Report Says Upgrading Storm and Wastewater Systems Could Reduce Pollution and Add 1.9 million Jobs
October 18, 2011
According to a new report, an investment of $188.4 billion in upgrading America's storm and wastewater systems would generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create close to 1.9 million jobs.
The report was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and produced by Green For All in partnership with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute and the Pacific Institute. It says that sewage overflows send 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage into our water systems every year, "enough to fill 1.3 million Olympic size swimming pools or cover the entire state of Pennsylvania with waste one-inch deep."
The report says investment in the infrastructure to handle storm water and wastewater has fallen by one-third since its 1975 peak. It projects job creation estimates for each of the 50 states and the job opportunities that would likely result from its proposed new infrastructure investments.
The authors conclude that now is "the best time in a generation to tackle our water infrastructure." They write that water infrastructure investments now would create jobs at a time when they are most needed. They point out that the cost of financing the capital investment is at historic lows and that the current economic climate would likely result in reduced costs for infrastructure projects.
Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment, is available on the organization¬ís website. You can view an executive summary or download the full 62 page report (PDF).
Air Products Converts Wastewater Gas to Hydrogen Fuel
August 20, 2011
Air Products began pumping hydrogen generated from a California municipal wastewater treatment plant into fuel cell vehicles this month. In addition to generating hydrogen, the project also creates electricity and heat for the Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) in Fountain Valley, CA.
Methane gas from the facility's wastewater treatment holding tanks enters a purification system and then feeds into a fuel cell where it is reformed to hydrogen. This fuel cell produces electricity for use at the OCSD facility. Hydrogen not used by the fuel cell in creating electricity to operate the facility is further purified to vehicle grade for automobile fuel cells. According to Air Products, the process will produce enough hydrogen to fuel 25 to 50 electric vehicles per day, plus generate 250 kilowatts of electricity for the plant.
Hydrogen from renewable sources is required to be in the mix in fueling stations in California. The project received partial funding from the United States Department of Energy and involved the OCSD, Air Products, FuelCell Energy (a fuel cell manufacturer), the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Air quality is a major issue in this Southern California region, and emissions are heavily regulated. The project seeks do demonstrate how power, heat and a transportation fuel with no emissions can be generated from a renewable source. Other feedstock sources such as agricultural, food, and brewery wastes and landfill gas can also use this technology.
Air Products is a global supplier of hydrogen and has been a leader in developing hydrogen fueling stations with more than 50 patents in hydrogen dispensing technology. Air Products has long served the huge industrial market for hydrogen, where it is used in refining crude oil, in treating metals, and to hydrogenate oils and fats in the food industry. Other important uses are found in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and in the manufacture of semiconductors.
While many see hydrogen as the fuel of the future, it cannot compete economically today with the major hydrocarbon fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal. According to the National Energy Education Development Project (www.need.org), hydrogen from electrolysis is ten times more costly than natural gas and three times more costly than gasoline per Btu.
In a two-page white paper on hydrogen (download the PDF here), NEED explains that industry produces most of its hydrogen in a process called steam reforming, where high-temperature steam separates hydrogen from the carbon atoms in methane (CH4). While the NEED paper calls this the most cost effective way to produce hydrogen, it points out the downside is it uses fossil fuels both in the manufacturing process and as the heat source.
Unless, of course, the methane comes from wastewater. Then you've got a whole new equation, which is what Air Products hopes to demonstrate in Fountain Valley.
Could Bloom Box Turn Wastewater Treatment Plants into Power Generation Stations?
March 15, 2010
Bloom Energy Corp. generated lots of high-energy buzz for its fuel cell "energy servers" on "60 Minutes" last month (CBS TV February 24, 2010). Called the "Bloom Box," the company declares its fuel cells are a technology breakthrough, using low-cost silicon based ceramic plates, rather than platinum and other expensive materials needed in other fuel cells.
The company has Bloom Boxes generating power at major corporations such as eBay, FedEx, Google and Walmart. While most installations currently use natural gas to power the fuel cells, methane has also been employed.
You can see Lesley Stahl's Interview of Bloom Energy founder and CEO K.R. Sridhar here. A second video of Sridhar interviewed by Greentech Media can be seen on YouTube.
Sridhar is a visionary scientist and entrepreneur who sees his fuel cells eventually bringing affordable energy to some 2.5 billion people who are too poor or too remote to be served by today's energy grid. As I watched Sridhar explain the technology and describe his vision for Bloom Boxes, I was reminded of Seth's Godin's Linchpin.
Perhaps Sridhar will be the linchpin to make fuel cells that finally fulfill their promise. Perhaps he can make the economics work to move fuel cells beyond an interesting but expensive device for those with deep pockets (or government subsidies). Perhaps he can even bring affordable electric power to those beyond the grid. He's certainly got the vision, and he's got the sort of high-powered financing and support that tends to make things move beyond vision to reality.
Wastewater Treatment Plants Now Using Methane Fuel Cells
The idea of using methane to generate electricity has been around for some years. In 2001, the City of Portland, OR, installed a 200-kilowatt fuel cell in its wastewater treatment plant. The fuel cell runs on methane produced by the plant to generate some of the power needed to run the plant.
MSNBC did a story on "Poop Power" on July 19, 2004, which featured a $22 million facility in Renton, Washington, a Seattle suburb. It was reported at the time as being the largest project in the world to convert sewage methane to electricity using fuel cells. Getting the technology into production hasn't been easy. According to MSNBC, it took the King County facility six years to build its plant as a result of the first fuel cell vendor going bankrupt.
Bloom has $400 million in venture capital and the backing of John Doerr of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers, the venture capital firm that has helped launch an impressive number of Silicon Valley startups. Bloom has been in business eight years, and the company says it's two years away from scaling up to full production capability. At that point, if Sridhar's vision holds true, Bloom Box energy servers will be a real power in the electric generation business.
Can you afford not to use "Predictive Maintenance" for water and wastewater assets?
February 08, 2009
As asset management of wastewater collection systems and water supply systems has become more important, every utility wants to know the state of their assets.
