News from Mission Communications for the Water and Wastewater Professional
Issue 19, Summer 2015
Protecting Monitoring Equipment Against Surges Caused by Lightning
Mining the Nation's Sewers
Simultaneous Pump Runtimes Now Available on M800 RTUs
Wastewater Treatment Goes Green


A drop-down pick list can be added to the web portal to navigate between two or more web portals. This is known as a multiple login where you can sign in to two or more sites with a single login. This is common for cities that have one web portal for the water utility and another web portal for the wastewater utility. Contact Mission Technical Support for more details.

KY/TN Water Professionals Conference
July 26-29
Covington, KY

KRWA Annual Conference
August 18-20
Louisville, KY

The Water Expo
September 15-16
Miami, FL

VA Water Jam
September 14-17
Virginia Beach, VA 



June 24

 Week 3: Web Portal I - Notification and Unit Setup Options

 July 8

Week 2: Hardware, Instrumentation and Installation

Week 3: Web Portal I - Notification and Unit Setup Options 


 July 23

Week 4: Web Portal II -  Supergraph, Reporting, Volumetric Flow and Advanced Topics

July 29

 Week 5: Special Topics  


August 5

  Week 1: Survey of Features
  Week 2: Hardware, Instrumentation and Installation
August 19
Week 3: Web Portal I - Notification and Unit Setup Options

August 26
Week 4: Web Portal II -  Supergraph, Reporting, Volumetric Flow and Advanced Topics

September 2
Week 1: Survey of Features

September 9
Week 2: Hardware, Instrumentation and Installation

September 16
Week 3: Web Portal I - Notification and Unit Setup Options

September 23
Week 4: Web Portal II -  Supergraph, Reporting, Volumetric Flow and Advanced Topics 









































































































































































































































































Protecting Monitoring Equipment Against Surges Caused by Lightning
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the energy produced from one lightning strike is equivalent to the electrical energy needed to power a 100-watt light bulb for three months. It is capable of destroying or causing serious damage to anything it touches, especially electrical and electronic devices. With thousands of RTUs deployed, the Mission system has proven to be very reliable during extreme weather including severe thunderstorms. Simple wiring practices lessen the chances of lightning damage to the Mission RTU and other components.

About 100 lightning bolts strike the Earth's surface every second. Photo: 123rf.com

Current and voltage surges often disrupt the normal operation of the equipment they enter. Surges can even destroy vital components in low voltage systems where components are not designed to withstand high voltage surges. These current and voltage surges could be generated from lightning, changes in line voltage, arcing caused by damaged wires or loose connections, and ground faults.

Proper Grounding
Proper grounding of electrical and electronic equipment is the first line of defense. The National Electric Code Handbook, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) provide standards and basic guidelines for grounding and bonding electrical equipment for lightning protection.
Use a grounding rod clamp to properly connect ground wires. Photo: Tom Grotta/Paige Electric Company.

Proper grounding starts with a grounding rod. A grounding rod provides an electrical path that    dissipates unwanted electrical current and voltage into the earth, minimizing harm to people or property. There should be a continuous path to ground for all electrical and electronic devices. It is recommended that only one grounding system be used so that all equipment shares the same common ground. This minimizes the risk of having different grounding potentials.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that standard ground rods be at least eight feet long, have no more than 25 Ohms of resistance, and be at least 5/8 inches in diameter. The rods should also be buried at least eight feet into the ground. The NEC provides specifications on the wire gauge to use. This is determined by the type of equipment being grounded and the distance between the equipment and grounding rod connection.

Grounding rod connections must be made using best practices to ensure that lightning protection is effective. Verify the following:
  • Wires connected to the grounding rod are secured with a proper grounding clamp.
  • There are no 90-degree angles in the grounding wires.
  • Solid wire is used for grounding. If stranded wire is used, heat from a lightning strike can break the wire.

Supergraph shows this RTU ceased operation due to a lightning strike.

Mission recommends grounding each RTU. The RTU ground should be common to the main electrical grounding system at the station. A separate ground can be used for an RTU installed in solar applications when it is a standalone unit, installed in an open field or remote area far away from the nearest grounding system.

