COVID-19: What the public needs to know about water and sanitation — The Pagosa Sun

Pagosa Springs Panorama. Photo credit: Gmhatfield via Wikimedia Commons

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

At a regular meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors on March 12, District Manager Justin Ramsey noted that COVID-19 cannot be spread through drinking water.

“It’s very susceptible to chlorine,” Ramsey said. “We do keep chlorine in our water.”

However, COVID-19 can be found in sewage, Ramsey noted, adding that there are other unhealthy things found in sewage as well…

The only way PAWSD could be affected by COVID-19 is if too many staff members were to get sick, Ramsey added later.

According to Ramsey, the state of Colorado has put together a program, called CoWARN [Colorado Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network] that allows PAWSD to “share” equipment and staff.
“So if PAWSD gets hit real hard with this, I can call Durango and say ‘I need two water operators’ and if they have them available, they’ll send them to us,” he said. “It sets out how we’re going to pay for it and pay them back and so on and so forth.”

In a follow-up interview on March 17, Ramsey noted that PAWSD is now a part of CoWARN.

Additionally, Ramsey noted that PAWSD has run into issues with citizens using and flushing items that cause problems with PAWSD’s infrastructure.

“It is causing somewhat of a problem. It’s not a major catastrophe, but it is definitely clogging some pumps and causing a little bit of issues,” he said.

On March 17, PAWSD’s administrative offices closed to the public indefinitely, Ramsey explained in an email.

PAWSD customers will still receive regular water and wastewater service, Ramsey noted.

Chlorine Could Increase Antimicrobial Resistance — the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Mutagens, such as disinfection byproducts, in treated wastewater elicit a colorimetric response in this 96-well plate. Photo credit: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

From King Abdullah University of Science and Technology:

Ultraviolet light could thwart antimicrobial resistance by damaging DNA material in wastewater.

Conventional wastewater disinfection using chlorine could facilitate the spread of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria1. Treating some types of wastewater with ultraviolet (UV) light instead could be part of the solution2, according to a study at KAUST’s Water Desalination and Reuse Center, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Bacteria are rapidly developing mechanisms to evade the effects of antimicrobial drugs, and this resistance is increasingly threatening public health. Pharmaceutical compounds and resistant bacteria that reach municipal and agricultural wastewater are partially to blame. Interestingly, the antimicrobial resistance of bacteria in wastewater entering water treatment plants is lower than after the wastewater leaves the treatment plant.

This may be because during wastewater disinfection, genetic material breaks out of bacteria into the surrounding water. This extracellular DNA can contain antimicrobial resistance genes. “The big question is are these extracellular resistance genes of concern to public health?” says KAUST postdoctoral fellow, David Mantilla-Calderon. “We don’t have an answer to this question yet, but the first prerequisite these genes must fulfill to be of concern is that they need to be harbored within a viable bacterial cell. This is only possible through a process called natural transformation, which allows extracellular DNA uptake and integration into the bacterial chromosome.”

Mantilla-Calderon and colleagues at KAUST found1 that natural transformation was stimulated in a bacterium commonly found in water and soil, called Acinetobacter baylyi, when it was in the presence of the chlorine byproduct, bromoacetic acid. They found that this disinfection byproduct caused DNA damage in the bacterium, inducing a DNA repair pathway that is known to also increase the integration of foreign DNA into the bacterium’s genome.

Ph.D. student Nicolas Augsburger next investigated2 the effects of sunlight and one component of sunlight, UV light, on natural transformation. “We wanted to see if there was a safer way to disinfect treated wastewater without provoking an increase in natural transformation in environmental bacteria,” he explains.

Interestingly, Augsburger and his colleagues found that, similar to bromoacetic acid, treatment with either the full spectrum of sunlight or only with UV light caused increased natural transformation in Acinetobacter baylyi.

David Mantilla-Calderon (left) and Nicholas Augsburger discuss the results of their UV treatment of the natural transformation they stimulated in a common bacterium when it was in the presence of the chlorine byproduct, bromoacetic acid, casting doubt on commonly used wastewater treatment. Photo credit: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

“What surprised us was the finding that after treatment with UV light, the bacterium’s genes were damaged to the extent that they were no longer functional,” says Augsburger. “Thus, although treatment with UV light increased the integration of foreign DNA into the bacterium, just like disinfection byproducts and sunlight, it will not be able to express those genes.”