For some types of assets, making the assesment is very easy - although it might be a sobering one. For example, the assessment of pipes and wells - the civil infrastructure that makes up a significant proportion of the utility's asset base. It's not so hard to figure out whether this asset class needs replacement, even though there is some work in the investigation.
The problem for wastewater utilities is that often the pipe network is 100 years old and so corroded that the whole pipe network needs replacement -and it's the largest asset class in terms of replacement value.
Pumps, Motors and Control Systems
But what about pumps and motors - and control systems?
The question "How do you maintain pumps and motors?" strikes at the heart of this problem. There are really three approaches to the problem:
- "Run to fail", i.e., wait until the pump or motor fails and - usually - race out and fix it or replace it
- Preventive maintenance, i.e., periodic maintenance of a pump or motor to avoid waiting for it to fail
- Predictive maintenance - the utility determines the state of each asset and can plan for servicing or replacement of a pump or motor
The majority of wastewater organizations in the USA have adopted a "run to fail" approach, although usually due to lack of resources and not with the perspective that this is the best way to reduce "whole of life" cost.
A significant proportion have adopted preventive maintenance, although when questioned, they are usually very open about the problem they have in understanding whether they are doing too much maintenance - or too little. Frequently, when we ask the question about their maintenance schedule we get the question back:
"So what does everyone else do?"
The UK, by comparison, has been trying to adopt a much more proactive approach, generally known there as Condition Based Monitoring, which in practice is the same as Predictive Maintenance.
The problem is really one of data, but, like any challenge, there has to be a motivation for doing something different.
Where is the data?
The most typical wastewater collection and water supply systems have very limited data for remote sites.
At a tradeshow a few months ago I was talking to the capital works manager of a wastewater utility with about 30 lift stations. I asked him how he planned his capital works program - how did he decide where to put his resources? His answer:
"It's all based on hours run"
His non-verbal response indicated that he wasn't comfortable with the approach. And when I followed up with a few other questions, he did say that he really felt the organization was flying blind.
However, the problem for this utility, as for so many others - the data just isn't there. The field devices aren't collecting enough data and the SCADA system isn't producing any reports that asset managers, utility directors and operations managers can use for proactive maintenance.
What Predictive Maintenance data can I get?
What is available for pumps, motors and control systems?
- Insulation Resistance of motor windings - leading indicator of 50-80% of motor burn outs in submersible pumps
- Flow - pump flow rates indicate whether impellors need servicing, and total station volume and inflow per station give system wide metrics for capital works
- Pump efficiency - volume per cost of energy, indicates ROI on replacement or servicing of pumps and impellors
- Detailed pump fault data - the respective totals of specific fault conditions provides leading indicators of problems
- Vibration analysis - only usually cost-effective on the larger pumps
All of this data is now easily available in Pump Station Managers - although to get vibration data, of course, you need the sensors. The other data is available from pump station managers without any additional equipment or sensors - view more information on the MultiSmart pump station manager.
The Organization still needs to be reactive!
It's important to understand that adopting predictive maintenance strategies doesn't mean that every failure will be known in advance. Failure of components in a system - regardless of the actual system - is governed by random factors. We see these random factors as statistics! One in one hundred failed! One in one thousand failed!
Statistics and random failure might be the subject for another day, but the important point is you still have to retain a responsive organization for when a pump fails at 2am on Sunday morning.
The benefit you have with condition based monitoring or predictive maintenance is that you can now have a lot more confidence of the state of your assets and you run your maintenance program more proactively and most cost-effectively.
You can say - confidently - that you are not running your pumps and motors into the ground. Or you can say - confidently - that the organization has almost run its assets into the ground! Let's hope it's not this one!
And based on the real state of the system, you can plan the most effective capital works, replacement or servicing program.
I often use the analogy of a business. If you don't know whether you will make a profit or loss this year, your stakeholders won't think you are looking after their interests.
If you are looking after critical infrastructure you don't want to find that 2009 is the year when all of your pumps started failing and your energy costs went up 10%!
MultiTrode is the specialist in control and monitoring for lift stations, and also runs a Lift Station Technology Blog
Diffusion System Makes Ozone a Powerful and Practical Wastewater Treatment Solution
January 12, 2009
Yucky Business: Paying for what we put down the drain
December 10, 2008
“A penny saved is a penny earned.“ -Benjamin Franklin 1706 - 1790
Australia has a wide array of approaches to the issue of wastewater and sewage pricing. If you live
- in Perth and are assessed as producing less than 200 KL of sewage per annum, you pay $432.00 per annum and if you are assessed as producing more than this, a discharge factor is applied to your water bill and $2.161 per KL for the amount of estimated sewage produced;
- in Brisbane you pay a fixed charge of $398.24 per year;
- in Sydney you pay a fixed charge of $480.34 per year; and
- in Adelaide you pay the greater of 0.1242% of the value of your house or $291 per year;
What is the best way to charge households for the sewage they generate? Are human needs and functions such that no matter how we charge for sewage disposal, the same load will be generated? Is there a role for price and other incentives?
One of Australia’s more sophisticated systems can be found in Melbourne’s Yarra Valley. If you live there, you pay a fixed charge of $184.54 per year plus $1.3181 per kilolitre of sewage produced. It is assumed that a proportion of the water you take returns to a sewer. The assumed percentage is different for houses and flats and varies by season. In winter it is assumed that 90% of all the water passing through your meter returns to the sewer. In summer the assumed percentage is less. If you are an avid grey water recycler, you can apply for your assumed percentage to be lowered.
Sewage treatment costs
In essence, the total cost of building, owning and operating a sewage system (retrieval and treatment) is a function of three things.
First and arguably the biggest cost is capital tied up in infrastructure - pipes, pumps and treatment works. This is the big cost and economists describe it as a fixed cost because it can’t be avoided.
Administrative costs are fixed too. Activities like reading your meter, sending you a bill and banking the money you pay is not a function of how much sewage you produce.
The third group of costs depends upon the volume of sewage that is produced each year. This last cost is the only one that varies. It depends upon how much sewage each house and each business produces and how contaminated the sewage is. Utilities are quick to point out that the total cost also depends upon population and that as populations increase more and more infrastructure is needed.
A sewer connection fee
When your house is first connected to the sewer, it is usual for a connection fee to be paid by the land developer. In order to ensure that investment in infrastructure is efficient, it is usually recommended that the charge made should reflect the long run marginal cost of adding another house or group of houses to the sewer system.
One can argue over the actual amount that should be charged per connection, but the first policy test is to ask if developers have to pay for a connection. All the Australian cities that we have looked at do this. This connection fee should be sufficient to cover the marginal cost of any new infrastructure that is needed.
A fixed annual sewer access charge
As most, if not all, sewage producers are supplied with mains water and have a water meter that needs to be read, the marginal administrative cost of adding a sewage charge to your water bill is negligible. The real question is: What should you be charged?
The first and most obvious component of a charge should just cover your fair share of the fixed costs associated with running and maintaining the system. Economic theory suggests that everyone should expect to see a fixed sewage charge on their water bill. There is, however, no reason to assume that this fixed component should be excessive. In practice the efficient fixed charge is one that just covers the annual cost of maintaining and supplying access to the sewer that passes your house.
A variable (volumetric) charge for treating sewage
The last component of the charge is whether or not it makes sense to have a variable charge that is set in proportion to the volume of sewage produced. Economic theory suggests that users should pay according to extent of use. That is, we should all pay according the amount of sewage that we put down the drain.
Whilst elegant in theory, in practice the cost of installing, maintaining and reading household sewage meters is likely to be prohibitively high. Given the fact that the short-term responsiveness to changes in price is likely to be very low, sewage metering may not be worth it.
In reality, the number of times you go to the toilet is not likely to be influenced by your sewage bill but it may influence how often you flush. It is likely, however, that volumetric sewage charging would encourage people to install dual-flush toilets, refrain from installing garbage disposal units in kitchen sinks, use front-loading washing machines, etc.
Measuring how much sewage you produce
In order to be able to set a volumetric charge, we need to find a cheap way to estimate how much sewage you produce.
In his book on water economics, Ronald Griffin presents a neat solution to the sewage measurement challenge. As managers of the City of Belaire in Texas, USA, explain in their policy statement:
“the new sewer rate structure has two components: a minimum bill that helps to recover capital investment and a volumetric charge based on water consumption. Also, there will be the ‘winter averaging’ component for residential customers. ‘Winter averaging’ is calculated by averaging a resident’s water consumption for the months of November, January, and February and using that average consumption as the basis on which the sewer volumetric charge is based for the following twelve months.”
The implicit assumptions behind this Texan approach are first that is reasonable to assume that the volume of sewage produced over the year is constant and second, that there is a time in the year when there is no need to use any water outside your house. If this is the case then all that is needed is an estimate of the average amount of water used during the time when there is no need to water your garden and convert this volume into an estimate of the amount of sewage your house produces every year.
As the quote in our last droplet says, “It is better to be approximately right rather than comprehensively wrong.” If you live in southern Australia, why not assume that all the water you use during the winter months goes down the sewer? If “all” seems like too much then one could assume 90% returns to the sewer.
We think that the approach has merit. In Australia’s southern cities implementation of such a policy would require all meters to be read at the start and end of winter. In the northern cities and towns, meters would need to be read at the start and the end of the wet season. In areas where there are lots of holiday homes, the disposal percentage system used in Melbourne may be better
A reward for recycling?
Having proposed this approach, the last issue to resolve is that of whether or not there is a case for offering rebates for people who choose to recycle grey water from their showers, washing machines etc. We think that the answer is “yes, rebates should be offered.” One simple way of doing this would be to allow people who recycle grey water to self identify themselves and receive an appropriate rebate.
Sewage treatment experts, however, have warned us that we need to be careful. Sewers plants need sufficient throughput to enable the sewage to flow all the way to a treatment plant. If too much water is recycled, the incentive structure may need to be changed so that sufficient volumes of liquid flush the pipes and concentrations are appropriate for the treatment systems in place.
Where to from here?
As nearly all of mainland Australia’s cities and towns already have water meters, introduction of a volumetric sewage charge, such as that used in the City of Belaire, would not be difficult to implement. If cities are not prepared to go this far, then we can see a strong case for setting disposal percentages and varying them by house type and season.
More generally, we see a case for pricing reform on both sides of the water supply equation. All cities and towns need to get the price right for what goes in and what goes out.
The University of Adelaide
CSIRO Land and Water
'Last Taboo' Asks Us to Consider the Problems of Human Waste in Mega Cities
June 02, 2008
"The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis"
By Maggie Black and Ben Fawcett
Published 2008 by Earthscan, UK and USA
Despite its subject matter (human waste), "The Last Taboo" is a surprisingly readable and interesting book, even for the lay person, and it challenges the currently fashionable focus among those who fund such projects on providing third world peoples with clean drinking water. The authors, Maggie Black and Ben Fawcett, seek to reframe the discussion toward fixing the underlying problem of human sanitation. The book was funded by UNESCO and offers an extended analysis of the connection between human fecal matter, water contamination and disease.
The authors suggest that while most of the developed world's attention is focused on the need for clean drinking water in the undeveloped world, the more basic problem of preventing contamination of drinkable water by human waste is largely ignored. The authors see this situation as an environmental and human health time bomb, especially in third world mega cities where official counts have climbed to over 10 million residents and millions more go uncounted. At least a billion people, one sixth of the world population, now live in and around these mega cities in dwellings that lack adequate sanitation. At the current rate of rural migrants leaving home to find work in these cities, "The moment is expected sometime in 2008, when humanity will become a mainly urban instead of a mainly rural species."