Surge Suppressors
Additional protection is sometimes needed for low-voltage equipment like transducers or other devices that use signal cables as they are sensitive to abnormal changes or voltage spikes. Mission provides a surge protector with each non-submersible transducer. The surge protector contains a grounding terminal which must be properly grounded in order for it to work effectively. This ground terminal provides a path for surges to exit the circuit before causing damage to the connected devices. Ground the surge protector to an Earth ground local to the transducer. Application designs may vary. Contact Mission Technical Support for more information specific to your application.

Suppressor Installation
Use 18-22 gauge twisted, shielded pair wire for wire runs from the transducer to the surge suppressor and the surge suppressor to the RTU. The shields of both wire runs should be connected together at the surge suppressor, but not connected to the surge suppressor itself. Mission recommends connecting the shield to ground at the RTU only. Do not connect the shield to ground at both the RTU and the transducer. This prevents current from flowing in the shield because of differences in ground potential between the RTU location and the transducer location. Unwanted shield current can interfere with the signal.

Lightning always takes the path of least resistance. Grounding electrical and electronic devices creates this path of least resistance by allowing unwanted voltage and current to exit the circuit and prevent damage to your equipment. Consult a licensed electrician to make sure your devices are properly grounded.

Mining the Nation's Sewers
Graphic by Shelley Johnson; 123rf.com.

Wastewater municipalities across the nation continue to seek new ways of defraying costs of regulation, maintenance, and technology. If researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) are correct, city sewers could become a future "gold mine" for treatment plants. In a recent study, researchers discovered $13 million in valuable metals are deposited annually in the sewers of major metropolitan areas. Unprocessed sewage contains valuable elements like gold, silver, palladium, and platinum that can be recaptured and turned into money. ASU researchers used a mass spectrometer to profile up to 50 metals they found in municipal sewers in cities with populations of at least one million people.


ASU researchers call these minerals "mineable waste." The elements are deposited in biosolids from storm runoff, household waste, and industrial manufacturing. Household metal waste comes from a variety of sources, including hair care products and clothing that contain metal fragments or nanoparticles used to prevent odor. United States Geological Survey (USGS) researchers say the concentration of metal particulates in biosolids is similar to low-level gold deposits found in rock formations. They insist these untapped elements could benefit wastewater utilities. The problem is developing simple, inexpensive extraction methods to retrieve them.

USGS Launches Biosolids Extraction Study

Image of microscopic gold and lead particles in a municipal biosolids sample (combined surface topography and atomic weight images). Courtesy of Heather Lowers, USGS Denver Microbeam Laboratory.

Dr. Kathleen Smith and other researchers with the USGS have launched an ongoing study to determine the best way to extract precious and heavy metals from biosolids. In January of this year, USGS scientists gathered 19 samples from eight treatment plants around the U.S. in urban, mountain, and semi-rural locations.  


USGS researchers are testing extraction methods used by the mineral and mining industries to capture precious and heavy metals from the samples. They will examine biosolid samples using inductive coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). Dr. Smith says the combination of both techniques is hoped to offer a "bulk analysis" that can develop a technology to inexpensively remove valuable metals, along with regulated heavy metals that are toxic to humans and animals. Biosolids are treated to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 503 standards for pathogens and metals, so they can be land-applied as fertilizer. The government classifies nine heavy metals as unsuitable for use on farm fields.


Dr. Smith says biosolids are a rich source of slow-release nitrogen and phosphorus that can be more generously applied as fertilizer if heavy toxic metals are reclaimed.  


"If you can get rid of some of the nuisance metals that currently limit how much of these biosolids we can use on fields and forests, and at the same time recover valuable metals, and other elements, that's a win-win," Dr. Smith explained in an American Chemical Society presentation in March of this year.

Biosolids Extraction Has Obstacles
USGS researchers say biosolids present a unique challenge in metal extraction because of a high organic matrix that is 30 to 35 percent organic carbon. Metals chemically bind to carbon. Dr. Smith says they face two major obstacles.


"Knowing the total concentrations of metals in the biosolids is just the first step," explains Dr. Smith. "The big challenge is to try to find a way to release and recover the metals so they are in the correct form to be of interest to the market. If the regulated metals can be removed as well as the potentially valuable metals, it makes sense that the biosolids are more valuable as fertilizer." 


Dr. Smith says taking the study forward requires cooperation between the wastewater treatment industry and process engineers who are familiar with existing extraction technologies. She says the economic feasibility of extractions must be taken on a case-by-case basis. If a cost effective method is devised, it will expand the potential of biosolids.

Reducing Costs with Recycled Biosolids
The redistribution of biosolids as Class B fertilizer has gained more acceptance with environmental advocates as a sustainable recycling method because it saves space in landfills or disposal facilities. Biosolids also reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and help in top soil replacement and revegetation. The EPA estimates that seven million tons of biosolids are generated from 16,000 wastewater treatment plants nationwide. About 60 percent of that treated sewage is used as fertilizer in all 50 states. Many plants reduce costs by sending treated biosludge to farmers.


Caryville-Jacksboro Utility Commission officials give their Class B biosolids to local farms. CJUC executive secretary Frank Wallace says the waste-activated sludge is digested aerobically, thickened with a polymer and dewatered on a belt press to about 18 percent solids before it is sent to farmers. Wallace says the distribution of processed biosludge to farmers saves their facility $200,000 a year in landfill costs and saves the farmers money in fertilizer costs. "It's a win-win for both parties," says Wallace.



Simultaneous Pump Runtimes
Now Available on M800 RTUs
Pump runtime data from one pump is insightful. That data is even more helpful when you can compare, correlate, and analyze it with another pump on a duplex station. Information on simultaneous pumps can also be of great interest. Mission engineers recently added the simultaneous pump runtime feature to M800 RTUs. The M110 RTUs have had this feature for a number of years. Simultaneous pump runtimes are the minutes-per-hour that two or more pumps run at the same time. This data is available for up to seven pumps using digital inputs one through seven on M800 RTUs.

Simultaneous pump runtime data can be used to find out if the pumps at a station are keeping up with capacity. When a duplex pump station is designed, one pump should be capable of keeping up with the peak inflow in most cases. For these stations, multiple pumps should not run at the same time. However, a change in conditions or design may cause a second pump to come into service. This can vary by station depending on some of the factors listed below:  
  • An out-of-service, worn out or "ragged" pump
  • Inflow and infiltration
  • Increased flow related to residential and commercial development in the surrounding area
If the pumps are sized correctly and are of equal size, the pump runtimes should be nearly equivalent when they run individually. Of course, this assumption can be made if there is a constant and consistent inflow into the station.

Flow into this station increased dramatically between 13:00 and 14:00 with both pumps running for 60 minutes out of the hour.

Pump Station Capacity Considerations
There are more variables to consider than pump runtimes, such as Net Positive Suction Head (NPHS), total dynamic head, pump curves, and sump capacity. Consider the simultaneous pump runtime information as if one pump were to fail. In general, simultaneous runtimes for an extended period of time are a warning that a spill is likely to occur if one of the pumps malfunctions. Simultaneous pump runtimes on a station with three to seven pumps are not as easy to evaluate from a capacity standpoint. A flow meter located on the outflow of the wet well will give you a more accurate percentage of the capacity changes. If the flow meter has a 4-20 mA or pulse output, it can be connected to an analog input.

Simultaneous Pump Runtime Data Helps Track Problems
Todd Anderson is the Maintenance and Pump Station Supervisor for the City of Eugene in Oregon. He uses the simultaneous pump runtime data to identify problems during low and high flows.

"During low flows, the simultaneous runtimes allow us to monitor pumps and identify when we have an issue. During higher flows, this will allow us to see the times of the day when more pumping capacity is needed," Anderson explains.  

Anderson uses the simultaneous runtime data along with the rainfall vs. pump runtime data to identify areas affected by inflow and infiltration. He also checks the pump runtime variance report every morning to make sure the pumps are running smoothly. The report has identified "ragged" pumps on multiple occasions.

"I don't have an exact cost savings, but the data has helped us catch some problems that would have been costly had they gone unnoticed," Anderson explains.

If you wish to receive simultaneous runtime data with an M800, install a resistor across digital input eight and leave the input unused. The data will be displayed on the Daily Runtime Detail page. Simultaneous pump runtime events will also be included in the daily reports. Once you have logged into your web portal, go to Data / Pump Info / Runtime Table. Click the station name and then click the date. Contact Mission Technical Support at (877) 993-1911, option 2 for more information.

Wastewater Treatment Goes Green      

The sustainable "greening" of America has spread to the wastewater treatment industry with experimental ways to process and recycle waste for energy, nutrients, and purified water. There has been an increase in more eco-friendly methods that are free of chemicals. Since 2009, an upstate New York holistic retreat has processed five million gallons of human waste annually through the use of plant roots and aquatic life.
The Omega Center for Sustainable Living is a net zero energy building, generating more electricity than it consumes. Courtesy of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Rhinebeck, NY, eOmega.org.

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) utilizes a series of accelerated wetlands called the Eco Machine that treat human sewage without chemicals. The design is based on technology developed in the 1970s by John Todd, biologist and pioneer of ecological water purification. The Eco Machine is a water garden reclamation system which cleans water by mimicking the natural ecosystem. The OCSL facility features lush gardens, banana trees, flowers, and tropical plants that are fertilized with biosolids from the unique on-site greenhouse treatment plant. Over 52,000 gallons of raw sewage are processed daily from the Omega campus and treated with microscopic algae, fungi, plants, bacteria, and snails. The purified water is returned to an aquifer beneath the center's campus.

A Good Greenhouse Effect
OCSL officials at this natural water reclamation facility say plant roots break down effluent 20 times faster than anaerobic bacteria. They produce a natural greenhouse effect by emitting oxygen that encourages aerobic bacteria and supports microbes as they break down effluent. Officials call the plant roots "fixed film reactors" that turn pathogens into nutrients which support the plants by converting nitrogen into gas.

The OCSL water reclamation facility is the first building in America to achieve a LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certification. Over 20,000 people come to the campus retreat annually to attend classes on environmental sustainability, recycling, composting, and conservation, as well as yoga, and wellness workshops. Omega Institute for Holistic Studies CEO Robert "Skip" Backus says more people are adopting the Eco Machine model.

"The Eco Machine technology seems to be growing, both in interest and installation due to the
The Omega Center for Sustainable Living Eco Machine? cleans and reclaims all of Omega Institute's campus wastewater using zero chemicals and net zero energy, by mimicking the processes of the natural world. Courtesy of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Rhinebeck, NY, eOmega.org.
ease of operation, lower energy footprint, and potential for future uses like phosphorus recovery, energy collection, and pharmaceutical removal," explains Backus. "We don't know exactly how many facilities were inspired by Omega's leadership, but there are several recent examples of projects we can point to from a local municipality dealing with the issue of pharmaceuticals in the water stream, to a lime orchard in California where droughts have impacted farming, to an eco-resort being built by billionaire Sir Richard Branson on Moskito Island."

Backus says an EPA study concluded that Eco Machines are very economical to build and cheaper to operate than conventional treatment because they eliminate the high price of chemicals.

Are There Other Eco Machines?
The use of plants and plant roots to purify wastewater has gained popularity over the last 20 years. Aquatic plants are especially of interest.

The Julian Woods Community is a 320-acre land trust in Central Pennsylvania that uses plants to process waste. Effluent from 12 households is treated in two greenhouses that provide year-round growing space for vegetables, herbs and a small cut flower business. Wastewater enters the system through a simulated marsh and is pumped into holding tanks. Four aerobic tanks filled with plants and microbes perform primary wastewater treatment. The remaining water is then treated with ultraviolet light to kill E. coli and other pathogens.

Engineers at the University of Washington are conducting research on Vetiver, a perennial grass native to India. For the past 10 years, Vetiver applications have been successful in treating different forms of wastewater, including landfill leachate, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater. Because Vetiver grass has a high absorption rate, it is effective at reducing wastewater volume and removing nitrogen, phosphorous and E. Coli. In Australia, five hedgerows of Vetiver achieved a 99 percent reduction in total nitrogen when they were fed a sub-surface source of septic tank effluent. They also had an 85 percent phosphorous uptake, making them efficient in secondary wastewater treatment.

Columbia University researchers say two out of 10 people worldwide have access to potable water. They insist recycling become the new status quo to combat water shortages caused by population growth and drought. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging sustainable methods with funds and grants for water conservation, reclamation and recycling methods. EPA funding sources can be found here.

"Every drop in the ocean counts." ~Yoko Ono 
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