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.

A Comprehensive Overview of Freshwater Usage in the United States

Freshwater is vital to human survival. Our ancestors had the keen awareness that it was strategically advantageous to settle near rivers. This understanding drove the transition from tribes of early hunter-gatherers into civilization as we know it. Along with being a consistent source of drinkable water, rivers provide fertile land for hunting, fishing, agriculture, and transportation.

After thousands of years of civilization, many of us no longer need to dwell near freshwater sources to experience the benefits. Advances in technology have drastically changed the means of water collection, treatment, and distribution.

A Comprehensive Overview of Freshwater Usage in the United States

Conclusion

It took ingenuity, money, and cooperation to establish our current freshwater distribution network. This complex process conveniently brings freshwater to homes and industries across the country – cleaning, feeding, and powering a nation. But convenience can make us complacent.

With our attention more divided than ever, it’s easy to push impending problems to the side. Our current rate of consumption is not sustainable, and there is an increasing need to reduce our collective water footprint. Solving the riddle of sustainable water usage will require awareness, education, and bold solutions. As in the case with our early ancestors, it will take a concerted effort. Our survival depends on it.

Sioux Falls Invests in Wastewater Infrastructure Reform

In Sioux Falls, Mayor Paul TenHaken is looking to step forward with a massive infrastructure project in conjunction with the Public Health Department. The project will revamp and upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant infrastructure.

Dedicating $260 million to the project, the mayor cited that the city’s utility apparatus would have to be expanded to accommodate any residential and industrial growth that would enlarge the local economy. The project is on track to be the largest expenditure on infrastructure in the city’s history. As the city is expected to grow in numbers, TenHaken insists that reform of the wastewater treatment is a necessary investment.

Mayor TenHaken’s proposal is not only an improvement on the current local water infrastructure but a proactive step to stop a potential crisis of resources in the future. The city’s current facility is only capable of processing 21 million gallons of water daily, with a need to treat over 17 million gallons in order to satisfy the current population’s daily use. This leaves little room for population growth.

The facility currently uses five enormous disinfection basins (they are adding a sixth) to treat the water before redistributing it back into the Big Sioux River. Just eight years ago the requirement was three basins. In five years the facility is projected to be at maximum capacity. Mayor TenHaken is rightly concerned. The expansion project would future-proof the city’s wastewater supply to accommodate future growth. Without the expansion project, the city could find themselves in a public health crisis.

 

Project Details

One of the main focuses of the Sioux Falls wastewater expansion project is in regards to their eleven lift stations. A lift station is a mechanism that moves water from a lower elevation to a higher elevation. The lift stations will either be upgraded or replaced entirely.

Another objective of the expansion project is to enhance the capacity of the 57th Street sanitary sewer pump station on the east of town. The project would repair and replace older and outdated piping within the water treatment infrastructure throughout Sioux Falls. These two projects make up $100 million of the proposed $260 million budget.

The remaining $160 million will go towards improving and expanding the city’s water treatment facility as well as the facility’s 60-acre campus. Though the city’s sewer rates are expected to rise in cost, the project will bring much-needed reform to the local water system. The projected expansion would help push the local facility’s capacity from 21 million to 30 million to accommodate the projected 120,000+ people expected to move in by 2036.

 

The Cost of Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades

While the Sioux Falls wastewater infrastructure reform has been touted by Mayor TenHaken as absolutely necessary, it does come with a high price tag. The city plans to pay the bulk of the expenditure with a low-interest loan from South Dakota’s state government. Sewage costs will inevitably rise with a plan to raise current water fees by 6% each year for the next three years.

Even with the increased costs, the city would not be the most expensive in water fees within South Dakota. Currently, Sioux Fall’s residents are charged $36 per 6,000 gallons of wastewater. Comparatively, Watertown holds the lowest rates in the state at $21.50 for the same gallons, while Harrisburg charges a whopping $75.44 for the same scenario, the highest of the state.

The Director of the Public Health Department, Mark Cotter, believes even with the eventual 18% increase, Sioux Fall’s rates will still be competitive. The proposal will be submitted to the City Council for approval later this month.

 

Conclusion

As populations continue to grow and resources become more limited, it is essential to maintain healthy water treatment plants for the public. Examples such as Flint show the dangers of when negligence and incompetence lead to a contaminated water supply and result in a public health emergency. Advancements in technology have drastically changed the efficiency and effectiveness of water treatment.

As a result, many municipalities must reform their infrastructure to fulfill their population’s basic needs. Wastewater treatment plants all over the world are investing in cloud-based SCADA monitoring systems in order to receive real-time data updates about equipment functionality and information about the water supply. This shift ensures public safety while reducing costs over time.

