Restoring America’s Wastewater Infrastructure: Part III – ONWASA’s Northwest Regional WWTP: Sometimes new takes work too.
In Part II of our series, we explored how a local municipality effectively dealt with the operational and maintenance challenges of an aging 66-year old wastewater treatment plant. But what do you do if your plant is brand spanking new and still not operating efficiently or within regulatory standards? Whereas older facilities offer a wide range of challenges (i.e., aging equipment, increased flow over the original design, space constraints, etc.), new facilities can present their own unique set of challenges.
Over the past decade, Onslow Water and Sewer Authority (ONWASA) was faced with a wide variety of challenges in bringing their new wastewater treatment plant – the Northwest Regional Wastewater Reclamation Facility (NWRWRF) – to fruition. Construction bids coming in over budget, a change in consultants, turnover in authority staff, etc., all contributed to obstacles in the way of completing the final project. The plant has a permitted treatment capacity of 2.0 MGD and disposal capacity of 1.0 MGD with a reclaim component. However, the plant, a sequential batch reactor (SBR) biological nutrient removal wastewater treatment facility, has been plagued with a variety of operational concerns and struggled to maintain compliance with the high-rate infiltration and reclaimed water bulk distribution system permit limits.
WK Dickson was hired by ONWASA in the summer of 2017 to evaluate all major unit processes and develop operational assistance documentation for the treatment facility including facility-specific Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and a process control program. With the overall goal of assisting NWRWRF personnel in operating the facility while maintaining permit compliance, the WK Dickson team realized true success would revolve around the marriage of two primary strategies: 1) streamline the plant’s processes so that the plant can be maintained as economically and as simply as possible, and 2) provide the operations and maintain staff with the best possible SOP manual and hands-on training to give them the detailed tools and skills necessary to operate the plant with maximum ease and efficiency.
But streamlining the processes at the plant and providing the client with a SOP was just the first step. The second step addressed the human element involved in the processes – the operators. This means not only providing on-site training to operations staff but also maintaining communication afterwards to provide support and guidance as staff adjusts to new procedures and, in many cases, new technology. It could be something as simple as a quick phone call or perhaps a lengthier site visit. WK Dickson’s team of engineers includes several staff members who have spent a large majority of their careers as wastewater treatment plant operators. They’re intimately familiar with the daily challenges faced by the operations staff and routinely provide hands-on guidance to help get things back on track if needed. Additionally, our staff has found that remotely monitoring operations at the plant via online access to the plant’s SCADA system can help tremendously in pinpointing problems.
Ultimately, these efforts assisted in returning the plant back to within its non-discharge permit limit and resulted in the discharge of better water into the infiltration basin that leads back to the Castle Hayne Aquifer. Eddie Caron, ONWASA’s Utility Superintendent for Wastewater adds, “Our operators play an integral part in keeping our plant running efficiently. Both our staff and the plant have benefited from the support and training provided by WK Dickson. It's been a long journey to get our plant running efficiently and in compliance, but we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel ."