News from Mission Communications for the Water and Wastewater Professional
Issue 21, Winter 2015
Museum Artifacts Protected by Real-Time Monitoring
Close Encounters at Treatment Plants
Read-Only Login Helps Customers Preserve Water
Desalination Is Making Shockwaves


In lieu of holiday greeting cards, Mission donated money to Water.org. Through this organization, communities without access to clean water receive funding, long term guidance, and partnerships. Water.org requires communities to take ownership of their projects to ensure that the people are engaged and invested.

On behalf of the Mission team, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year!   

 Week 1: Survey of Features
Week 2: Hardware, Instrumentation and Installation
Week 4: Web Portal II -  Supergraph, Reporting, Volumetric Flow and Advanced Topics
 Week 1: Survey of Features
  Week 2: Hardware, Instrumentation and Installation   
Week 4: Web Portal II -  Supergraph, Reporting, Volumetric Flow and Advanced Topics
  Week 1: Survey of Features
  March 9
Week 2: Hardware, Instrumentation and Installation

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



Museum Artifacts Protected by
Real-Time Monitoring
The Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington preserves and houses art and other
View of Maryhill Museum of Art from the south. Photography Nayland Wilkins.
historical artifacts that include over 80 works by French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The facility was founded by railroad executive and lawyer Sam Hill after an attempt to develop a Quaker farming community and town on his remote 5,300-acre estate in 1907. The Hill mansion was eventually converted into a museum that officially opened to the public in 1940, nine years after Hill's death. Mission Communications provides the monitoring equipment for the on-site water system, which supports the HVAC and irrigation system used on the property.

Remote Control Keeps Water Running
Groundwater from a natural spring feeds water to an onsite gravity-fed collection tank. Water is then pumped uphill to a 250,000-gallon holding tank where it is fed to the museum for the HVAC system or used to irrigate museum grounds. The water level is maintained via the Tank and Well Control system. Continuous monitoring by the Mission system keeps the water running efficiently, according to Kevin Freeman, Maryhill Maintenance and Grounds Supervisor.

"The system monitors what is happening, so we know what's going on," explains Freeman. "We are able to see how many gallons are in the holding tank, so we can make sure it never runs low."

Real-time monitoring ensures there is always enough water for the HVAC system to maintain proper humidity and temperature control in the museum. Humidity or changing air conditions can permanently damage fine art.

"When the water level gets low, we need to know about it," says Freeman. "It's really important when you're talking about millions of dollars of artwork that is at risk," Freeman explains.

Plaza-Level Gallery, Mary and Bruce Stevenson Wing. Photography Josh Partee.

Maintaining Optimum Water Levels
Freeman maintains the museum grounds and irrigation system which pumps 200,000 gallons of water per week for general maintenance. Thanks to real-time monitoring and remote control, the holding tank is always at an optimum level.

"The most important information that the system gives me is the level of the holding tank," Freeman explains. "That is huge during heavy irrigation. There are also a lot of fires that happen around us so the local fire department will draw water from our system to put out fires. I have to make sure there is enough water at all times to accommodate the various needs." 

Real-time alarms notify Freeman when levels drop too low in the holding tank. "We have the low level set at 2,800 gallons which is low, but not low enough to be an emergency," Freeman explains. "The alarm trigger levels are set in a way that allows us to be preemptive."

The Mission system has improved operational efficiency and reduced man hours spent checking the holding tank. Freeman says the most valuable aspect of the Mission system is he no longer has to drive to the holding tank a dozen times per day to check the level and make sure equipment is running properly. Freeman simply checks levels remotely from his computer or phone, giving him time for other daily tasks.

Close Encounters at Treatment Plants
Wastewater treatment plant workers find a variety of odd objects in collection systems, everything from car transmissions to diamond rings. Some plant officials have even experienced what some people describe as extraterrestrial debris.

Secaucus New Jersey wastewater treatment plant foreman Steve Bronowich said workers narrowly missed being hit by a very large piece of a space junk in October 2014.  The object was reportedly part of a heat tile that fell from a space shuttle. It bounced off two pieces of equipment before landing. Flying debris and other incursions are not that unusual at this facility. In the past, the plant has been swarmed by seagulls. Workers have also been hit in the head by crabs dropped by seagulls and visited by other wayward creatures.

"We had a turkey, couple of foxes, snapping turtles, a couple of snakes, and ground hogs," Bronowich told reporters of a local CBS television affiliate.

A massive communal spider web at the Blackwater Treatment Plant. Photo: Entomological Society of America.

In 2009, the Blackwater Wastewater Treatment Plant in Baltimore was infested with 107 million spiders in the plant sand filtration facility. The plant has been prone to spider infestations since construction in 1993. In the latest intrusion, spider webs covered four acres and included over 31,000 different species as reported by American Entomologist. The infestation was so extensive a group of entomologists was called in to assist in eradicating what plant officials described as an "extreme spider situation." Scientists referred to the invasion as a "record-breaking natural history wonder."

Philadelphia Treatment Plant Turned Bird Sanctuary
A Northeast Philadelphia Treatment Plant hosts so many swallows every winter it is now an annual destination for birders and photographers. Bird watchers line fences outside the facility to view flocks of Northern Rough-Winged swallows that have nested there since 2005. The treatment plant is the only known northern U.S. location where this species winters. The swallows normally migrate to Southern Florida and the Gulf Coast. In 2013, Cave Swallows decided to stay the winter. This colorful breed usually migrates to the tropics during cold weather months.