“Our studies question our current reliance on the use of chlorine as the final disinfection step in most wastewater treatment plants,” says microbiologist Peiying Hong, who supervised the studies. “A disinfection strategy using UV light could be considered for disinfecting low turbidity water. This could help in minimizing wastewater contribution to antimicrobial resistance.”

Hong’s lab is now investigating how various stressors might interact to affect uptake and integration rates of extracellular DNA into bacteria.

The Art of Managing Storm and Wastewater Using Data — SmartCoverSystems.com

From SmartCoverSystems.com (Greg Quist):

Read the full issue of Water & Finance Management here.

Stormwater and sanitary sewer systems may be some of the least technologically sophisticated systems in the utility’s arsenal. Most often, these systems are gravity-based and out of sight. As a result, operational assess- ments are limited to the occasional vi- sual inspection when an operator lifts a manhole to check conditions, or worse when called out due to backups, over- flows or odors. With this lack of visibility, operators are left to use their experi- ence, intuition and instincts to operate these vital systems.
In addition, storm and sanitary sew- er systems are often “build and forget” projects. With no data to support real- time assessments, these systems are as- sumed to be operating to specification unless there is a major problem. Or they are subjected to routine but perhaps unnecessary cleaning programs or other capacity management activities. Both these conditions create the perception of efficiency, and absent an external impetus, such as EPA-enforced consent decrees or significant property or public health impacts, the budgets for fire, police, and roads often command more financial attention than do storm and sanitary systems.

The relative invisibility of these sys- tems and a lack of continual investment means that the managers of storm and sanitary sewer systems must be able to operate at increasingly proficient levels within the financial constraints of their budgets. In the past this was based on experience. Today, these managers have a powerful tool at their disposal to achieve this: information. Through the use of data-driven analytics and remote sensing and communication tools, the operators of storm and sanitary sewer systems can elevate the performance of their systems even in the face of scarce financial resources.

In some ways, we could call this the Sewerball equivalent of the Moneyball. For those not familiar with the book, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Un- fair Game,” by author Michael Lewis takes the reader on a journey to discov- er how the Oakland Athletics maximized the potential of their undercapitalized team by focusing on data. Sabermetrics, a term coined by Bill James, can be defined as the use of statistical analysis to analyze baseball records and make determinations about player performance.

Hawthorne, California is the home of SpaceX, which launched in to orbit the Iridium Satellite network, linking sewer monitors with their customers even in the midst of extreme weather events.

Sabermetrics allowed Oakland to build a team within an existing (and minimal) budget, that in aggregate could compete with teams with comparatively unlimited resources.
In our Sewerball story, however, we apply statistical analysis to understand the performance of our storm and sani- tary sewer infrastructure and use that information to maximize its operational availability and capacity within a constrained budget.

The Transition to Data-Driven Decisions

In the 1980s, Bill James pioneered the concept that the traditional baseball data was in fact not representative of the performance of players and the sport. While statistics in baseball have been around for generations and the availability of data staggering, according to James the statistics being employed were not meaningful assessments of team or individual performance. They also failed to provide any guidance or insight into the operations of the teams. For example, the number of hits achieved by a player is not truly reflective of the effectiveness of a hitter. James’ notable insight was existing data could be combined in new ways to generate something more useful than traditional metrics. In this case, James proposed a mathematical formula to determine how many runs a hitter creates:

From the perspective of the game, this is a more effective “stat.” If the object of baseball is to score runs to defeat your opponent, then the batter who creates more runs is a more valuable player.

Interestingly, this concept has a direct parallel in the water and wastewater sector: it is data rich, but information poor and oftentimes we are not calculating the correct performance indicators to truly understand the game, or in our case, the performance of our underground system.

However, the water and wastewater sector is now amassing vast troves of data that, when combined in unique ways, can be used to derive important relationships. Large internal and ex- ternal data sets can be combined and compared against a physical model of operations that can inform the process and maximize efficiency.

As an example, using a set of sophisticated sensors within a sewer system, patterns of normal conditions and indicators of abnormal situations become apparent. By combining this level of understanding with external data sets such as NOAA’s rainfall and tidal information, the utility can make predictive assessments of how externalities are impacting the physical operations of the system — and adapt operationally. This creates a system that takes the guesswork out of understanding the real-time condition of the storm and sanitary sewer systems and allows operational decisions to be made in a timely and cost-effective manner.

The result is that for the first time, these often-ignored systems can be elevated and operated in a manner that not only guarantees compliance but can have significant fiscal benefits.

By using a data-driven decision sup- port platform combining the data from 50 sensors and providing insight into the real-time conditions in the collec- tion system, the City of Hawthorne, California, has reduced sanitary sewer overflows by more than 99 percent and saved more than $2.5 million in fines and mitigation costs over the past 13 years. Similarly, the City of South Bend, Indiana, installed a real-time monitoring system consisting of more than 120 sensors and automation to stormwater retention basins to control the release of stormwater. This resulted in the elimination of dry weather overflows and reduced combined sewer overflows by 70 percent (1 billion gallons per year) over the period of 2008 to 2014, according to EPA data.

Data-driven services can also be used to better deploy resources. For example, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) uses trend analysis from 200 remote sensors to manage a real-time sewer cleaning optimization program. This program has allowed SAWS to strategically identify areas needing cleaning and resulted in an overall reduction of cleaning operations by 95 percent and projected saving more than $3.4 million in three years, according to SAWS data.

Finally, data can also be deployed to drive significant savings in capital expenditures. This was the case in Mt. Crested Butte, Colorado, where state regulators threatened to cancel the town’s operating permits if the sewer overflow problems could not be solved. While one traditional solution considered the investment in a $10 million project to replace the sewer main, the town was able to optimize the utility of their existing infrastructure by better understanding the way in which the system operates. With real-time visibility into their collection system — at a cost of $96,000 in sensors — the town was able to comply with the regulatory requirements and avoid the requirement to construct new facilities.

The Move to Artificial Intelligence

At the time, James was pioneering Sabermetrics and demonstrating that the methods and analysis were often correct, he was mostly ignored. This may be attributed to baseball’s tradi- tionalist roots — one where the primary senses and gut intuition determined the flow of play of the players, the teams and the sport. The same situation exists in storm and sanitary sewer systems: their relative invisibility results in their being operated by intuition based on past experience rather than on actual operating conditions assessments.

However, with real-time visibility into the conditions of these systems, that veil of intuition is being lifted and replaced by actual understanding. As the availability of highly granular, accurate and validated data increases, storm and sanitary sewer system op- erations can leverage the analytic tools of artificial intelligence to improve assessments. For example, SmartCover Systems (Escondido, California) has collected more than 200 million hours of sewer and stormwater monitoring data, which are now used in machine learning pattern recognition routines to identify common issues with our collection system infrastructure – issues that are rarely evident to operators who are “popping a manhole.” Companies such as SmartCover, EmNet, Innovyze, Echologics and OptiRTC are leveraging sensor and data technologies to create an advantage for operators who can rely on a data-driven understanding of their underground infrastructure systems for the first time in decades.

Most importantly, these technologies are more than the sensors. Data is integrated into real-time decision support tools that offer full service operational insights to provide operators and utility management staff with advanced warning of potential issues and allows them to oper- ate the system with confidence and effectiveness.

#Palisade studying sewer options, upgrades #water facility software — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Palisade is just east of Grand Junction and lies in a fertile valley between the Colorado River and Mt. Garfield which is the formation in the picture. They’ve grown wonderful peaches here for many years and have recently added grape vineyards such as the one in the picture. By inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +) – https://www.flickr.com/photos/23155134@N06/15301560980/, CC BY-SA 2.0,

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dan West):

The Town of Palisade is moving forward with a study exploring solutions to either replace its aging sewer plant with a new facility or pump the waste to the Clifton Sanitation District, Town Administrator Janet Hawkinson said.

The town’s current plant uses lagoons and is situated on the east side of Riverbend Park. Those lagoons must be decommissioned, Hawkinson said.