Making matters worse, the authors cite the strong tendency in developing countries to undercount the poorest urban dwellers. These undercounted folks are also underserved when it comes to sewage systems. They frequently occupy squatters' quarters or floating slums outside official city limits and outside any semblance of sewage disposal. In seeming contradiction to this urban squalor, the World Bank and other funding sources have been concentrating on rural areas in the third world with the apparent hope that they might thereby reverse migration to the cities. While appearing to address a great need, this rural focus leaves neighboring mega cities to continue to fill up with rural migrants and no sewage systems to serve them.
The authors offer an enlightening, even entertaining, history of human sanitation from Roman times to London's cholera epidemics and beyond. Until John Snow applied scientific methodology to determining how cholera spread in London in an 1854 epidemic, wild theories thrived. Miasma, or bad air, led the list of causes for much of Western history. Nobody considered human fecal matter to be a contaminate which caused disease. It was a terribly smelly problem, and especially bad in hot and overcrowded dwelling areas of cities.
By the 1850s and '60s, the unsanitary conditions in parts of London had become so bad that politics, if not smell, finally brought action to clean up the poorest areas of the city. It may have been more fear of revolution, now rampant in much of continental Europe, that prompted London to do something about delivering clean water and sewage disposal even in the poorest neighborhoods.
The most basic of human needs – sanitary living conditions, appropriately safe, private places for disposing of fecal matter and accessible running water – continue to be unavailable to much of the world's population.
In the last chapter, "Bringing on the New Sanitary Revolution," the authors address the question of if we build enough toilets for the urban poor, will they use them. The answer is a qualified yes: people tend to adopt cleaner living habits when they have the oprion to do so. The authors seem to hold great hope in particular for educational efforts where children, though their good example and social pressure, become the change agents for the entire community.
Bringing modern, affordable sanitation to millions of poor urban residents in Africa, Asia and Central and South America poses both a terrific problem and a wonderful opportunity for those who are able to supply the solutions. Although the problem areas are easy enough to find on a map, solutions can come from anywhere. This huge human sanitation problem presents us with an opportunity to improve health and productivity among a significant portion of the world's inhabitants.
The book is available on Amazon.com, click here for more information.
Subdivision Wastewater Treatment - The Promise, The Myth, The Reality - a Different Perspective
October 29, 2007
As the Developer spars with the county with the engineering designs of its latest subdivision, preparing for ultimate approval by the State’s Department of Environmental Control, it becomes intriguing to analyze the process and what is really happening. It is a unique combination of business entrepreneurship, highly-trained licensed contractors, hard-working government officials, and a host of tangential participants making the approval process one of the more interesting aspects of economic growth in this or any country. Let’s look at what this process is really about.
The process begins with the Developer, whether a local real estate person, attempting his first soiree into the community development arena, or an established company with just another business opportunity facing him. Each, whether small or large, identifies a “business value” for the project. The future is bright, the opportunities great.
The Developer begins organizing his team, putting people in charge of particular aspects of the project. For larger projects, there are many people and companies involved. For smaller projects, the Developer takes many of the interface responsibilities, but in both cases, a team is built. A proper Civil Engineering firm or individually licensed civil engineer becomes part of the team, and the process of providing the background to prove site and project worthiness begins. The promise that is inherent in any development project, begins
The myth is that the schedule originally drawn up, will be met, on time and within budget and will meet all the promises made by the participants.
It would take much more space than this article practically permits, to describe this myth fully. But let’s take a shot at the major reasons. And from the person paying the bills, the Developer, it isn’t pretty.
1) The Process has liabilities like a corporation. In a corporation, the legal process in the country is designed to protect the shareholder. In the Development process, the participants to the process protect the new homeowners. In the corporate world, if the corporation willingly disregards the shareholders, the corporation and its officers and directors can be punished severely.
In a project that goes wrong, everyone involved in the process is investigated, therefore the penalties for messing up your portion is severe. So, just as in corporate life, at least well established corporate life, extra time is required to analyze and make sure that no mistakes are made. And that is the keyword, no “MISTAKES” can be made. And PREVENTING MISTAKES takes time.
2) The process is not built for performance. This relates strictly to how people are compensated for contributing. When the Developer accepts that responsibility, he pays. It is his role to pay. He is the risk-taker. Almost everyone else is paid regardless of what happens. The Civil Engineer firms bill on an hourly basis, and even if they have a fixed price contract, it is front-loaded so they don’t absorb governmental approval delays.
The Governmental agencies reviewing the project have “standards of performance” within their organizations, but they are standards that are defined by them and, understandably, very protective of them. With Government agencies notoriously understaffed, the standards are “employee-friendly” and the incentive to work harder or faster, may seem like a possibility, but, in reality, doesn’t motivate the government employee to act in any way that recognizes that the Developer is paying bank interest every day on land he can do nothing with until wastewater approval is reached. Don’t blame the Government employee, blame the process.
3) The process is highly regulated and licensed. Only licensed people can work in this process - specifically civil engineers and licensed contractors. Thus, in states where development hasn’t previously occurred, it is unlikely that we will have the technical manpower readily available to do a project. With less money, the Developer may pay for inferior, but licensed, help, however the approval process will be delayed by this inexperience. Similar to the world of teaching, tenure and credentials rule - so new, bright and forward-looking talent, can be stifled in the system.
4) All levels of government are involved. That means local, state and federal. Thus, each government bureaucracy has its fair shot at looking at and evaluating the project from it own perspective, perspectives, by the way, that can be at various odds with each other.
The developer and his team, has to satisfy them all before he can do something, and the process of just getting into the first meeting at the lowest level of approval, can be very costly indeed, just for early engineering and site work. And to get into that first meeting and be turned down is devastating to the Developer. So each presentation must be well thought out, completely conforming to all laws, administrative rules, and desires of each governmental agency, and presented in such a way that there will be a minimum of delays in passing approval. It is quite an effort, indeed.
5) Wastewater treatment responsibility is, by default, given to the engineering firms. The engineering firm has its own ideas of what might be best, and plugs in its own wastewater solution, either working with local equipment distributors, or friends they have worked with in the past. It tends to be local, and it tends to be based on movement of hardware to solve a problem, instead of providing a true wastewater treatment interface for the developer.
