant amounts of money on resources and damage repair done in the long run.

Some communities are exploring alternative de-icing chemicals beyond chloride. For example, you can mix in beet juice, molasses, sand, etc. There are many alternatives and mixtures that are less harsh on the environment, more cost effective and benefit communities in the long term.

How can communities help reduce chloride usage overall?

  • Make sure water softeners are functioning efficiently or upgrade to a higher efficiency model.
  • Explore those alternatives to road salt.
  • Educate: There are resources and trainings available.
    • MPCA Smart Salt Training: Educate businesses, property managers and residents. Its important communities take an active role in chloride reduction.
  • Involvement: Get communities involved by including information in community newsletters.

WSB can evaluate chloride usage and make recommendations for how to move forward. Our staff have the experience and knowledge, from years and years working at public agencies, that we can provide operational assistance and assessments when it comes to communities and planning.

Reasons municipalities implement water restrictions

Alyson Fauske, Sr Municipal Project Manager, WSB

In Minnesota, also known as the land of 10,000 lakes, many people wonder how even in times of severe drought, we don’t have enough water. As of early August, over 35% of the state is now experiencing extreme drought conditions. These drought conditions significantly impact municipal water supplies.

The type of water that cities supply to their residents is treated for a number of economic and environmental reasons. Cities around the state measure the annual average demand and peak demand, but drought conditions like we’re experiencing now, fall outside of annual averages.

In the last several weeks, many cities have implemented additional restrictions, and many residents don’t understand how these restrictions can help restore water levels within a matter of hours. Although it doesn’t seem like limiting irrigation or water use would have much of an impact, it significantly improves a city’s supply.

Enacting water restrictions alleviate the demand and can prevent communities from falling below fire protection and boil water levels. The below diagram shows an example of a water tower’s levels in a week. Water towers have censors that measure elevations. There is a minimum water level within the water tower to provide adequate fire protection. In our example, that level is 21 feet, meaning if there were a fire and the water tower level was below 21 feet there may not be adequate supply to fight the fire. 

There is also a minimum level that needs to be maintained in the water tower to ensure that the pressure in the system is high enough to keep contaminants from entering the water system. In our example, if the water elevation drops below 10 feet a boil water notice would be implemented. 

There are several actions that communities are taking today to help limit water usage including developing water reuse systems and plans, adjusting landscaping to include more native, drought resistant plantings and grasses, and reducing overall water consumption.

Instances of severe drought remind us that water is not a limitless resource and that forces outside of our control can have major impacts on our infrastructure.  

With 20 years of engineering experience in the municipal industry, Alyson Fauske has built her career providing municipal engineering services throughout the Twin Cities. Her portfolio of work includes street and utility reconstruction, technical analysis and field observations, direct project planning and management, and comprehensive and capital planning services.

afauske@wsbeng.com | 763.512.5244

WSB Achieves Complete Nitrate Removal in Drinking Water with Biological Filtration

By Greg Johnson – Director of Water/Wastewater and Ursinio Puga – Graduate Engineer, WSB

Many groundwater sources in the United States have elevated levels of nitrate, which can lead to public drinking water suppliers exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) limit of 10 mg/L. Regularly consuming water with nitrate concentrations above the MCL can reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood; resulting in shortness of breath and possibly fatality in humans. Conventional approaches to treating nitrate include ion exchange or reverse osmosis, both which are effective but generate large quantities of brine salts leading to multiple environmental concerns.

WSB has successfully removed nitrate from the groundwater without generating harmful residuals using biological filtration. Biological filtration removes nitrate through denitrification. Denitrification is the process by which nitrate is removed from the source water by converting it to non-toxic nitrogen gas (78 percent of the air we breathe is comprised of nitrogen). Biological filtration employs conventional filters to clean the source water. However, the filters are populated with naturally occurring microbes that enable the biological conversion of nitrate. Both the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the EPA consider biological denitrification to be an efficient and effective method for treating nitrate in public drinking water supplies, additionally, it significantly reduces the amount of chemicals used and generate significantly fewer residuals. An external carbon source may need to be dosed to promote microbial growth in the filters depending on the type of water to be treated (groundwater or surface water).

Although biological denitrification has been used in wastewater treatment for decades, it has only been effectively used in the United Stated for drinking water treatment in recent years. Therefore, MDH requires a pilot study to be completed prior to implementing this treatment process full-scale. WSB recently completed a biological filtration pilot study for the City of Hastings, Minnesota.  Hastings’ water supply is provided by groundwater wells that are open to the Jordan Sandstone Aquifer. The Jordan Aquifer is a shallow and, sometimes vulnerable, aquifer that commonly produces groundwater with significant levels of nitrate. Hasting’s wells produce water nitrate concentrations that range from 6 to 9 mg/L. The city currently has an existing ion exchange water treatment plant that removes the majority of the nitrate before it enters the distribution system. The figure above shows the nitrate removal results obtained during the pilot study. The average influent nitrate concentration during the 12-week pilot study was 6.7 mg/L. WSB’s biological filtration pilot plant consistently reduced the influent nitrate concentrations in Hastings’ well water to below 1.0 mg/L. Several samples had non-detectable levels of nitrate which demonstrated the pilot plant’s capability to remove all nitrate from the City’s raw water. Nitrate removal did not occur immediately as the microbes required a couple of weeks to populate the filters in order to denitrify the water. These microbes are not harmful to humans as they are inactivated using disinfection prior to pumping the water to the distribution system. Nitrite is formed as an intermediary step between nitrate and nitrogen gas. Nitrite causes similar health effects than nitrate, but it is more toxic as its MCL is only 1.0 mg/L. Effluent nitrite concentrations were maintained at zero or near zero during the pilot study.

If your community’s source water has elevated nitrate levels, WSB’s water treatment engineers can work with you to develop a comprehensive pilot protocol, collaborate with state agencies, and conduct a pilot study using WSB’s pilot plant to help you determine if biological filtration can treat most or all of the nitrate in your raw water without generating harmful residuals. For more information, please contact WSB.

Greg is the Director of Water/Wastewater at WSB with over 26 years of water and wastewater engineering experience in project planning, design, and construction administration of water treatment facilities as well as with groundwater and surface water supplies, water storage structures, water distribution systems, wastewater treatment facilities, and lift stations.

gjohnson@wsbeng.com | 651.286.8466

The Top 10 Challenges Public Water Systems Are Facing

By Greg Johnson, Director of Water/Wastewater, WSB

With new technology and aging infrastructure, communities are adapting to unpredictable changes that affect their water management planning. From risk management to wastewater facility management, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 challenges public water systems are facing and the solutions we’re developing with our clients to solve them.

RENEWAL AND REPLACEMENT OF AGING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE

Many communities rely on water infrastructure that is over 50-years-old, leaving them more susceptible to contamination or water main breaks. To extend the lifespan of aging infrastructure, communities are replacing or modernizing their water systems. Some unique improvements include biological filtration systems or the development of smart water systems that use advanced controls.

LONG-TERM WATER SUPPLY

The supply of water, one of our world’s most precious resources is one of the most critical issues facing metro areas with high consumption rates. Bustling communities are pumping more from their aquifers, resulting in lower water supplies. We’ve worked with many communities to locate new water sources and develop sustainable water practices and water supply plans that protect their resources and prepare them for future needs.

GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT

We often don’t think about groundwater, where it goes and where it comes from. For example, determining how wells will be impacted when implementing a new water source or mitigating a contaminated aquifer with groundwater modeling helps communities improve water system operations.

COMPLIANCE WITH CURRENT AND FUTURE REGULATIONS

Public water systems must meet regulations enforced by the Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. Proactive contaminant management and testing are creating opportunities to better manage contaminants and resolve potential problems before they occur.

ASSET MANAGEMENT

Understanding the age of a system, how it’s maintained and allocating funds for improvements help a community run more effectively. Developing an asset management plan supports all existing infrastructure within a community.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS

Many communities cannot make improvements without funding and are hesitant to raise their utility rates, and grants and funding opportunities can be scarce. Exploring potential resources, partnerships and non-traditional funding possibilities creates more access to capital.

SOURCE WATER PROTECTION

Many communities are making great efforts to protect source water such as groundwater, wells, rivers or lakes from potential contamination. This is a progressive, preventive measure to sustain water supply. Creating a quality wellhead or source water protection plan is essential for protecting a community’s drinking water from potential contaminants.

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

In 2018, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act was signed into law. The law requires community public drinking water systems serving more than 3,300 people to complete or update their Risk & Resilience Assessment (RRA) and Emergency Response Plan (ERP). These plans help communities better understand where risks lie and how to prepare for the unexpected.

WATER CONSERVATION AND EFFICIENCY

Many communities are working towards becoming green, sustainable, smart cities. Water supply plans evaluate conservation efforts while determining where efficiencies should be developed.

EXPANDING WATER REUSE

Reusing stormwater is a trend that has skyrocketed in recent years. Pumping stormwater into irrigation systems or other water reuse methods conserves water without tapping into the public water supply.

Greg is the Director of Water/Wastewater at WSB with over 26 years of water and wastewater engineering experience in project planning, design, and construction administration of water treatment facilities as well as with groundwater and surface water supplies, water storage structures, water distribution systems, wastewater treatment facilities, and lift stations.

gjohnson@wsbeng.com | 651.286.8466

Drinking water pilot projects help Minnesota communities

As nitrate levels continue to rise per the recently published Star Tribune article, communities are searching for safe drinking water solutions.

By Greg Johnson, Director of Water/Wastewater, WSB

Improved water quality is imperative to lowering the risk of nitrates and other harmful contaminants found in drinking water. With increasing water demands, cities are faced with implementing costly water treatment solutions that rework infrastructure and drain their budgets. Maintaining a clean water supply is vital for community growth and public safety. It’s up to each community to address their water challenges and discover solutions that work best for them.

WSB is currently conducting water treatment pilot studies in communities with elevated nitrate and ammonia levels. A pilot study allows cities to gain understanding of the treatment requirements for a specific source water and contaminant. Bench-scale testing is commonly performed prior to and during the pilot phase to analyze on-site water quality and to determine the design parameters and unit pro­cesses needed for the pilot study. A successful pilot test provides real world data to better estimate system sizing and long-term operation costs. This can reduce the risk of purchasing and installing a full-scale treatment system before it is verified in pilot-scale.

WSB provides bench-scale and pilot testing services that include conventional oxidation/filtration, biological filtration, adsorption, and other processes that simulate the larger scale applications being considered for a new water treatment facility or an upgrade to an existing facility. Groundwater and surface water contaminants that can be piloted include, but are not limited to, iron, manganese, ammonia, nitrates, per­fluorochemicals (PFCs), arsenic, radium, total organic carbon, turbidity, suspended solids, viruses, and bacteria.

From designing water treatment facilities to performing comprehensive water studies, our engineers, hydrogeologists, and scientists partner with communities to identify unique solutions that provide safe and clean drinking water for years to come. Visit our website to learn more about WSB’s drinking water services and related projects.

Monitoring Maintenance

App-based storm water asset management program helps streamline inspections.

By Bill Alms, Project Manager, WSB

Changing permit requirements throughout the country for municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) prompted Minneapolis-based design and consulting firm WSB to develop a web-based application for tracking inspection and maintenance of storm water best management practices (BMPs). Launched in 2013, the application has helped dozens of communities meet National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements and prioritize maintenance needs for aging storm water infrastructure.

When the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) first introduced a new MS4 permit that required operators to have a standard procedure for annual inspections and maintenance, many communities felt overwhelmed. “We were hearing from municipal clients that there just wasn’t a good practice in place for wrapping your head around these systems,” said Jake Newhall, a water resources project manager at WSB. “Some systems have upward of 1,000 ponds and other BMPs. Communities didn’t have the resources available to inspect every asset.”

Utilizing Geographic Information System (GIS) data, the team at WSB developed an application to prioritize annual storm water BMP inspection and maintenance activities called the Storm Water Asset Management Program, or SWAMP. Specifically, the app provides an easily accessible BMP inventory, tracks and prioritizes annual inspections and maintenance and addresses the NPDES annual reporting requirement.

Nationally, the list of impaired waters steadily grows. In Minnesota alone, the MPCA recently added more than 500 waterbodies to the list. The app can be used to track the BMPs’ performance toward water quality improvements upstream of impaired waters, as well as performance related to Total Max Daily Load (TMDL) waste load allocations.

The web-based application utilizes a series of inputs that allow communities to customize their storm water maintenance programs. Since it was developed, national and local MS4 permitting requirements have continued to change. The program easily adapts to help clients meet these new standards, such as a recent requirement for reporting total suspended solids and total phosphorous.

