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WaterOperator.org Blog

Articles in support of small community water and wastewater operators.

Featured Video: Community Onsite Options

If you live in a community with a large number of failing septic tanks, you're probably already familiar with the downsides of these systems: the damage to local water quality, the threats to public health. The smell. What you may not know is what you can do about it. Of course, one option is to convert the entire community to a conventional wastewater collection and treatment system. This prevents putting the entire community at the mercy of that one guy who just won't pump or repair his tank, and it ensures that a professional is involved in the wastewater treatment process.

But what if a conventional sewer system is logistically or financially impractical for your community? Are you stuck dealing with smelly, dirty water leaks forever? Thankfully, the answer is no. This 17-minute video discusses the opportunities offered by community onsite management systems. These systems combine the effluent from individual septic tanks into a community-wide leachfield, and often involve mandating activities such as basic maintenance and monitoring. The video includes profiles of five communities (most of them rural) that successfully rehabilitated failing septic systems and combined them into a community onsite management system.

If you're interested in learning more about septic systems and decentralized wastewater systems (which involve community-level septic options), browse our document database using the category Decentralized WW Systems. You can also visit NESC's wastewater page for more on the septic resources they collect and offer.

Featured Video: Water Utility Response On-The-Go

As winter gives way to spring, many of us look forward to the traditional activities associated with warmer weather: cookouts, swimming, gardening, camping. Of course, for some of us, spring and summer will bring less welcome events: storms, flooding, droughts, and extreme heat. As we approach the turning of the season, it doesn't hurt to refresh our memories on the resources available when the weather turns not-so-pleasant.

Water Utility Response On-The-Go is a site specifically formatted to be comfortably viewed on smart phones and other mobile devices. The homepage displays a menu of links for tracking severe weather, contacting response partners, responding to incidents, taking notes and recording damage, informing incident command, and accessing additional planning info. The weather tracking and response partners links use location data to help you access forecasts and contacts specific to your area. The Respond to Incidents section includes action checklists for drought, earthquake, extreme cold and winter storms, extreme heat, flooding, hurricanes, tornado, tsunami, volcano, and wildfire. The option labeled Take Notes and Record Damage leads to a section that includes a generic damage assessment form, while Inform Incident Command includes ICS forms 213 and 214 (the General Message and Activity Log, respectively), as well as additional information on Incident Command. The section on additional planning info includes links to EPA webpages on emergencies/incidents, planning, response, and recovery, as well as to WARN and mutual aid info.

Some of the external links from the site are not formatted for mobile viewing, and the .pdf forms may require an Adobe Reader app if you wish to fill them out on your mobile device. However, the site overall is well organized and easy to navigate, and can be a great tool for utilities dealing with weather emergencies and natural disasters. For a visual overview of how the site works, see the EPA’s video, below.
 

Interested in attending training or finding more information on emergency planning? Search our calendar and document database using the category “Water Security/Emergency Response.”

Featured Video: Lockout/Tagout

Why do things never seem to break when the weather's nice out? Somehow, whether it's the roof over your house, the battery in your car, or the machinery at your utility, things always seem to have a way of breaking down right when it's pouring rain, or there's a raging blizzard, or the temperature's over 100. Probably it's just that those are the breakdowns we find more memorable, while the quick fixes on sunny spring mornings fade into the background. Whatever the reason, the important thing to remember is to be safe, no matter what life is throwing at you while you're out getting your hands dirty. One important maintenance safety practice is known as lockout/tagout, or what OSHA now calls the Control of Hazardous Energy. This practice helps ensure that moving parts don't move when you're working on them (unless you want them to), and that no electricity is flowing through equipment that can shock you while you're repairing it. This week's video introduces the concept a little further, and explains how vital it is to worker safety. You can view it on YouTube here.

For more on lockout/tagout, see the OSHA page on hazardous energy. For more on lockout/tagout at water utilities, search our document database using the category "Safety" and the word "lockout" (without the quote marks) typed in the keyword search box.

Featured Video: Lead and Copper Sampling

For the past three weeks, we've talked about the dangers to drinking water quality posed by water storage facilities, and discussed what you can do to combat them. But there's another source of drinking water contamination that's gotten a lot more press in the past few years, and that's the distribution system. Lead and copper pipes are known for their ability to leach metal into the water they contain. When the pipes are particularly exposed or the water chemistry is particularly favorable, they can leach a lot. If your customers have an increased interest in getting their water tested---or you'd like a refresher on how lead and copper sampling works yourself---this video from AWWA can be a great place to start. The two-and-a-half minute video briefly outlines the basic provisions of the Lead and Copper Rule, and goes on to discuss the proper technique for collecting lead and copper samples.

The Quick Reference Guides mentioned in the video can be found on the USEPA website here. The page with additional resources on the rule is here. To see what consumer information resources other utilities and states have developed for the Lead and Copper Rule, search our document database using the category Lead and Copper and the type Factsheets/Case Studies.