Remember, the wastewater treatment provider has no way to make money until his equipment is ordered. And, in such a highly complex and regulated process, it is unlikely that an equipment distributor has the knowledge or time to put into the proper sizing and planning for the project. Thus, whether the approved equipment manufacture has the best interest of the Developer at heart, the weakest link, the local sales rep can, without too much effort, make a mess of the wastewater treatment design and installation, promising things he can’t do, and not understanding how he must interact to make the process the best and most cost-effective for the Developer. And, I won’t even mention the unscrupulous reps who gauge the Developer, price-wise, and never really deliver.
6) Intentions are not understood. Each party has his own job in the process. And, these parties are a unique combination of public and private personalities, with different lifestyles, visions, and responsibilities. What is good for the engineering firm is not necessarily good for the County Commission, etc. And there are valid and honest reasons why they may differ.
For example, a county that does not wish to grow may have the greatest project in front of it, but it will change the heart and soul of that environment. So the commissioner will seemingly fight progress, even though, he is truly representing the view of his or her constituents. These types of philosophical disagreements can result in endless delays, more bank interest for the Developer, and emotional frenzies that only work to exacerbate the process and delay it further.
Well, there are many other reasons to beware before entering into the development process, but these are a few. The above listed realities exist in our commercial world and are imbedded in our system. Not all projects exactly fit the profile, and not all projects have each of the characteristics as part of their delays, but most projects are late and over budget because the realities, as listed above, are never quantified properly, especially for new entrepreneurs on their first development project. As I add future comments, I will try to look at each of the above, and others, and come up with recommendations that can be debated and better understood. I hope, that as an outcome, each person’s positions are better understood, and projects move through the cycle much more quickly.
My company has its place in this equation, and you will see that bias in my discussions. But I do believe that projects that can help the community’s economic future, and can make the environment better for having them implemented, should be the cornerstone of our building and development process. And, with the scarcity of water and other major resources, it is time for us to evaluate how we’ve been doing business and see if there is a better way for all of us - the wastewater professionals, the new homeowners, existing residents, taxpayers, legislators, etc.
CEO/International Wastewater Systems
President/RCC Holdings Corp.
Class I Deep Injection Wells
August 22, 2007
Forward: I'm hoping the readers of this blog can help.
Too many water treatment facilities simply pipe their liquid waste to a municipal treatment facility or zero liquid discharge installation at great expense.
I'm trying to show the owners of facilities that generate wastewater, which includes brine, RO concentrate, reuse residuals, industrial sewerage, that they consider using deep injection wells to dispose of wastewater. Their wastewater disposal costs could be reduced by an order of magnitude and save them millions of dollars.
The following white paper is an introduction to deep injection wells (DIW's). If you know of any plants in California that might profit by considering this alternative means of wastewater disposal, please send this article to them. -- Derik Howard
Class I Deep Injection Wells
A proven, cost-effective wastewater disposal technology
The increasing cost and regulatory complications associated with wastewater disposal is a concern for many industrial facilities in the Central Valley of California.
Large volumes of wastewater, high in total dissolved solids (TDS) and inorganic chemicals can be injected into deep injection wells (DIW) at a fraction of the cost of alternative waste disposal methods, including municipal sewer, evaporation ponds and zero liquid discharge (ZLD) systems. Deep injection well technology has the added benefit of removing potential pollutants from the accessible biosphere and can reduce regulatory compliance burdens.
Many industrial facilities are installing DIWs as a safe, long-term, low cost means of disposing of liquid wastes. With a DIW system, wastewater streams with a wide range of TDS, pH and flow rates can often be economically managed in porous formations at depths of between 2,000 and 10,000 feet below ground.
DIW systems have been implemented at facilities located within the Central Valley that produce less than 100 gallons per minute (SMS Briners, Stockton), to those with a waste stream of more than 2 million gallons a day (Hilmar Cheese). Around the country, rates of 20 to more than 2,000 gpm have been economically managed with DIW systems. The average cost of operating a DIW system, capable of handling a half million to a million gallons of wastewater a day in the Central Valley, is typically projected to be $10,000 to $20,000 a month.
The advantages of DIW systems
The treatment and disposal options available to most industrial facilities that generate wastewater in California appear to be limited to either zero liquid discharge (ZLD) installations or municipal treatment facilities. In the construction of many facilities, DIW technology has been either rejected or ignored as a suitable disposal option by design and project managers because they are not core technologies offered by many wastewater treatment firms.
Although DIW systems must be properly screened for site-specific applicability, proponents of alternative wastewater disposal systems have sometimes erroneously dismissed the application of DIWs as a disposal option based on invalid perceptions. In fact, the following have been proven:
1. The permitting process is readily facilitated by the EPA;
2. Properly sited and designed wells are not particularly vulnerable to seismic events;
3. Significant injection rates are often practical;
4. For proper waste streams, injection zone plugging can be economically avoided;
5. Easy to design and maintain;
6. Little or no treatment infrastructure;
7. High water disposal rates;
8. Knowledge and technology transfer from oil & gas production;
9. Relatively inexpensive construction and operating costs;
11. Indefinite life; and
12 Minimal restriction on the quality of the injectate.
The safety and cost effectiveness of properly sited and designed DIW systems are well understood by the relatively small community of consultants, engineers, DIW owners and regulatory agencies that monitor the installation and operation of DIW systems throughout the USA. Few DIWs have failed, and these have been due to inappropriate application of the technology. The fact that 500 Class I industrial DIWs and more than 100,000 Class II oilfield wells are operating successfully in the USA is testament to the widespread applicability of the technology.
Californian oil and gas companies have demonstrated the technical feasibility of brine injection and have relied on deep injection wells (Class II wells) throughout the Central Valley for decades.
The proper siting of a DIW requires that sufficient sedimentary layers beneath a target property are present, and that they consist of thick permeable formations with a relatively impervious cap-rock. The porous layers should be capable of receiving a sufficient volume of wastewater at a sustained rate for at least 30 years. Based on thousands of oil well logs, many areas within Central California meet this criterion and are geologically suitable for the installation of DIWs.
EPA Permit for DIW's
It requires no more effort to permit a DIW system than most other wastewater treatment systems, including ZLD systems. Class I wells are relatively straightforward to permit for the injection of nonhazardous wastes into zones separated from the lower most underground source of drinking water (USDW), defined by a TDS concentration of <10,000 milligrams per liter.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Underground Injection Control (UIC) program grants permits for the installation of Class I DIWs. Regulations for this program are found in the Federal Code of Regulations, Title 40, Chapter 1, Parts 144 and 147 (40 CFR 144-147).
The non-hazardous liquid waste injected at most industrial and municipal facilities using DIW technology have elevated levels of TDS, nitrates, phosphates, pathogens and/or inorganic chemicals. For the effective operation of a DIW, the wastewater should have relatively low suspended solids concentrations.
Installing a DIW system
The installation of a DIW can be viewed as a six-step process as follows.
1. Feasibility study to evaluate both site geology and waste stream
2. U.S. EPA permit application
3. Injection system design
6. Operation and Maintenance
Monitoring and Reporting
The DIW operator is typically required to submit a sample of the injectate to a state certified laboratory for regular periodic characterization of the operation. Quarterly summary reports of injection volume and pressure are also required. The DIW operation and monitoring can be automated, thereby minimizing labor costs.
The average cost of a DIW system consisting of two DIWs, surface treatment and monitoring equipment, is often on the order of two million dollars. Depending on a number of variables including the pre-injection treatment requirements, if any, the operating cost is typically between $10,000 to $20,000 a month.
The above-noted $10,000 to $20,000 per month operation and maintenance cost is consistent with published values as follows. Green, et al. (1999) determined that operation and maintenance costs for a DIW system are about 8 percent of the capital costs, including electric power and treatment chemicals for corrosion and biological growth control.
A study by the University of Texas at El Paso in 2002 indicated that operation and maintenance costs including pumping and maintenance are approximately 4 percent of capital costs. Using these published values, and assuming a capital well cost of $2,000,000, the operation and maintenance costs would be between $ 80,000 and $160,000 per year (i.e., median cost of $10,000 per month). These literature values are also consistent with costs experienced by the team for the operation of disposal wells under similar conditions.
Generally, a DIW system can be permitted and installed within two to three years.
-Site-Specific Feasibility Study - 2 to 4 months
-Preparation of the U.S. EPA permit application - 6 to 9 months
-Review of permit application by the U.S. EPA - 9 to 12 months
-DIW construction and testing - 4 to 6 months
-U.S. EPA’s review and issuance of a permit to operate - 3 to 5 months
Total time required - 24 to 36 months
The capital cost of a DIW system for many facilities can be recovered within two to three years. This is primarily due to the low monthly operating costs, which are a fraction of ZLD system operating costs or the costs of disposal to a municipal wastewater treatment facility.
Attractive benefits of the technology include corporate control of dedicated waste management capacity along with reducing plant sensitivity to future regulatory changes that are likely to result in increased disposal costs over time. Additional advantages of DIWs are the low maintenance, longevity, minimal staff oversight requirements, and recognized safety of the technology.
by Derik Howard
DIW Services, LLC
Telephone: (909) 307-0270
Green, T. S. (1999) Design and costs for a system to reduce chloride levels in the Red River by shallow well collection and deep-well disposal. Environmental Geology, vol. 38, issue 2, p. 141-147.
University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) (2002) Zero Discharge Brine Management for Desalination Plants. Desalination Research and Development Program Report No.89. US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation.
All Fouled Up - Investigating PTFE Layered EPDM Membranes (Part 2)
April 24, 2007
This is the second of a two part series on the adoption of PTFE layered EPDM membranes for wastewater aeration systems. We will continue by looking at more data. The empirical data collected by SSI to date the applications where PTFE layered EPDM has been installed as a replacement for conventional plain EPDM membranes, or side by side with conventional plain EPDM membranes is limited to two example applications, though we are attempting to collect additional information from both independent pilot studies and research, through our own tests, and through outreach to plants which replaced old technology with PTFE layered EPDM to learn from their experiences.
The two specific cases are the Agropur Dairy Cooperative in Quebec, Canada, and the Ringkobing Water Purification Plant in Denmark. In the case of Agropur, the plant has 4 basins of equal size in parallel flow, and has used EPDM membranes from 3 manufacturers, as well waxy bloom EPDM, silicone blended EPDM, and most recently PTFE layered EPDM from December 2004.
At the Agropur plant, after ten months of use the PTFE membranes showed less fouling than EDPM, as shown in the picture. With PTFE membranes maintenance frequency declined and a higher oxygen transfer for a longer time period was achieved. It is the first time the plant went more than a year without maintenance. In Figure 2 (left), the left side is typical of a plain EPDM membrane which must be acid soaked to clean, and a photo of a PTFE membrane which has been wiped clean with a stroke of a towel.
At Ringkobing another brand's diffuser had been installed.* The plant ordered SSI brand PTFE layered EPDM replacement membranes to retrofit into the existing plastic diffuser holders. We confirm that SSI PTFE membranes have been working for six months without clogging problems. Before the plant had to clean the EPDM membranes every 3-4 weeks! Figure 3 (right) shows the SSI PTFE membrane inside of the existing diffuser holder. The lines illustrate where the operator ran his finger along the surface and was able to clean the surface residue. It also illustrates that little to no fouling occurred in the slits.
Figure 4 (left) shows the PTFE membrane bubbling in a tank of clean water before the surface was wiped clean.
In both of the above cases, it was explained to SSI that the diffusers did not require cleaning, however it was the operator’s curiosity to look at the diffusers that drove them to drain the tanks and inspect them. In both cases, the surface bubble pattern was consistent with new and clean diffusers, the dissolved oxygen concentrations had not changed from new, and the diffuser headloss appeared not to have changed significantly.
