Cases of Red Tide in Florida Worsen

The Red Tide in Florida is a (somewhat) naturally occurring phenomenon along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The cause of Red Tide is a microscopic life form called, Karenia Brevis. It is a single-celled algae that survives on photosynthesis. Its naturally thriving nature, along with human negligence, has allowed it to compromise the survival of competing organisms, resulting in an overgrowth that is commonly referred to as Red Tide.

Within its depths, the Gulf Coast is home to an abundance of bacteria and algae of all kinds. The existence of Karenia Brevis is not particularly hazardous in reasonable doses. However, it can be detrimental to the ecosystem when excessive growth occurs. As is the case with any ecosystem, an imbalance can bring severe consequences.

The most troubling aspect of the Red Tide is its spread from the coastal communities along Florida’s Gulf Coast shores into the Atlantic Ocean. As acknowledged by the state office of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), complaints from beachgoers amount to extreme eye and throat irritation. Even more troublesome is the fact that the Red Tide in Florida can be deadly to marine life, as well as the ecosystem as a whole.

 

K. Brevis to Blame for Florida’s Harmful Algae Bloom

Red Tide does not exclusively occur along the Florida Gulf Coast, but it is has developed into a concerning regional problem. As mentioned before, the troublesome case of Florida’s algae problem is a direct result of the overgrowth of Karenia Brevis. This single cell microorganism classifies as a phytoplankton as well as algae.

As the term “Red Tide” suggests, K. Brevis has a rust-colored pigment. However, waters affected by the presence of K. Brevis tend to have more of a brownish-yellow tinge to them. For this reason, a more accurate description of the tidal problems occurring along Florida’s coastlines would be, “harmful algae bloom”.

These algae blooms occur anywhere from 10 – 40 miles offshore. However, environmental factors such as waves, currents, and hurricanes contribute to their widespread presence. These natural environmental forces carry the harmful algae bloom to the Gulf of Mexico, Straits of Florida, and the Atlantic Seaboard.

 

What is Causing Red Tide in Florida?

Most algae blooms are completely natural and of little concern. So a practical question to ask regarding the harmful algae blooms that Florida residents are finding on their shores would be: What is causing the harmful algae blooms?

In the case of Florida’s Red Tide problem, the answer is simultaneously simple and layered. The simple fact is that naturally occurring environmental conditions play a part in the number of harmful algae present in sea waters. When there is an ample supply of nutrients, or in some cases pollutants, the algae will feed and reproduce accordingly.

It all comes down to the substances (or resources) found in the water that will determine what life will thrive in a particular ecosystem. In the case of K. Brevis, the warm Gulf Coast waters, in conjunction with the abundance of carbon dioxide, provides an ideal set of conditions for K. Brevis to reproduce and survive in abundance.

There are also non-natural factors that are contributing to the overgrowth of K. Brevis in the along Florida’s coastline. Essentially, the Red Tide is a result of K. Brevis feeding off of other algae blooms whose nutrition happens to be fertilizer runoff that makes its way into the ocean. This chain reaction is largely caused by a negligent mishandling by Florida’s wastewater industry, particularly in regard to the Everglades.

 

Why is Red Slime Algae Different From Other Algae?

There is one very basic difference between red slime algae and the other less irritating blue-green algae. Even though they are both photosynthetic microbes that only live in water, blue-green algae are actually a form of cyanobacteria. There are some kinds of cyanobacteria that live oceans, but large amounts of these microbes are usually seen in rivers and lakes where levels of salt are low.

Harmful algae blooms fall into the category of dinoflagellate, which can also be seen rivers, lakes, and oceans. However, the level of algae present enough to cause Red Tide only occurs in saltwater. This crucial fact provides a key starting pointing point in the study and management of recurrent bloom cycles. To put things simply, red slime algae does not happen in fresh waters.

 

What to do About the Florida Algae Crisis

The simple fact is that harmful algae blooms are largely unpredictable. But, that does not mean responsible societies are powerless in their adaptation to the phenomenon. For one, there are preventive and preemptive steps to take lessen the harm induced by Red Tide. Tracking the amount of rainfall during the spring and effectively monitoring the number of chemicals used for agriculture can significantly minimize the overgrowth of harmful algae blooms.