Featured Video: Water Quality in Storage Facilities

In the previous two weeks' featured videos, our partners at RCAP have discussed how to conduct periodic water tank inspections, as well as what kinds of inspections tanks can or should receive. Though those videos made clear that preventing contamination is the primary focus of these inspections, they didn't go into detail regarding the kinds of water quality degradation that can happen in drinking water storage facilities. This one does. Though inspections are discussed, the focus is on the biological, chemical, and physical factors in storage tanks that can affect drinking water quality. Water operators play an essential role in protecting the public health of their communities by ensuring that drinking water is clean and safe to drink. Understanding the possible contamination or degradation factors in your storage facility can help you ensure that your treated water is still clean and drinkable when it reaches your customers' taps.

For more on water storage tank issues, search our document database using the phrase "water storage tank" (without the quote marks) in the keyword search filter.

Featured Video: Types of Storage Tank Inspections

Last week's video from our RCAP partners discussed the steps of a thorough periodic water tank inspection. This week, the topic returns, with a discussion of the types of tank inspection, including routine, periodic, and comprehensive inspections. The 4-minute video outlines the frequency and basic considerations of each kind of inspection, with photos and video of inspections carried out at various locations with various types of water tanks. Treated water storage facilities can be a weak link in the water quality chain. Don't let them slip into disrepair and ruin your hard work by causing contamination.

For more on water storage tank issues, search our document database using the phrase "water storage tank" (without the quote marks) in the keyword search filter. Or check back next week, when we feature another RCAP video on this topic!

Featured Video: Conducting a Periodic Inspection

Periodic water storage tank inspections are a great way to ensure the quality and quick availability of the water you're providing to your customers. After all, it would be a shame to go to all the trouble and expense of treating your water, only to have it get contaminated or go stagnant in storage. Not to mention the heartbreaking waste if your tank springs a leak! Periodic inspections help you keep on top of any issues that might arise with your water storage before they get serious. Tank inspection forms may feel like long lists of nitpicky details, but the principles behind tank inspections are simple. This five-minute video from our partners at RCAP explains the basic considerations that go into a periodic tank inspection, and shows professionals conducting inspections on several different types of storage tank. It can serve as a great starting point for planning your own inspection.

For more on water storage tank issues, search our document database using the phrase "water storage tank" (without the quote marks) in the keyword search filter. Or check back next week, when we feature another RCAP video on this topic!

Featured Video: The EFC Water and Wastewater Rate Dashboards

The new year may be a time for considering budgets as well as operational challenges. But for small water utilities in particular, setting rates and managing budgets involves a complex set of social and financial issues that can feel overwhelming. Luckily, there are resources out there that can help. The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina has developed a set of free, interactive Utility Financial Sustainability and Rates Dashboards. According to the project website, these dashboards are "designed to assist utility managers and local officials to compare and analyze water and wastewater rates against multiple characteristics, including utility finances, system characteristics, customer base socioeconomic conditions, geography, and history." To learn more about how the dashboard works, you can watch their nine-part video series, beginning with the video below:

Dashboards are currently available for twelve states. (For the most up-to-date versions of these dashboards, and to check if new states have been added, use the map at the project page.)

Even if your state is not on the list of current dashboards, it may still be interesting to check out what communities similar to yours are doing around the country. If you'd like more help working on rates and budgeting at your utility, the Rural Community Assistance Program provides technical assistance to small, rural utilities in need of both operational and administrative support. They also have a number of helpful guides aimed at supporting board members of small utilities, including this one dedicated specifically to rate-setting.

Utility finances can be difficult and complicated, but they don't have to be impossible. Find out which assistance providers near you can help you determine what's most realistic and sustainable for your utility.

Featured Video: Lime Softening Techniques for Water Operators

Hello, and Happy Friday! After the longer water treatment video last week, here is a little water treatment bite. In this 2-minute AWWA video, Fred Bloetscher briefly describes the process for adding lime to the reactor at a large drinking water treatment plant. He also demonstrates how quickly the lime reaction works to clarify the water.

For more on lime softening topics, visit our document database and type "lime softening" (without the quote marks) into the keyword filter, then click Retrieve Documents.

Featured Video: Direct and Conventional Filtration

A new year is often a time of reflection, re-focusing, and a return to the basics. Even if you're not someone who believes in New Years' resolutions, the turn of the calendar year can still be a great time to consider the big picture and the details in it that are important to you. If you have a little time now that the holidays are over, this can also be a great time to brush up on your drinking water treatment knowledge. This 23-minute video is a walkthrough of a direct filtration plant, but it's a lot more than that. Ty Whitman of The Water Sifu explains each treatment step in detail while providing video of the flash mix process, flocculation basins, gravity filters, backwashing, and the spent washwater reclamation process. He also discusses the differences between the direct filtration processes he's demonstrating and conventional filtration.

For more in-depth instruction on drinking water topics, visit our training event calendar and search by your state to see training offered near you.