Case Study: Wastewater Auto Dialer Upgraded to SCADA System

High Tide Technologies Tackles New Challenge While Setting Up SCADA Monitoring System in Carbondale, IL – the city’s outdated lift station alarm dialers are upgraded to SCADA, greatly increasing monitoring capabilities

  • Location: Carbondale, IL
  • Products: HTT-1100 & HTT-3100
  • Utility: Water & Sewer Services
  • Distributer: Municipal Equipment Company – St. Louis

Overview: Carbondale, IL Wastewater Treatment Plants

Proud home of Southern Illinois University, the city of Carbondale serves a population of approximately 26,000 people, utilizing two wastewater treatment plants in the process. The Southeast plant was last upgraded in 2005 from a 3.19 mgd average flow to 6 mgd with 12.5 mgd max flow. The Northwest plant has a capacity of 2.64 mgd average flow with a 6.6 max mgd flow. In 2016, the city was using four channel phone dialers to alert personnel to high-level, low-level power/phase fail, and backup system active conditions at each station.

Outdated Lift Station Alarm Dialers Upgraded to SCADA

According to Sean Pickford, P.E., Carbondale’s city engineer, the components to the city’s existing phone dialer system were outdated and not fully functioning at some stations. Additionally, the city was limited to checking run times on the lift station control panels. “They needed to run out there every day and check run times on the hour,” said Derrick Brandt, aftermarket sales at Municipal Equipment Co. in St. Louis.

The failing alarm dialers prompted the city to consider upgrading its lift station alarms to a SCADA monitoring system. Cost was a key factor in deciding to make the change. “For the same price as our controller, we knew we could get a modem system for around that same price,” Pickford said. “It was a no-brainer, since these type of systems offer a lot more flexibility.” The city vetted multiple replacement systems.

One important consideration was that the city needed a system that would dial to a landline. “That was a necessity,” Pickford said. “Our operators are not carrying a cell phone on them and don’t use email for work, so [the system] had to be able to call the plant and let them know that there was an issue.” The city of Carbondale decided to upgrade its system to High Tide Technologies in March 2016. The solution that High Tide offered had the ability to dial to a landline to annunciate an alarm, a feature other competitor products did not have. The overall project cost of using High Tide was also as little as one-third of the cost of other systems, Brandt said.

SCADA Monitoring Solution: A Unique Installation Challenge

The High Tide Technologies SCADA monitoring solution comprised of 11 HTT-1100 units and one HTT-3100 unit. One challenge High Tide needed to address was setting up its SCADA system to work with the city’s pump controller. The pump controller transmitted information via the Modbus communication protocol. This communication protocol is not a common system for manufacturers to work with, Brandt said. “High Tide set [the system] up to work with our controller via Modbus, and it made a lot less wiring to and from connection points to and from the controller,” Brandt said. “The whole system setting up Modbus communication between everything was much simpler.”

Pickford stated that he appreciated the ease of communication with High Tide as its staff tackled a project with which they were less familiar. “The way that we were connecting controllers to units was something [High Tide] hadn’t done before, so there were some growing pains, but they were very responsive,” he said. “One of the nice things about working with that company is that I don’t have a problem getting a hold of someone.” Personnel from High Tide also made multiple trips from Nashville to Carbondale (at least a 3-hour drive) to assist with the installation on site.

Better Wastewater Monitoring Results

The project was completed in January 2017. The installation of the system, which took place in conjunction with the replacement of the pump controllers at each of the sanitary sewer lift stations, has greatly increased the city’s monitoring capabilities, Pickford said. In addition to the alerts that personnel previously received with the phone dialer system, city officials are now able to monitor the number of pumps that are running and their amp draw.

In addition to improving the efficiency of the dated alarm dialer system, the new SCADA solution enables Carbondale’s operators to:

  • Check whether a backup generator is running in lieu of main power
  • View the wet well level
  • View influent sanitary sewer flow rate
  • View effluent sanitary sewer flow rate.

This increase in data collection has helped the city be more proactive in preventing wastewater issues before they occur. Personnel can determine seal failure at the pumps and thermal failure due to either overload at the motor starter or thermal failure at the pump itself. Carbondale staff are also using wet well level information over time to determine which basins have gravity sewer inflow issues. “Our increased monitoring has helped city personnel determine clogs at the pumps before the issues became critical,” Pickford said.