Automated Reporting For Wastewater Operators

It is no secret that automating processes leads to efficiency. When machines do things by themselves, they perform tasks faster, better, and with almost no errors. This is what leads to increased productivity and much lower costs of production.

This tenant holds true for almost every discipline under the sun and is finally catching up with wastewater treatment. Lack of proper monitoring equipment or techniques can often lead to less than desirable test results for the management companies. And due to the pressures of remaining operational, ethics may be put aside, and reports falsified.

 

Wastewater Scandal in Fitchburg, Massachusetts

One example is in the case of the president of a private wastewater treatment and engineering facility in Fitchburg MA. He was found guilty of falsifying wastewater samples and test results. The judge sentenced him to three years’ probation, a $19,500 fine, 50 hours of community service, and a four-month suspension of his operating licenses.

If you are a plant operator, utilizing automation can ensure compliance with the Department of Environmental Protection regulations.

 

Wastewater Treatment Plant Automation

The automation of processes within wastewater treatment plants yield higher levels of efficiency and reliability. This helps operators realize a better quality of treated water. Automated designs self-diagnose and recommend the necessary interventions, which enables the facility’s managers to take preemptive measures, either directly or by contracting a water technology firm. Automating processes sees to better resource management as personnel usually tasked with overseeing pipe valves, and leaks, instrumentation equipment, and electrical systems are freed up for other crucial endeavors.

This is especially critical at a time when some places are experiencing a shortage of skilled operators due to many of the industry’s workers nearing retirement. Moreover, the training of new operating personnel tends to put emphasis on being familiar with device interfaces, instead of the diagnosis of issues surrounding mechanical equipment.

 

How SCADA Has Changed Treatment Plant Monitoring

Customizable control hardware and software systems for wastewater treatment are currently available and can be integrated into the existing treatment technologies to boost operational efficiency, and thus, water quality. This software optimizes the performance of processes using real-time monitoring and control. This enables the plant operator to know the actual conditions in the treatment process, instead of relying on guesses and cooking up results.

Additionally, such software stabilizes processes hence helping to avoid common pitfalls such as excess treatment or excessive energy expenditure. These process performance optimizers typically adapt to the dynamic conditions in order to guarantee high effluent quality while consuming energy as minimally as possible.

Compliance monitoring has relied on lab measurements of composite samples for a long time. However, online analytical instruments are increasingly being utilized to do these measurements. This allows for continuous process control, minimization of chemical and energy usage, and avoiding conditions that lead to upsets in the process. Additionally, the constant monitoring enhances decision making while reducing the burden of having to manually sample and measure process parameters multiple times throughout the day.

In addition to promoting the need for lower costs of operations, these technologies are enabling wastewater managers to meet the stringent regulations set by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Wastewater treatment plans are one of the most vital links towards promoting a secure water future. Over a third of the global population suffers from water scarcity at least one month every year. With that, there is an increasing need for innovations that will ensure water security. Utilizing smart water technologies should help facilitate intelligent operations that will go a long way in enhancing efficiency, compliance with standards, and better water quality.

 

High Tide Technologies

High Tide Technologies is an end-to-end cloud-based SCADA company which utilizes satellite, cellular, and Ethernet communications as well as field units and the internet to monitor and control systems automatically. Our SCADA monitoring systems will help you have detailed insight into the various processes which will not only allow you to achieve higher quality but also ensure that you do not break any regulations.

Trump Tariffs Will Affect the Water & Wastewater Industries

Trump Tariffs are disrupting different industries across the US and might force the economy to recession if the US President continues issuing tariffs threats. The country’s trade partners are forming a retaliation that results to global trade conflict.

Trump argues that the tariffs on items like washing machines, water equipment, solar panels and wastewater equipment are just meant to protect American industries from collapsing and for a long-term benefit. However, business leaders, lawmakers, politicians, and economists say a different story. A good example is the steel and aluminum tariffs.

 

Steel and Aluminium Tariffs Story

In March 2018, it was proposed a 10% tariff on aluminum and 25% tariff on steel. Later in May 2018, it was announced that there are plans to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on EU, Canada, and Mexico. The tariff came into effect at midnight the same day of the announcement.

The announcement intensified trade war between America and its trading partners. The trade partners quickly reacted to the imposed new regulation especially E.U, Canada, and Mexico.

 

Steel and Aluminium Tariffs Impact on Trade Partners

The European Commission led by their president Jean-Claude released statements criticizing the new tariffs. The European Commission statement defined the proposal as, “a blatant intervention to protect U.S domestic industry” and announced countermeasures to Trump’s Tariffs.

The E.U responded by saying it would levy import taxes on items like Bourbon from Kentucky- a home state of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnel. Plus, Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Mexico responded by saying it would levy import taxes on various types of steel. Also, American farm products such as grapes, certain cheeses, pork bellies, cranberries, apples were not spared.

While Canada levied taxes on the same metals (steel and aluminum) and other products like candy, coffee, pizza, and quiche. Also, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he had rejected the ultimatum from Vice President Pence.

The World Trade Organization –WTO was not left behind. The director general of WTO, Robert Azevedo was quick to respond that the unfair regulation and quick trade policy statements by trading partners will result in a global trade war. He termed it as, “real risk of triggering an escalation of trade barriers across the globe.”

 

Water and Wastewater Industries

The recent move to Trump’s Tariffs on E.U, Mexico, and Canada has made a substantial effect on equipment production for various industries. The steel and aluminum tariff will make them expensive to import, thus making water infrastructure projects cost more. Wastewater equipment and water equipment made from the metal alloy that is imported will drive demand up for locally produced steel.

Water infrastructure projects like repairing water and wastewater plants plus their collection systems will become expensive. Primarily, when water and wastewater utility sector wants to build or repair the plant and their collection systems, they will receive funding from federally subsidized loans as per the Water Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act.

It is foreseen that the tariffs will make the prices of steel and aluminum high thus affecting the water and wastewater utilities just like any other industries. Nevertheless, the director of Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturer’s Assn, Vanessa Leiby argues that the said tariff will affect small-sized to medium-sized manufacturing enterprises. Reason being they have not stocked materials affected by the taxes like large manufacturing enterprises.

Although the regulation was payback for some unfair trade practices, the American Iron and Steel Association were happy and praised the decision made. The Aluminum Association too applauded the decision made. The two groups represented the domestic industry and felt that the policy could be more of directed towards China –the most significant competitor- other than their allies (Canada, Mexico, and E.U).

Trump’s tariffs are slowly losing long-term traditional allies by forgetting the written and unwritten global trading rules written in the past. In the pretense of protecting their industries, forgetting to look at the bigger picture.

Recycled Wastewater Helps Maximize Water Treatment Systems

In Biology 101, we learn that water is the key to survival for all living organisms. Thanks to the natural water cycle of the ecosystem, water has always been a renewable resource. But at the current rate humans are consuming water, combined with factors influenced by climate change, we are drawing from the pool faster than the environment can replenish.

Fortunately, there are some forward-thinking companies and communities that are using modern technology to “reuse” water in healthy, eco-conscious ways – pioneering the field of water conservation in the process.

 

Recycled Wastewater and Beer

CH2M, an engineering company in Denver, CO, is one of the companies leading the charge in finding ways to repurpose recycled wastewater. They are battling the public stigma against recycled water and driving sustainable water reuse technology. CH2M saw the public’s general distrust of recycled water and derived ways to make it more accepted—by using recycled water in beer.

So far, three breweries in Denver—Lone Tree Brewing Company, Lost Highway Brewing Company, and 105 West Brewing Company—have used the 330 gallons of direct potable reuse water from CH2M to in their beer-making process.

 

How Does the Water Get Recycled?

According to CH2M, reclaimed water is pumped into a treatment trailer. Once in the trailer, it gets purified using a multi-barrier purification process that includes ultra-filtration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolet disinfection with advanced oxidation, activated carbon filtration, and chlorine disinfection to transform recycled community wastewater into pure drinking water.

The idea is catching on.

 

Increased Usage of Recycled Wastewater

In San Diego, CA, the Stone Brewing Co. has already produced five barrels of a new craft beer that uses recycled water from San Diego’s Pure Water facility. Stone Brewing Co. named the beer Full Circle Pale Ale in an effort to bring awareness to recycled wastewater options and solutions.  

Another usage of recycled wastewater can be found in Big Sky, MT. Following the example set by CH2M and San Diego’s Pure Water Program, the well-known ski resort town is considering a proposal to use recycled wastewater for snowmaking. The town itself has boomed in population in the past two decades, thanks to its proximity to Yellowstone National Park, the unrivaled vistas, and its exclusive ski resort. But so much growth means a strain on existing infrastructure and resources—namely, water.

For all the open air and mountains, town authorities realized that Big Sky doesn’t have enough water to meet current demands. Groundwater, the only source of drinking water for the community, is rapidly depleting thanks to the population growth.