Another crucial maneuver to execute in the prevention of Red Tide is waste control. A large propellor of the K. Brevis overgrowth stems from the mismanagement of wastewater in the national parks and swamps that encompass the Everglades. All water eventually makes its way to the ocean. It must be monitored and kept clean. Implementing more effective wastewater monitoring solutions could have a profound impact on Florida’s Red Tide problem.

A cloud-based SCADA solution would enable treatment plant operators to effectively monitor equipment functionality and chemical levels prevalent in the water. Additionally, the system would sound alarms to alert decision makers when problems occur. A robust monitoring system would help operators closely monitor the situation, and provide useful insight on how to proceed.

These efforts would not only complement existing agricultural standards, but they would also help to reduce levels of phosphorus and nitrogen from agricultural runoff on a statewide level. When all these steps come together, the Florida algae crisis will shrink down to size and become nothing more than a harmless, natural occurrence. The situation is not so out-of-hand for the shores of Florida that effective improvements can’t be made in the foreseeable future.

E/One Partners with High Tide Technologies for Sentry Advisor 2.0

Client Portal Adds New Dimension for Sewer System Operators

E/One partners with High Tide Technologies to strengthen telemetry monitoring capabilities of ALL-TERRAIN SEWER™

 

New Orleans, LA: WEFTEC is the Water Environment Federation Technical Exposition & Conference. It is the largest annual water quality event in the world. At this year’s conference, Environment One Corporation (E/One) and High Tide Technologies announced a partnership that will result in E/One Sentry Advisor 2.0.

 

The upgrade will enhance the remote monitoring capabilities of E/One’s industry-leading grinder pumps through the use of a secure client portal, maximizing equipment functionality and operator efficiency.

 

E/One president Eric LaCoppola said, “We’re seeing Smart Sewer’s future here at WEFTEC 2018 and its name is E/One Sentry Advisor 2.0 with HTT inside. High Tide Technologies’ strategic partnership with E/One represents the next step in the evolution of ‘Extreme Customer Satisfaction.’ Combine the industry’s best telemetry package with the most rugged, longest-lasting grinder pumps driving the ALL-TERRAIN SEWER™ from E/One, and I’m convinced we’ve entered a new era of Eco-Innovation.”

 

David B. Mundie, PhD., president of High Tide Technologies, shares LaCoppola’s enthusiasm, “We’re excited about our partnership with the leader in the market. Our 16 years of cloud-based SCADA experience, combined with E/One’s top-of-the-line hardware, will provide tremendous value to customers for many years into the future.”

 

SCADA Monitoring for Grinder Pump

 

About Environment One Corporation

E/One is an operating company of Precision Castparts Corp., a worldwide manufacturer of complex metal parts and industrial products. PCC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A). With corporate headquarters in New York and regional offices and distribution throughout the industrialized world, E/One is a manufacturer and provider of products and services for the disposal of residential sanitary waste. Additionally, they provide utility systems for the protection and performance optimization of electric utility assets.

 

About High Tide Technologies, LLC

High Tide Technologies is a cloud-based SCADA company that enables customers to monitor and control their systems from anywhere. This simple and secure solution uses field units, satellite, cellular or Ethernet, and the Internet to monitor and provide automatic control of industrial systems. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, they have over 7,000 units in the field and over 800 active customers.

Maximizing Grinder Pumps with SCADA Monitoring

Water and wastewater management are some of the most important considerations for a home or building. As the average US citizen uses about 125 gallons of water per day, these water-management systems are working non-stop to keep up with our daily lives. Any hiccup or malfunction can mean serious trouble and can cost a significant amount of money to replace.

 

The first step in reducing the likelihood of these accidents occurring is becoming more familiar with these systems and their components. This article will focus primarily on the purpose of a grinder pump.

 

What is a Grinder Pump?

First and foremost, it is important to differentiate a grinder pump from a sump pump. They may function in a similar manner, but they serve very different functions. A grinder pump is a primary function is to carry wastewater from one place to another. More specifically, these pumps are responsible for taking wastewater away from homes.