Most communities have readily available data to utilize the program: a pond inventory, subwatershed and storm sewer maps and historic survey information. The result is a user-friendly snapshot of a community’s storm water system maintenance needs, which can be used to help decision-making as well as respond to staff, elected officials and residents.

How the program works:

  • Data collection and application set-up: WSB begins the process by inputting data on all construction as-builts, MS4 ponds, drainage areas, land use maps, field inspection reports, storm sewer maps and BMPs. This data serves as the foundation of the client’s storm water asset management program.
  • Prioritization: Once the data is compiled, the application analyzes BMPs and prioritizes them based on pollutant removal efficiencies, cost-benefit, downstream receiving water, etc.
  • Surveying: Once the priorities are identified, surveying begins. The highest priority BMPs are surveyed to determine if there are maintenance needs. Following the survey, SWAMP is updated to reflect survey information and further calibrate the application.
  • Budgeting: Once a SWAMP action plan is created, a budget can be made. Storm water inspection and maintenance activities can be budgeted based on the community’s capital improvement plan (CIP), making funds readily available for improvements as needed.
  • Construction: With the action plan and budget identified through the app, municipalities can begin hiring contractors or allocating staff to perform construction and maintenance.
  • Updates and tracking: The SWAMP application is updated to reflect the maintenance performed as well as track all historical activities.

WSB meets with multiple communities annually to review their programs and determine upcoming survey and maintenance needs. Prior to the app, clients would have to invest significant dollars in studies and models to prioritize storm water infrastructure needs. By utilizing the information within SWAMP, each client can efficiently prioritize BMP maintenance based on their preferred metrics, such as total cost, cost effectiveness and pollution removal effectiveness.

Many clients report that the program makes it easier to upgrade and maintain their BMPs. The SWAMP action plans for each community also make it easier for staff to address citizen concerns. If a resident wants to know when a pond will be maintained, the staff member or official can point to the framework and showcase how the priority of that pond compares to other assets within the system and when it will be due for maintenance.

“For developed communities, many of these BMPs that were installed in the 70s and 80s after the Clean Water Act are nearing their life expectancy,” said Newhall. “These are assets for the community–reducing pollution and ensuring safe, clean water–and we need to manage the benefits provided by this infrastructure in perpetuity.”

This article was originally published in the February 2020 issue of Storm Water Solutions magazine.

Top 5 Signs Your Lift Station Needs Rehabilitation

As infrastructure ages, you will need to prioritize which items to fix first. You need to determine which items to do this year and which items can wait for future plans. How do you know when it is time to put a lift station at the top of the list? Below are 5 signs that your lift station is nearing the end of their usable life cycle.

1. Clogged Pumps – Have your maintenance crews been spending an inordinate amount of time and resources addressing clogged pumps? Rags, sanitary products, and many other items find their way into your city’s sanitary sewer, but cannot be passed by the old style impellers. It might be time to upgrade your pumps to modern non-clog impellers to address this maintenance nightmare.

2. Increased Pump Runtimes – Over time, pumps lose their efficiency causing them to generate less flow at lower velocities. This can cause solids to settle in the forcemain and exacerbate the pump inefficiencies. Compare your electricity bills over time. If the number of kilowatt hours used has gone up, it might be time to dig into the issue.

3. Electrical & Communication Failures – Old starters, leaking mechanical seals, electrical service changes: these items can cause tripped circuit breakers and blown fuses. If your SCADA system isn’t communicating these failures to maintenance staff, you might find out from an angry resident with sewage backup in their basement. Electrical and communication upgrades will help your staff maintain real-time status updates and put your mind at ease.

4. Degraded Concrete, Piping & Equipment – Sanitary sewage can generate corrosive hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas that chews up the lift station concrete, pump rails, piping, hatches, and valves. Ensuring proper pump cycles and providing mixing to break up gas producing materials in the lift station can help reduce gas generation, but it may also be necessary to coat the concrete with a corrosion resistant barrier and replace lift station equipment with more robust materials. Have the field crew take photos for you to review.

5. Safety – Are your lift station hatches equipped with fall protection? Are your workers using tripods with harnesses for lift station access, or are they relying on deteriorated manhole steps? Review the safety features of your lift stations and make sure your crew has the right equipment to do their job safely. Lift stations are a very hazardous environment, but simple safety features and protocols can make all the difference.

If you are experiencing any of these issues or want more information, we can help.