The town, utilizing grant money awarded by the Department of Local Affairs, tasked an engineering firm to study the amount of waste the town produces, the cost to install a new plant and the cost to send the waste to Clifton…

The cost of a new Palisade sewer plant would likely be much more expensive than sending the waste to Clifton, Hawkinson said.

The study will be completed in approximately six weeks, Hawkinson said, at which point the Board of Trustees will need to weigh in on the next steps in the process.

Water treatment upgrades

Not to be confused with its sewer plant, Palisade’s water treatment plant is getting an upgrade after the Board of Trustees voted to spend nearly $40,000 to upgrade its computer systems.

Hawkinson said the water treatment plant is a newer facility, which uses advanced safety features as well as solar power in its design. Since the facility is newer much of it is computerized, Hawkinson said, and needed updates to its software.

Microwaving sewage waste may make it safe to use as fertilizer on crops — The Conversation


Water purification at a modern urban wastewater treatment plant involves removing undesirable chemicals, suspended solids and gases from contaminated water.
arhendrix/Shutterstock.com

Gang Chen, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

My team has discovered another use for microwave ovens that will surprise you.

Biosolids – primarily dead bacteria – from sewage plants are usually dumped into landfills. However, they are rich in nutrients and can potentially be used as fertilizers. But farmers can’t just replace the normal fertilizers they use on agricultural soil with these biosolids. The reason is that they are often contaminated with toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium from industry. But dumping them in the landfills is wasting precious resources. So, what is the solution?

I’m an environmental engineer and an expert in wastewater treatment. My colleagues and I have figured out how to treat these biosolids and remove heavy metals so that they can be safely used as a fertilizer.

How treatment plants clean wastewater

Wastewater contains organic waste such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, oils and urea, which are derived from food and human waste we flush down in kitchen sinks and toilets. Inside treatment plants, bacteria decompose these organic materials, cleaning the water which is then discharged to rivers, lakes or oceans.

The bacteria don’t do the work for nothing. They benefit from this process by multiplying as they dine on human waste. Once water is removed from the waste, what remains is a solid lump of bacteria called biosolids.

This is complicated by the fact that wastewater treatment plants accept not only residential wastewater but also industrial wastewater, including the liquid that seeps out of solid waste in landfills – called leachate – which is contaminated with toxic metals including arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium. During the wastewater treatment process, heavy metals are attracted to the bacteria and accumulate on their surfaces.

If farmers apply the biosolids at this stage, these metals will separate from the biosolids and contaminate the crop for human consumption. But removing heavy metals isn’t easy because the chemical bonds between heavy metals and biosolids are very strong.

Gang Chen microwaves some biosolids, separating the organic material from the toxic metals.
Gang Chen/FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, CC BY-SA

Microwaving waste releases heavy metals

Conventionally, these metals are removed from biosolids using chemical methods involving acids, but this is costly and generates more dangerous waste. This has been practiced on a small scale in some agricultural fields.

After a careful calculation of the energy requirement to release the heavy metals from the attached bacteria, I searched around for all the possible energy sources that can provide just enough to break the bonds but not too much to destroy the nutrients in the biosolids. That’s when I serendipitously noticed the microwave oven in my home kitchen and began to wonder whether microwaving was the solution.

My team and I tested whether microwaving the biosolids would break the bonds between heavy metals and the bacterial cells. We discovered it was efficient and environmentally friendly. The work has been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. This concept can be adapted to an industrial scale by using electromagnetic waves to produce the microwaves.

This is a solution that should be beneficial for many people. For instance, managers of wastewater treatment plants could potentially earn revenue by selling the biosolids instead of paying disposal fees for the material to be dumped to the landfills.

It is a better strategy for the environment because when biosolids are deposited in landfills, the heavy metals seep into landfill leachate, which is then treated in wastewater treatment plants. The heavy metals thus move between wastewater treatment plants and landfills in an endless loop. This research breaks this cycle by separating the heavy metals from biosolids and recovering them. Farmers would also benefit from cheap organic fertilizers that could replace the chemical synthetic ones, conserving valuable resources and protecting the ecosystem.