Discouraging Close Encounters
Water and wastewater treatment plant equipment are targets for all types of critters before cold weather or during nesting season. Reservoirs, pump stations, and control cabinets are the perfect refuge for bees, birds, and rodents seeking shelter. They typically take shelter in control panels, enclosures, and rain tipping buckets. Snakes are attracted to equipment that generates warmth, especially during winter. Rats can eat through float cables, wires, and antenna cables. Floats that are sold with Manhole Monitors utilize non-wicking, abrasion, chemical, and heat resistant cable. This minimizes damage if rats chew on the cable. Here are tips for preventing critter infestation and damage:
  • Seal cracks and points of entry on enclosures and cabinets.
  • Periodically check wires and cables for damage.
  • Use durable cables that are weather and critter-resistant.
  • Regularly inspect rain tipping buckets. Birds like to nest in them.
Check out this article on how mud daubers affected the analog signal for one of our customers. Always use safety and caution when attempting to remove wildlife.

Read-Only Login Helps
Customers Preserve Water
The Pacific Northwest is known as the wettest part of the country, but even here water shortages are a constant concern. Officials in the State of Oregon officials have struggled to offer water supplies that keep pace with population growth, according to the Portland Business Journal. Water scarcity is especially high when temperatures soar during dry periods. Some local
CWD customers look on the map to find out if reservoir levels are normal or low.
utility officials have difficulty getting residents to comply with water restrictions. Corbett Water District, located east of Portland seems to have solved the problem by letting customers decide for themselves when it is okay to run the tap. District Manager Jim Jans set up a read-only login on the Mission web portal that allows residents to see how much water is available in real-time.

"We use our newsletter and a phone tree that calls our customers with a recorded message to remind users that they can use the Mission read-only login to see the reservoir levels," explains Jans. "We tell our customers if the RTU icon is green, you can water your lawn. If it is red, shut your faucets off until the reservoirs refill."
An M800 RTU at one of the reservoirs monitors the water level. Photo: Jim Jans/Corbett Water District. 
An analog level transducer is connected to each M800 RTU at the reservoir sites. Real-time analog level data is displayed in graph or table formats on the portal. Residents learn to interpret the information and use the Mission web portal with instructions found on the water district website. Jim says the new strategy prevents water shortages because residents are able to see when reservoirs are running low.

"Traditional methods of alternating watering days didn't work for us because if people forgot to water their lawn on their designated day, they would just do it the next day anyway," Jans explains. "Now that customers can actually see how low or high the reservoir is, their course of action is different. This has been such a huge success for us."

If you are trying to prevent water shortages or limit water usage, your utility may also benefit by allowing residents to access the portal using a read-only login. To create a read-only login, you must have Super Administrator level credentials. An authorized user may also call Mission Technical Support at (877) 993-1911, option 2 to have the login added to your web portal.

Desalination Is Making Shockwaves
The Earth is covered by over 326 million cubic miles of water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Ninety-seven percent of this water is unsuitable for drinking because it contains salt. High volume desalination methods such as reverse osmosis (RO) are the most effective at removing high volumes of salt. They are also energy intensive. Sea water desalination costs five times as much to harvest, according to Food and Water Watch. Therefore, the majority of potable water comes from fresh and recycled water. The United Nations predicts that 14 percent of the world's population could face water shortages by 2025, making alternative purification methods essential.

This diagram of the new process shows how a shockwave (red line) is generated in salty water flowing through a porous medium with a voltage applied to membranes (green) at each side of the vessel. The shockwave pushed the salt ions off to one side of the flow, leaving fresh water at the other side where it can be separated out. Photo: MIT.

The Shocking Alternative
Researchers at MIT have developed a novel alternative that may increase the amount of potable water available. The filter-free system uses an electrically-driven shockwave in a stream of flowing water that separates salt and kills microbes. When a large electric current is applied across a charged porous medium, salt water separates into regions where salt concentrations are depleted or enriched. The electrified shockwave pushes salt water to one side of the flow. Fresh and salt water are then isolated and the two streams collected.

The shockwave method is suitable for converting low salt, brackish, or contaminated water into potable water. It shows potential for water contaminated by heavy metals and hydraulic fracturing. The separation is less likely to become clogged like RO or electro dialysis which use filters. The process is most efficient for lower salinity applications. MIT researchers say it is fundamentally better because water flows across porous material made of sintered glass particles called a frit, rather than through a membrane. These particles are not subject to fouling or degradation.

Heavy Metals Are No Match
Head researcher and MIT professor of chemical engineering and mathematics Martin Bazant says their method could be ideal for ultra-purification or removing heavy metals from toxic water filled with boron, argon, and lead. Unlike capacitive deionization, it is more efficient at removing all ions, including toxic impurities.

"The system can be very effective in wastewater recycling," explained Bazant. "We did a demonstrated production of ultra-pure water. We went down to 5 micrograms per liter where you could not detect salt."

Bazant says traditional electrochemical methods cannot lower salinity as effectively and would be highly compatible with remote monitoring systems like cellular SCADA.

"Being an electrochemical method, you can easily monitor how it is doing," explained Bazant. "It can be a relatively low voltage technology which would lend itself well with remote monitoring. RO is not so easily scaled down."

The MIT system can be designed as a small-scale compact process for remote applications and run efficiently in the 10-volt range without requiring huge pumps or pressures. The system holds promise as a practical scalable system, especially for the removal of toxic ions and simultaneous disinfection. Bazant and his colleagues hope to commercialize their system in the future. Project updates and technical information can be found at www.mit.edu/bazant.

"A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
  Newsletter Survey
Let us know what you thought about this newsletter! Share your stories with us -- you could be featured in the next newsletter! Please take a moment and complete our online survey!