Another issue is the current treatment of wastewater. According to reports, “the sewage system was expanded 15 years ago at a cost of $15 million, but it’s already nearly at capacity and another expansion will be needed soon.”

Community members were adamant that the pristine nature of Big Sky, including the beloved Gallatin River, were protected and preserved before any development plans could move forward. To that end, three dozen community leaders formed the Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum that “strives to be a model mountain community by protecting and improving water resources, sustaining ecological health of the watersheds, and supporting a vibrant local economy.”

The Forum is open to all means of conservation and creative repurposing, including using recycled wastewater to help create the integral powder that keeps the snow-dependent tourism economy working, provides the water necessary for resident’s health and lives and doesn’t impede on the natural environment.

From suds to slopes, recycled wastewater is finding creative solutions to care for our future while preserving the present.

 

High Tide Technologies

High Tide Technologies is an end-to-end cloud-based SCADA company that enables our users to create a complete SCADA solution that utilizes field units, satellite, cellular or Ethernet communications as well as the Internet to monitor and provides automatic control of your systems. Many of our clients are water treatment plants that deal in municipal water distributionwastewater, and more. 

The responsible distribution of water and wastewater requires meticulous monitoring. We are committed to providing the highest quality monitoring products that give engineers, operators, and decision makers the required tools to make immediate, data-driven decisions.

How Eco-Conscious Are Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials?

Lately, it feels like each generation has a bone to pick with its predecessors or successors. But when it comes to the most environmentally friendly behavior, is it the Boomers, Gen X, or the Millennials that are the “greenest generation”? We surveyed 2,000 Americans from all three generations to find out just how eco-conscious their habits are and scored the groups based on their earth-friendly behaviors. Check out who ranked highest in the graph below.

Infographic: How Eco-Conscious are Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millenials?

When it comes to our most precious resource, Boomers are leading the most conservative path by showering and running the dishwasher the least-Gen-Xers are most likely to shower more than 7 times in a week. Millennials are keeping their jeans as fresh as possible by never or rarely washing them, which helps cut down on water waste.

According to the survey, more than 90% of all three generations agree that recycling makes a difference. However, Gen-Xers are coming up short with a zero score, whereas Boomers and Millennials tie for first with two points apiece. Millennials are most likely to use paper billing and reusable bags, cutting down on excess paper products, and Boomers are more likely to recycle electronics like cell phones, according to survey results.

One of the biggest categories for eco-consciousness is energy and again, Gen-Xers are in last place with one point for their use of energy-efficient appliances-a good habit they share with Boomers. Boomers also have the least amount of TV watching or streaming usage and cut back their electricity usage the most. Millennials, however, tend to suck up electricity even when not awake by choosing to charge their phone at night. Boomers and Gen-Xers are also more likely to use Energy Star appliances, however, Gen-Xers tend to have the highest electric bills. Millennials also embrace the green commute, choosing public transportation or cycling over driving. Once again, Gen-Xers are the most likely to drive to work.

However, when it comes to food, one good habit cancels out the other for Boomers and Millennials. While Boomers are most likely to eat meat more than five times a week-a disastrous strain on the environment-Millennials are the most vegetarian-conscious generation. Conversely, Millennials are more likely to waste more than 10 pounds of food a week whereas Boomers are the most careful about food waste, choosing to compost instead. Gen-Xers also opt for composting, proving that younger generations could stand to learn something from their elders.

At a paltry two points, Gen-Xers lose at the Generational Eco-conscious Olympics. Millennials put up a solid score of six but get dinged on things like food and energy waste. According to the survey, with a score of nine out of 17, Boomers are considered the most eco-conscious of the current generations-though all three groups have areas for improvement. By doing things like cutting back on electricity, being food conscious and using composts, and recycling, Boomers demonstrate that real care for the environment begins with developing daily good, Earth-friendly habits.

Methodology

After surveying 2,000 people across the country, we broke down the responses based on age in order to compare eco-conscious habits across three generations: Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. We asked respondents about their daily habits when it comes to their water, food and energy usage as well as their recycling habits.

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.

Utility Telemetry Systems Keep Coastal Town Drinking Water Safe

Solid ground could be a misnomer when it comes to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The popular vacation spot and idyllic island is effectively a sandbar, with towns, roads, and businesses built on the porous ground that washed up several centuries ago. Except for a single pond in Falmouth, the drinking water on Cape Cod is produced from a single underground aquifer, which by definition is porous rock, so anything that spills—gasoline, waste discharge, insect repellent, paint, etc.—eventually seeps into the groundwater.