Is this the end? Not yet. So far we can only remove 50% of heavy metals but we hope to shift this to 80% with improved experimental designs. My team is currently conducting small laboratory and field experiments to explore whether our new strategy will work on a large scale. One lesson I would like to share with everyone: Be observant. For any problem, the solution may be just around you, in your home, your office, even in the appliances you are using.

Biosolids after collection from a waste treatment facility.
Gang Chen/FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, CC BY-SA

[ Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day. ]The Conversation

Gang Chen, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District is working up a strategy improve odor control

Oxidizing/Polishing Dry Air Scrubber provide a two stage chemistry for the control of odors from hydrogen sulfide (H2S), mercaptans, ammonia, amines and other odors generated in wastewater collection and treatment systems. They are easy to use, effective and economic. Photo credit: Syneco Systems

From The Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

At its Jan. 7 meeting, the board of the Pagosa Springs Sanitation Gen- eral Improvement District (PSSGID) again worked to deal with a stinky issue that’s plagued the district and some Archuleta County residents — odor control near the town’s two pump stations in the Timber Ridge area.

The odor issues in the area began when the town started using a force main to move its collected waste- water to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District campus for treat- ment. Construction of the pipeline was completed in 2016.

“The odor results from naturally high sulfur in the area, in waste, and the long detention times in the wet well and the force main,” an agenda brief prepared by Public Works Di- rector Martin Schmidt explains.

The PSSGID previously piloted an odor control project with little success, with Schmidt’s document stating, “it did not get close to the levels of H2S [hydrogen sulfide] that were stipulated in the contract.”

PSSGID staff, with engineering support, then brought back information on several options for the board to consider on Jan. 7, along with a recommendation to pair two of the technologies to best control odor and eliminate corrosion.

The four options brought to the board were an oxygen injection system, an aeration system with added ozone (the same technology as the pilot project), chemical dosing, an air scrubber system and an air-injector system that builds dissolved oxygen in the water to eliminate anaerobic bacteria.

Schmidt and Utilities Supervisor Gene Tautges recommended that the board combine the final two options.

The air scrubber system, manufactured by Syneco Systems Inc., has a small blower that creates a negative pressure in the wet well, the agenda brief explains.

“The removed air is scrubbed of H2S by a proprietary media that converts 100% of the H2S into a non-toxic polymer,” the document explains.
Schmidt noted the blower is not much larger than a bathroom fan, with Schmidt and Tautges indicat- ing it operates at a low decibel level, around 55 decibels.

Loveland celebrates $41.2 million in improvements to wastewater treatment plant

Photo credit: City of Loveland

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

Many may not care to think about what goes on in the Loveland Wastewater Treatment Plant, but the facility had plenty to brag about Tuesday, as officials showed off the fruits of a $41.02 million improvement project that wrapped up this fall.

The plant is responsible for reclaiming and returning the water used by Loveland residents to the Big Thompson River, while disposing of other waste.

Water and Power Director Joe Bernosky, who delivered one of the speeches at Tuesday’s “grand opening” and ribbon-cutting ceremony, described the plant as a crucial link in the water cycle that all of Loveland participates in.

“Water is a cycle — it’s not created, it’s recycled,” he said. “What this is doing is not necessarily treating wastewater. It’s reclaiming the water we’ve used.”

The improvements allowed the plant to be rerated to handle 12 million gallons of wastewater per day, an increase of 2 million gallons. Staff hope that increase will allow the plant to keep up with growth for an additional 10-15 years.

Bernosky added that the city’s partnership with Garney Construction was one of the most significant in Loveland’s history. Construction of the improvements alone cost $35.06 million, and the project finished under budget…

Improvements made to the facility include:

  • Installation of a new and reconfigured sewer collection system at the head of the plant.
  • Screening improvements with the addition of step screen technology, to remove pieces of trash such as wet wipes and hygiene products from the wastewater.
  • Mixing and aeration improvements to all six existing aeration basins.
  • A new and upsized digester facility.
  • The addition of a new return activated sludge anoxic tank.
  • Replacing pumps at the return activated sludge pump station.
  • Ultraviolet disinfection hydraulic improvements.
  • A new, 2,000 square foot maintenance building.
  • […]

    Project design began in March 2015 and construction started in April 2017. According to a city factsheet, over 2 million working hours were spent on the project.