 

Grinder pumps have large holding tanks that will collect all of the wastewater from a home or building. This includes water from toilets, bathtubs, sinks, washing machines and more. Grinder pumps activate when the wastewater reaches a certain level in the holding tank. The pump grinds the wastewater into a finer liquid and sends it to a septic tank or sewer system.

 

Despite having a simple function, there are many things that can go wrong with a sewage pump. Blockages occur when debris clumps together and clog the pump altogether. This can cause sewage to leak into the yard which can be potentially harmful. Another common malfunction is clotting. Smaller than blockages, clots occur when only a portion of the pump is obstructed. This doesn’t cause leaks but wastes energy and can lead to a slower movement of wastewater.

 

Another common issue is when the pump turns on and off intermittently for no apparent reason. This requires some professional inspection. Sewage pumps only last about ten years. Beyond this point, issues and malfunctions will become more common. Many people struggle to maintain the proper functioning of these pumps because they have no way to monitor them.

 

Grinder Pump Alarms and SCADA Monitoring

High Tide Technologies (HTT) is a cloud-based company with an efficient solution to this lack of monitoring. HTT provides cloud-based SCADA systems that have the capability to monitor and control these pumps. SCADA stands for supervisory control and data acquisition and that is exactly what this system accomplishes. It offers users an overview and control of these pump systems by providing real-time data that can point to how each unit is functioning. This allows problems to be fixed before they cause damage or harm to the unit.

 

These SCADA systems also provide users with the ability to control pumps remotely, effectively saving time and money. The technology may seem a bit complicated, but the way this system functions is quite simple.

 

SCADA is the technology that is utilized by the Grinder-Pump Guardian (GPG) system. This system has the ability to monitor 180 sewer pumps at the same time. Each pump is fixed with a remote module that will send data to a HTT-1100 unit.

 

This acts as the hub collects and communicates data. The remote modules in each pump will be able to monitor for any malfunctions or abnormal activity. The collector will receive reports if there is an excessive run-time, a grinder pump alarm or any other issue. These grinder pump alarms alert users that something has gone wrong. The collecting unit will then relay the messages and data to servers at High Tide Technologies.

 

Another major advantage of this GPG system is the web interface provided with the technology. Users can get an accurate reading of how each pump is functioning. This takes out any guesswork, manually checking and greatly reduces the chance of significant damage.

 

This system allows users to report any malfunctions immediately in order to get assistance quickly before the issue gets out of control. This interface will also keep a record of the network’s entire service history. SCADA monitoring makes it easy to monitor and record how sewage pumps are operating. This is a great option for anyone in charge of operating a host of pumps.

An Avoidable Accident at a Water Treatment Plant

Accidental Keystroke Leads to Water Crisis

“To err is human.” A true statement that is often followed by a domino effect of major consequences. The Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) in Chapel Hill, NC recently experienced first-hand how a slight mistake can lead to a “worst-case scenario”. The municipal water treatment plant was affected, as well as 80,000 residents in North Carolina’s Orange County area.

A recent article detailed how a distracted water treatment plant operator unintentionally hit a button. This signaled a fluoride feed pump to increase the levels of fluoride in the water. What is normally an 8-12% operating speed for the pump was increased to 80% for approximately three hours.

Authorities discovered that the plant operator noticed disparate fluoride levels at one point and went to review the data to make adjustments. That operator then became distracted and forgot to check the issue, then making a computer keystroke that unintentionally triggered the inciting event.

The Consequences of Out-of-Date Methods 

While OWASA officials established “that no water with increased fluoride levels made it into the drinking water for OWASA customers,” this breach did trigger an emergency water interconnect from the city of Durham. The following day, a water main funneling the water from Durham had a break. This forced a Do Not Drink/Do Not Use order for southern Orange County residents and businesses for more than 24 hours.

The Health Department responded by closing all hotels and restaurants served by OWASA. They even postponed and relocated the UNC men’s basketball game against Notre Dame. In all, nearly 80,000 people were affected by this accidental error that quickly ballooned.

Could This Error Have Been Avoided?