According to a 2016 article in the Boston Globe, “In some parts of Cape Cod, groundwater travels a foot a day, and in many places, the water table sits less than 10 feet below the surface. Whatever gets dumped on the ground could contaminate water within a couple of weeks.”

What makes Cape Cod both rustically beautiful and a day-tripper’s dream is the geology, which has been shifting into uneasy territory for decades. For example, water in the town of Barnstable is no longer assumed to be drinkable and safe. New regulations from the EPA rolled out in 2016 forced the closing of two of the town’s three wells. Industry, as well as a nearby military base camp, and weather-related forces, like storm run-off and tide swells, means that the municipal water system is fighting several factors on several fronts. That’s where telemetry comes into play.

 

Telemetry System Solution

Telemetry is the wired or wireless transmission and reception of measured quantities for the purpose of remotely monitoring environmental conditions or equipment parameters, and in utility services has many long-range benefits.

  • A cloud-based SCADA system physically monitors the levels and quality of the water, so Cape Cod municipality workers can check the viability of the drinking water supply at a click of a mouse.
  • Remote access units means that data can be collected from areas not easily accessed, such as marshy outposts or run-off areas near industry hubs, like Barnstable or the military base. Personnel simply logs in to see, catalogue, and transmit the pertinent data.
  • Outfitted with alarms, a telemetry system like a cloud-based SCADA often serves as the first indication of any problem or issue. Any dip or rise in proper levels, or introduction of contaminates, or equipment and power failures is immediately sent to personnel, thereby allowing for quicker response and mitigating additional damage. In Cape Cod, where a hurricane can redraw the coastline in minutes and overwhelm the water system, immediate knowledge of any problem can save precious dollars, minutes, and livelihoods.

For small municipalities like Barnstable, in areas that are unique in geological structure and environmental needs, the best defense is a solid infrastructural offense. Telemetry systems are instrumental in places like Cape Cod because the constantly changing data needs to be monitored, tracked, and analyzed to be able to find long-term solutions.

Untracked Wastewater Spills No Longer an Issue with Telemetry Solutions

Oil spills are big news because they pose such large-scale environmental damage and clean-up cost. In 2105, energy and environment organization E&E news reported that only about half of the 2700 spills at Texas oil and gas sites were tracked, which had environmentalists wondering why, and more importantly, how it can be fixed.

According to the article, Texas, unlike other states, does not track spills of wastewater, but instead, only tracks spills of petroleum products, primarily crude oil. However, many critics insist that wastewater spills are more damaging. When spills are left unchecked and untracked, a disaster is waiting to happen.

Wastewater, sometimes called brine or produced water, contains crude oil fluids. Because it’s not being tracked, there’s no way to assess damage, seepage rates, or effects of a spill and clean-up. When there is a wastewater spill, unchecked amounts of crude oil remnants and other chemical run-off are seeping into the ground, affecting the health of people, livestock, and the land.

So, what can the government and the oil companies do to protect the people and the land? Luckily, this is the age of modern technology and the solution already exists. Telemetry—the wired or wireless transmission and reception of measured quantities for the purpose of remotely monitoring environmental conditions—monitors, tracks, records, and transmits any and all data relating to oil production.

What used to be a daunting exercise requiring loads of manpower and organized information sharing can now be done with the simple click of a mouse, from anywhere by anyone with access.

One aspect of telemetry that would be especially useful for oil companies dealing with wastewater spills is to implement a cloud-based SCADA system. SCADA, which stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, is the digital recording and monitoring of devices and equipment.

Once installed, a manager at an oil production plant could track and measure the levels of chemicals in by-products, like wastewater. If there was a spill or equipment failure, the SCADA unit would electronically alert personnel and trigger an immediate response, thus mitigating damage. Furthermore, management would have all the information at their fingertips for how to best handle the situation because they would know all the chemical data and levels at breach source; that knowledge would mean environmentally-safe clean-up decisions can be made quickly and effectively.

Under the current and inconsistent spill tracking process, if the spill is crude or condensate, and it is five barrels or more, the oil company must follow up with a specific form. This form (H-8) is often on spreadsheets, which need maintenance by personnel and is not a reliable source for data keeping. A cloud-based SCADA solution works by keeping all pertinent information in a digital cloud, thereby accessible anywhere there is an Internet connection. Engineers and plant managers can share accurate data instantaneously, in real time.

Protection of the public and the land must be the top priority for oil companies. Not only do current and future lives depend on the safe production and distribution of oil, but any reckless activity or neglectful behavior in the process can—and does—have dire consequences for the land. With telemetry systems in place, gone are the days of manual data transmission and inaccurate information. Telemetry allows companies to work smarter and safer.