It should be noted that both of the above are extreme examples of industrial plants with highly concentrated wastewater and proven foulants.
Over the course of the next few years, SSI believes that it can prove that in a typical municipal plant there is little to no change in alpha between a new PTFE and an aged PTFE membrane, and there is little to no change in delta P, with the help of independent research and the addition of further empirical examples. If this can be proven, wastewater plants of all sorts that install PTFE layered membranes will be looking at energy savings over the operating life of the plant of 30 to 40% with the added benefit of reduced maintenance and perhaps less frequent replacement requirements.
* The diffuser plastic holders shown in Figs. 2 and 3 were manufactured by the Nopon Group. SSI manufactured the membrane only and retrofitted our PTFE layered EPDM membrane into the existing holder. SSI is not related to any other diffuser company.
About the Author
Mr. Tom Frankle
Stamford Scientific International Inc.
4 Tucker Drive
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
Web site: http://www.stamfordscientific.com/
Mr. Frankle is part of Stamford Scientific International Inc. which maintains production and support facilities for various products including: fine bubble diffuser, square diffuser, and tube diffuser, and aeration systems.
All Fouled Up - Investigating PTFE Layered EPDM Membranes
April 16, 2007
In the aeration basin of a typical wastewater treatment plant there are both organic and inorganic matter which can impair, over time, the function of fine bubble diffusers, thus requiring either additional energy to overcome high membrane headloss, or reducing the oxygen mass transfer to the process.
The rate and type of fouling depend on whether the plant is treating industrial or municipal wastewater, as well as on the process. Typically diffusers types foul more rapidly in low MCRT plants such as non nitrifying conventional processes than in high MCRT plants such as in nutrient removal processes like oxidation ditch, BNR and SBR.
Diffuser media which have been readily available in the market include porous types such as aluminum oxide, porcelain, ABS and Polyethylene, and non-porous types EPDM, Silicone and Polyurethane.
Most diffuser manufacturers have taken a targeted rather than blanket approach to diffuser fouling problems. For example, in a dairy WWTP, it is expected that there will be significant calcium fouling, therefore it is common to use a flexible membrane diffuser rather than a hard porous type which may prove more difficult to keep clean.
In some cases manufacturers have recommended lower roughness coefficient materials such as PU rather than EPDM in such applications to reduce surface adhesion of calcium, gypsum, and silicas to the membrane. However there have always been trade-offs in the selection of a diffuser media other than porous types or EPDM.
For example PU and Silicone formulations that have been used often have a relatively high headloss and lower SOTE than EPDM, and Silicone is prone to tear propagation, while most PU is resistant to only 40 C. Only EPDM provides desirable physical properties and bubble sizes consistent with high SOTE.
In Figure 1, see the proximity of SOTE of EPDM and PTFE layered EPDM in an independent test conducted by ATC, SA of Spain on SSI disc diffusers1. It should be noted that any result above 7% SOTE/m is considered high, and these tests were conducted at a diffuser submergence of 4.7m.
PTFE layered EPDM membranes were introduced in late 2004 and were installed throughout the course of 2005 in two dairies, one paper mill, one post aeration basin, a brewery, a landfill leachate treatment plant, and a number of municipal sewage treatment plants. In most of the cases, PTFE layered EPDM was selected due to the failure of previous technologies to avoid fouling to a sufficient degree that the plant could operate efficiently.
Rosso and Stenstrom have empirically studied the extent of fouling and cleaning intervals of various diffuser media in a wide array of municipal sewage treatment plants and have found that F rates between cleanings of membranes even in municipal plants are much greater than common perception, dropping from an average alpha in a low MCRT plant of 0.50 to less than 0.40 after up to 2 years and stabilizing to less than 0.35 thereafter.2 At this time specifically in low MCRT plants they have found that the difference in a F between porous and non-porous fine bubble media do not vary significantly.
This is the first of a two part series on wastewater management solutions. Part two will look at more empirical evidence in support of PTFE layered EPDM membranes.
About the Author
Mr. Tom Frankle
Stamford Scientific International Inc.
4 Tucker Drive
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
Web site: http://www.stamfordscientific.com/
Mr. Frankle is part of Stamford Scientific International Inc. which maintains production and support facilities for various products including: fine bubble diffusers, disc diffusers, and tube diffusers.
1. “Clean Water Oxygen Transfer Tests, Scientific International”, October 2005, by Ian Trillo of Asesoria Tecnica y Control, S.A. Clean water tests were commissioned by SSI.
2. “Economics of Fine Pore Diffuser Aging”, by Diego Rosso and Michael Stenstrom, Accepted for Publication Water Environment Research.
Minnesota and the TMDL Issue: What are the Options?
November 15, 2006
Minnesota is a land blessed with water. However, a recent lawsuit has placed the issue of the quality of Minnesota ’s surface waters squarely in the limelight.
The lawsuit, brought by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), was brought when the MPCA granted a new sewage discharge permit to the Cities of Annandale and Maple Lake . According to the MCEA, the MPCA erred in granting a new permit for discharging phosphorus to a tributary of the Mississippi River, which flows into Lake Pepin —a water body listed as an impaired water body under the Federal Clean Water Act.
The lawsuit has resulted in the stoppage of at least 60 development projects across the state. At issue is the application of the Clean Water Act to Lake Pepin, into which the Minnesota, St. Croix and upstream portions of the Mississippi Rivers all flow. Lake Pepin has been listed as an impaired water body due to high phosphorus concentrations. The MPCA must complete a study of the contributing river basin that allocates the amount of phosphorus that each wastewater source can discharge, called a “total maximum daily load”, or TMDL.
However, an extensive TMDL study is not expected until 2009. Until then, no new sources of phosphorus discharge are allowed in this watershed, which encompasses a significant portion of the state. Although the Minnesota Supreme Court is due to deliver a ruling on a challenge to this lawsuit, the fact remains that fewer than 20 percent of Minnesota ’s lakes and river miles have been assessed by the MPCA for their impairment status under the Clean Water Act. What solutions are available to allow for growth while minimizing increases in phosphorus loading to surface water bodies? Sustainable technologies such as engineered wetland treatment systems and soil disposal systems are potential solutions for many communities and developments.