Once each of the subsequent issues was managed and under control, investigators began their search for the how to best prevent a problem like this from happening in the future.

The water main break was the result of outdated and old infrastructure. Simply put, the water treatment plant was not up to standards for the increased water supply. Additionally, water levels were checked manually. This is no longer necessary. Modern technology, such as Cloud-Based SCADA Monitoring Systems, is widely available. SCADA provides real-time, accurate readings of water levels and other relevant data. The last issue investigators uncovered was that training procedures for employees were not as compliant or practical as necessary.

All of this added up to a huge accidental error. Fortunately, the consequences were kept to a minimum. But the whole situation could have been easily avoidable with updated technology and practices.

Web & Cloud-Based SCADA Systems

The most important takeaway from this event is the need for better monitoring and alert systems. Water treatment is vital to public safety. Effectively monitoring these practices allows for accurate data collection, as well as a safety net for when a disruption occurs to regulated output.

If OWASA had updated their equipment and made use of a cloud-based SCADA monitoring system, the appropriate operators and departments would have been notified. The SCADA system would have alerted decision makers about the high fluoride levels in the water, allowing them to review real-time data about the situation. Additionally, it would have alerted operators that the emergency water main specs were out-of-date and too short for interconnecting Durham’s water.

A cloud-based SCADA system does not rely on the physical presence (or aptitude) of operators. Instead, it records and transmits data in real-time, making it accessible to the proper departments from anywhere that has an Internet connection.

Accidents happen. But learning from mistakes and taking steps to eliminate repeated problems is the best outcome for scenarios primed to have a domino effect. Humans make errors, but humans can also learn from their mistakes.

Full Interview with David Mundie, President of High Tide Technologies

The field of telemetry for utilities has skyrocketed with the growth and usage of digital and cellular-based technology. But where do the smaller or budget-conscious providers fit in? We talked with Dr. David Mundie, Founder and President of High Tide Technologies, about some of the issues facing utility providers and mid-size municipalities, how telemetry fits into the modern landscape, how the SCADA marketplace is expanding, and some of the latest ideas in development for the future.

 

High Tide: Thanks for chatting with us. Before we dive, can you give readers some background on High Tide Technologies?

 

David Mundie: Thanks for having me. Back in 2002, I was working with a civil engineer at a dot.com company that went under. He knew the wastewater market really well and I, as an electrical engineer, knew telemetry really well. So we took what we both did best, knew there was a need, and decided to start High Tide Technologies.

 

HT: What problem did you see and set out to fix with High Tide?

 

DM: We specifically started the company to focus on rural, small- to medium-sized utility systems, those who could not afford the more sophisticated monitoring and control equipment, which led to basically doing a lot of things manually. What we’re able to provide is a solution that’s simple to install, no software or hardware to maintain in the collections, and doesn’t involve a big server (because it’s all Internet-based), and has full 24/7 support. Smaller utilities are on-call 24/7 but can’t necessarily be at the plant to look at a screen. Instead, they can check their levels from anywhere and feel good that things are still working. We’re right there with them, any time. It’s peace of mind.

 

HT: What kinds of problems are utilities and municipalities coming to High Tide to solve?

 

DM: In the wastewater world, there are all sorts of environmental regulations [to stop] overflow and spoil the environment. Most states require that someone drives by and looks at the unit once a day. When you have telemetry, you don’t have to physically visit; you can access the information before you get there, which cuts down on overtime and makes the system run more smoothly.

On the water side, we’ve been in stations that had no telemetry and to monitor everything, they drive down the road and see that the target on the tank is low, flip the switch, and hope to remember later to switch it off. They have water loss from leaving it on too long and overflowing the tank. The state [government] do a lot of regulation on water loss, but also have the problem with tanks too low and not enough to fight a fire in the hydrants. But having a system that is automatically controlled can eliminate all those problems.

 

HT: So telemetry helps keep levels accurate, and helps the whole operation run more efficiently. Can you give an example?

 

DM: Sure. We had one customer who had 40% of the water produced lost somehow. They measured this by adding up water billed from meters at customer sites compared to what meters at the plant say and the numbers didn’t match at all. And after installing one of our monitoring and control products, they got it down to 30% within a couple of months and it keeps improving the more time goes on, refining their system. Loss numbers like that affect funding for plant expansions, budgets, etc. Telemetry helps solve those mysteries.

 

HT: Why would a municipality or utility board choose High Tide? What’s the benefit?

 

DM: The thing about our stuff is that there is no custom programming and we can get a system up and running within a week or two. A typical SCADA system is customer-specific. The way we do it, everybody is sharing the resources. We make the same box for everybody, in different sizes. And we can ship it the next day after the order is placed so [the customer] can be up and running fairly quickly, probably within a week or so. It’s less expensive because there is no central server they have to maintain and staff. Our solutions are about one-third to one-fourth of the cost of traditional (typically radio systems or phone dialers), which is helpful for stricter budgets or smaller municipalities.

We do have subscription service that’s like a rental service fee for the system and even if we take 10 years of fees, our systems are still less expensive than traditional because traditional systems need maintenance, and that gets costly.

 

HT: And High Tide systems don’t need maintenance?

 

DM: We think that the easier you can make it, the users can do their own maintenance instead of calling a technician for $1000 to fix it. We ship a lot of spare parts and people can service it themselves, even if they’re not technical. We provide 24/7 support. Big municipalizes have that but small municipalities need that kind of help. Their radio supplier won’t do that.

Sometimes municipalities have different systems in place or more piecemeal set-up. We can do a mix and match of products and parts—whatever the municipality needs. It all reports back to the server and the server doesn’t care what the data comes from. Customers benefit from getting accurate data in real-time, which allows them to provide their service efficiently and effectively.

 

HT: The Internet of Things is a fast-evolving idea that is quickly coming to fruition in products like smart homes, self-driving cars, and cloud-based SCADA. What do you see for the future of the IoT technology, both positive notes, and negative ones?  

 

DM: The positive side is it drives down the cost of doing more sophisticated monitoring and control the hardware is going down, the cost of communications is going down, which makes it more cost-effective.

On the negative side, computers crash and you’re depending on the company to turn on and off the tank. All these stations have manual overrides so people have to revert to what they did before equipment.

The nice thing about our systems, there’s not a single point of failure. You might lose one tank one pipe, but not the whole system. We try to retain redundancies on our server farm. We have customers have lighting hit and we can do tweaks to their controls until that unit is repaired.

If the tank is fried by lighting, we put timers on the pump station—which is based on history since we have that data—and we can go days and keep things maintained and if usage changes, it might be a little off, but not completely dead.

 

HT: What trends do you see unfolding that makes you excited for the future of your business/industry?

 

DM: Utilities are getting more sophisticated in the preventative maintenance areas. Equipment used to run until the pump died then they’d replace the pump but it’s cheaper to repair than replace. We’re getting more sophisticated with the data we collect so [utilities] can start doing predictive analysis and see the performance over time and know when to service it before it fails completely. One of the big things that telemetry lets you do is collect, monitor, and control in real time. In the past, someone had to do the analysis by hand (via graphs) but the software on the servers’ analyzes the data and can alert to an upcoming repair before it fails, which saves time, money, and energy, and manpower.

Some of our utilities really think about the cost and budgeting and want to know and utilize all their options. I mean, there are $30,000 pumps that cost only $5000 to repair it, as opposed to replacing completely.

 

HT: Anything else you can say about the state of telemetry in municipality infrastructures and utility service providers?

 

DM: There are a lot of changes happening right now in the Internet of Things market because the cellular companies are adding stuff to go after this new market, looking for ways to adapt and changing the way the markets work. It’s a lot of small connections using just a little bit of data as opposed to a few connections that use a lot of data and It really affects cellular companies; they can’t make money if they don’t make X amount per modem but they’re not going to sell the millions of them at the price they need. For example, we want 2GB for our movies on our phones, but the sensor in the pump only needs a few bytes every 5-10 minutes. This new market is disrupting their pricing strategies. And affects how we design the future equipment.

Municipalities’ Modern Superhero: SCADA Systems on the Silver Screen

In Hollywood, art can imitate life, except with bigger budgets and more exciting plot lines. A common movie trope is when a villain threatens to contaminate a town’s water supply, putting thousands of citizens’ health and lives in jeopardy. Luckily, the hero manages to foil the plan in the nick of time.

Today, the hero is modern water management technology, like satellite-based SCADA systems, which can easily prevent similar stories from developing. While it might not make for exciting movies, satellite-based SCADA systems provide the protection required for modern utility infrastructure, in a scalable and affordable way. Check out these examples of where a SCADA system would have saved the day. [Spoilers ahead]

In Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, the Scarecrow gleefully reveals that he and his henchmen have been contaminating Gotham’s water supply with a powerful hallucinogen through a busted water main. If Gotham’s Public Works department had installed a satellite-based SCADA system, the water utility manager would have been alerted immediately of the equipment breach. The recorded data that the utility manager can access from anywhere would also show the inaccurate chemical levels of the water supply.

A satellite-based SCADA system would have exposed the issue and foiled the plan before any damage was done. And for once, Batman could have taken a vacation.

In the 2000 film Erin Brockovich, Julia Roberts stars as the title character who investigates the Pacific Gas & Electric Company after hundreds of residents suffer from cancer and other illnesses. The story is based on the true tale of Brockovich and her attorney boss Edward Masly discovering that the company had been neglectfully polluting the water supply of Hinkley, California, with harmful toxins.

Much of Brockovich’s time is spent driving hundreds of miles to water plants, digging through old and outdated records, and researching data from the PG&E company, some of which is destroyed or slated for destruction. With today’s technology and legislative safeguards against this kind of blatant environmental disregard, a monitoring system like SCADA makes the data about chemical levels readily available. Furthermore, Brockovich (or anyone!) wouldn’t have to drive hundreds of miles to dig up old documents but instead have instant remote access.

The “contaminated water supply” trope is especially convenient for Hollywood’s zombie movies. George A. Romero’s 1973 film The Crazies plays up fears of a crazy-making virus spread through unfiltered drinking water. Apologies to zombie enthusiasts but proper management and monitoring of the water supply via a satellite-based SCADA system would alert the utility department to unsafe levels for drinking water immediately. And if zombification were a real concern, the utility services manager could easily send the satellite-based data to the Center for Disease Control, ensuring that the walking dead remain just interesting entertainment.

All fun aside, the municipalities dedicated to modernizing the utility services and systems with the latest and best technology are the reason residents can trust their water supplies. Being able to record, monitor, transmit and analyze data across entire utility services makes the public works departments the unsung heroes of modern municipalities.

Improving on a Good Idea: How Satellite-Based SCADA Enhanced In-Place Solutions

Florida— the land of surf, sand, sun, and… septic tanks? Aging septic tanks (which include over 2.6 million homes) is a growing concern for Florida residents because the outdated systems can leak nitrogen and other contaminants into the groundwater. In 2010, the Florida legislature passed a law requiring inspections for septic tanks every five years—an edict that forces smaller utility providers, like Hillsborough County in eastern Florida, to find creative ways to modernize their systems while staying on budget.

Centered on the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area, Hillsborough County is the fourth most populous county in Florida, with more than 1.3 million residents calling it home. Managing their water, wastewater, and sewage system is the Hillsborough County Public Utilities Department. In 1979, the Public Utilities Department was ahead of the curve and adopted a plan to reduce potential health hazards from septic tanks in two of its residential areas: Ruskin and Wimauma. Working with USEPA grants, the Utility has been gradually replacing septic tanks with a low-pressure sewer system (LPSS). Three decades after its initial push, the utility is nearing its goal to provide a safe LPSS for residents in all neighborhoods.

While the LPSS initiative did bring needed service upgrades to the residential areas, the number of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) also increased due to heavy rains and floods. Combined with outdated or inadequate communication and data retrieval systems, the good idea was quickly getting bogged down with bigger problems.

So when the Utility needed to find a cost-effective, efficient way to gather current and historical information, as well as to note trends, they decided to go with a SCADA system. The first pilot program did not deliver as expected and the Utility had to reassess their parameters. The second attempt proved to be the winning combination because it was affordable and high quality, factored in public safety, and included features designed for specific environmental concerns, like aging septic systems.

High Tide Technologies offered Hillsborough County Utilities a satellite-based SCADA solution that provides the Utility with wireless monitoring of all assets, including remote ones, as well as desired alarm notifications. Utility workers are alerted via text, phone, or pager to any issues, and personnel has instant access to the recorded data from individual grinder pumps. The solution also provides a mapping feature that can guide utility personnel to units in stress or alarm. Satellite-based SCADA solutions are scalable and fit easily within most utility budgets while reducing man hours, modernizing older systems, protecting equipment, and managing operations.

In one fell swoop, the Hillsborough County Public Utilities Department had the right tools to continue to build on their great idea of proactively addressing aging septic tanks. By using a satellite-based SCADA, the Utility can scale as needed and always be ahead of the curve for any potentially damaging or dangerous problems. And residents of Hillsborough County can focus on the surf, sand, and sun… instead of leaking septic tanks.

 

How SCADA Systems Help Water Treatment and Wastewater Plants

The beauty of modern plumbing is that when we turn on our faucet, we can reasonably expect freshwater to come pouring out. There are few places left in the country that are untouched by the advancements and regulations of public water. So when the Washington Post published an article in 2016 about researchers finding unsafe levels of industrial chemicals in the drinking water of 6 million Americans, wastewater treatment plants and water management services took notice.

The report cited in the Post article found that “194 of 4,864 water supplies across nearly three dozen states had detectable levels of the chemicals.” Of those water supplies, 66 services had at least one sample that exceeded the EPA’s recommended safety limit for two types of chemicals. That ratio might not seem like a high number, but 66 water services affect six million Americans, so it’s clearly not a small issue.

Water treatment plants and water usage facilities can do their part by making sure their monitoring equipment is up-to-date and as accurate as possible. While SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems are more commonplace in modern operations, an updated version exists and is proving to a more reliable and better solution: a cloud-based SCADA system.

A cloud-based SCADA system allows water management plants to not only monitor levels of specific chemicals and toxins but to have precise records accessible from anywhere. No longer are digital read-outs only available at a fixed point on the SCADA unit. Instead, any manager or operator who needs data can access it from their own satellite- or WIFI-enabled device.

In the contaminated water study, the EPA sought to mitigate the ramifications until stricter guidelines could be drawn up. When it comes to healthy drinking water, Americans don’t want to waste time in the bureaucratic process of defining regulations.

Unfortunately, Congress mandates that before the EPA imposes new limitations on the nation’s water utilities, it has to prove that there is a meaningful opportunity to improve public health. It is a long, arduous process that takes years; officials have not successfully regulated any new contaminant in two decades because the process is complicated and contentious.

Another benefit of a cloud-based SCADA system is that data collected in real-time from the contaminated areas can be studied, compared, and shared with researchers in a faster, more efficient, digital manner. By comparing the data points, researchers can have the most accurate knowledge from which to draw, and that hopefully can lead to quicker results and faster action.

Because of our industrial advancements, the environment is changing faster than we can understand. However, because of our technological advancements, we can use the digital tools available, like a cloud-based SCADA solution, to monitor, record, and support research for improvements.

Searching for SCADA Solution Providers: What to Look For and What to Avoid

As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But with technology developing at a break-neck speed and the benefits of efficient, accurate data so integral to planning, staffing, and budgeting, not to mention crisis aversion, municipalities can’t afford to ignore the latest offerings for utility management solutions. Whether you’re in the research phase or ready to implement a better system today, knowing what to look for and what to avoid when evaluating SCADA monitoring systems is the first step to making a good decision.

 

AVOID: HIDDEN COSTS

Unpredictable things happen every day. And when extenuating circumstances necessitate an emergency situation, the cost of the crisis itself, plus the sting of steep fine-print fees, is a one-two punch most budgets can’t afford to take. Ask early and often about initial costs, maintenance costs, and support costs. Any provider that balks is probably not worth your time.