The design of wastewater treatment and disposal systems that use proven technologies to distribute treated water to the native soil, thereby eliminating the need to discharge to surface waters, is a practicable solution to this issue. These technologies may include soil infiltration beds, infiltration trenches, and drip irrigation disposal fields, which are combined with engineered wetlands to treat wastewater.
Infiltration beds and trenches utilize pressure distribution to disperse treated wastewater to the native soil. Drip irrigation disposal fields utilize proven drip irrigation technology to pressure distribute treated wastewater to native soil through buried tubing. Numerous infiltration bed, trench, and drip irrigation disposal systems are in operation throughout Minnesota . Soil disposal presents a viable option for avoiding the issue of TMDLs entirely—and for preserving the quality of surface water resources.
by Brian Davis
Ph.D. Senior Design Engineer
North American Wetland Engineering, LLC
The Biolytix System
November 06, 2006
Would you believe that there is a system that uses natural aerobic processes to treat sewage, wastewater, sanitary items and food wastes into irrigation water? An Australian Company, Biolytix has Patented a process that uses worms, beetles and microscopic organisms to break down organic waste. Here is a description of the patented process...
The Biolytix Filter is a robust, organic soil ecosystem that converts sewage, wastewater, sanitary items and food wastes into irrigation water.
All the wastes are simply fed onto the Biolytix Filter bed using standard plumbing. The top layer is made up of coarse mesh bags with plastic media in them. This houses the wet soil ecosystem. It accommodates worms, beetles and billions of microscopic organisms. These soil creatures are vital “macerator” organisms, breaking up the organic material, converting the waste into humus and structuring it so that its drainage and air porosity are continually renewed and maintained indefinitely.
The organic matter particles then wash through and accumulate on the surface of a finely structured humus and coco-peat layer. Here it is reprocessed again and again and structured into a sponge-like filter matrix by the soil organisms that live in it. They constantly renew its drainage and aeration pores.
The fine structured compost has remarkable properties. It is 90% water by weight, yet has a high cation and anion exchange capacity. This means it adsorbs and holds back nutrients, chemical compounds and toxins for the trillions of living organisms to digest over time. (Competing treatment processes don't have this ability.) It also has powerful odour - absorbing capacity, which is why we can guarantee no odours.
Source: Biolytix - How it works
This process is fully aerobic, and requires no external energy input in the process. It is fully scalable to meet waste loads. Unlike other technologies, kitchen in-sink-erators are encouraged, reducing organic food waste in landfills. This system doesn't require a grease trap, doesn't need pumping out, and doesn't smell.
Most importantly, the system can produce effluent of a high primary treatment standard with the base model, through to high secondary standard in a single unit delux model, here's a quote about successful applications....
Many prestigous and discerning clients in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa already enjoy the benefits of Biolytix® Filtration for households and on a larger scale for golf course estates, eco-resorts, hotels and five star lodges.
Whether you need to supply or purify water for just one house, or save and recycle water and nutrients for a whole town, Biolytix® can help. We supply the highest performance decentralized water and sanitation equipment and services yet devised.
If you'd like to find out more about the award winning product, check out their website at biolytix.com
About the author:
Mike Thomas is a Civil Engineer designing and managing residential and municipal projects in Newcastle, Australia. He is dedicated to providing sustainable designs for sustainable communities. You can read more of his work at UrbanWorkbench.com
Jim O'Hara Claims Higher Moral Ground for Non Chemicals Water Treatment Systems Salesmen
June 04, 2006
As Regional Field Manager for Clearwater-Dolphin Corporation Jim O'Hara sells non chemicals water treatment systems. To his mind, this puts him a step above the typical chemicals salesman.
Not only does he think the technology deserves greater attention; he says those who sell these systems deserve far greater respect from the buying public.
With 26 years as a former chemical salesman, O'Hara says he feels justified in claiming that the non chemicals salesmen have a lot more to offer: in technology, in expertise, even in what he sees as an "altruistic interest" in their customers.
According to O'Hara, today's non chemicals systems tend to offer the customer tremendous savings over the life of the equipment. In addition to energy savings, there are water savings (both incoming and the more expensive outgoing), record keeping savings (no tracking of biocides), and savings in various regulatory compliance costs.
You can read O'Hara's entire article here (PDF), including some installation photos.
Photos Illustrate How Wastewater Treatment Plants Work
November 20, 2005
Falke Bruinsma sent us this picture of a secondary clarifier in response to our call for photos. You can see more water treatment photos at his site.
"My site contains quite a number of photos of water treatment plants," he wrote, "many showing the different processes within a treatment plant."
Bruinsma, who lives in Chicago, says his site is not a commercial site, "I just enjoy taking photos and sharing them. Think of them as an illustrative walk through the water treatment process."
You can also see some of Bruinsma’s wastewater treatment plant photos in the "How Stuff Works" article, How Sewer and Septic Systems work.
August 02, 2005
The Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association has scheduled a microscopic workshop for 14-16 September in Port Angeles, Washington. The workshop consists of the following training:
1. Care and Use of Microscope
2. Identification of wastewater organisms (with special emphasis on filamentous bacteria)
3. Implications of microscopic examination and relationship to operation of treatment plant
4. Microscopic case studies (with participation of class. Given a microscopic examination, can you determine the reasons why specific organisms are present?
5. Staining (Gram, Neisser and Reverse ((India Ink))stain and probably PHB stain). Proper staining protocol
6. Relationship of bacterial growth curve to lab and operations, F/M, SRT. Nitrification/denitrification and other important laboratory parameters such as anion/cation balance and its effects on the morphology of the floc and dewatering properties. The importance of Fe to floc formation and digestion.
I will be the person doing the presentation. More information and registration forms are available at http://www.pncwa.org/Calendar/PNCWAcalendar.html
Victor Santa Cruz