 

LOOK FOR: COST TRANSPARENCY

When it comes to implementing a new system, there are always going to be certain fees that are upfront and one-time, such as equipment and set-up. Other fees may be recurring and as-needed, such as maintenance and support. Make sure that when evaluating SCADA solutions, providers are forthcoming and transparent about what their solution will cost at the outset when something goes wrong, and for upkeep. Transparency is everything.

 

AVOID: ONE SIZE FITS ALL

Telemetry for utility management is a large category, allowing for many areas of distinct approaches, methods, and equipment. Any company or solution provider that claims to have the one and only solution or equipment cannot guarantee it’ll work with your utility parameters, like size, distance, budget, or personnel.

 

LOOK FOR: CUSTOMIZABLE SOLUTIONS

A reliable SCADA solution provider knows that each project presents its own unique needs and challenges and works to find the best solution that fits the project. Additionally, a cloud-based SCADA provider should have the equipment and telemetry technology available that will scale and grow as needed. Having a wide range of options allows for the most tailored solutions.

 

AVOID: CONSTANTLY TROUBLESHOOTING ISSUES

When evaluating SCADA solution providers, it’s important to trust that your business has the support when it’s needed. Being up a creek without a paddle is the last place you want to find yourself when something urgent needs attention. And spending hours in a call center circle of doom probably isn’t what you paid for, is it?

 

LOOK FOR: FULL COVERAGE AND SUPPORT

A good SCADA provider is your paddle, and your life jacket, and the Coast Guard… if you need it to be. Implementing a new SCADA solution is an investment of time, energy, personnel, and money. Look for a SCADA provider that feels like an extension of your own team, with the same goals and objectives, then you’ll have a win-win.

Small Towns Solving Big Water Management Problems

Forty-five miles west of Knoxville and nestled in the Tennessee Valley is Harriman, TN, a scenic small town of 6,218 in 10.6 square miles. Because time and technology wait for no man, Harriman found itself looking for big innovations for their small town water management needs.

Providing electric, gas, water, and wastewater services to the city and the surrounding area is the Harriman Utility Board (HUB). Due to necessity, HUB has absorbed smaller water service providers throughout the years and integrated them into its system, creating a patchwork of different systems, processes, and technologies for monitoring.

 

This hodge-podge of systems led to a serviceable but clunky workflow:

  • Personnel received monitoring data via one computer in the warehouse, creating gaps in efficiency and opening the door to inaccurate readings.
  • Operators in the field didn’t have direct access to the data and had to rely on relayed information or, more commonly, the past experiences of engineers and operators. More time was spent trying to pinpoint what or where the problem could be instead of actually addressing the issue.
  • Many of the remote locations lacked telemetry—the wired or wireless transmission and reception of data to monitor equipment or conditions—and required onsite visits, which varied in frequency and consistency.

 

Add to it aging and outdated monitoring equipment and limited availability for replacement parts, and the case was clear: The time had come to upgrade the HUB water and utility management system.

Rural municipalities typically have small budgets that must be stretched to cover large geographic areas, limiting rural areas to low-cost and low-tech options, such as line-of-sight radio networks or phone lines. Because of the growing cost of leased lines, and costly repeaters for hilly areas, soon enough, low-tech options no longer mean low cost. The HUB board had the same concerns when it set out to find a better, more efficient, more affordable solution.

Luckily, the right solution exists. The HUB board decided to install a small cloud-based SCADA system through us, allowing utility operators to access and control the systems from any Internet-connected device. The changes put an end to spotty landline connections, costly equipment, and distance issues. Additionally, the cloud-based SCADA provider carries the burden of licensing and maintaining SCADA software and hardware, which reduces the cost and development needs—and worries—for utility departments.

In the two years since its implementation of a cloud-based SCADA, the Harriman Utility Board has seen water loss reduced by 10 percent and a more accurate understanding of the way the system works. By having precise and timely data at their fingertips, operators and engineers can better predict and calibrate future issues.

Though rural municipalities like Harriman may be small, they still think big when it comes to effective water management. Finding the latest monitoring technology to meet their needs and their budget proved that a cloud-based SCADA system is the best fit for utilities of any size.

You can learn more about the Harriman solution by downloading the case study here.