Ask anyone who's created a new water treatment plant or revamped an existing one, and you'll likely hear about the complexities of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, OSHA standards, lab reports, and emergency operations procedures. But with a clearly defined approach to plant operations and maintenance (O&M), this large undertaking doesn't have to become overwhelming.

In Huber Heights, Ohio, a quiet suburb of Dayton, construction is nearly complete on the city's newest water treatment facility. Once completed, the new facility, which replaces one of two plants in the town, will receive water from 10 wells and contribute to an aggregate yield of approximately 11 mgd.

The Rip Rap Road Water Treatment Plant performs iron and manganese removal, aeration, air stripping, fluoridation, and chlorination. Since 1995, Earth Tech Inc., an engineering, construction, and consulting services firm based in Long Beach, Calif., has operated the Rip Rap Road plant and the city's main water distribution system and wastewater collection system. These facilities provide fresh water and wastewater treatment for more than 14,500 customers.

“Water is the critical ingredient for success in every growing community,” said Catherine Armocida, Huber Heights city manager. “After facing water shortages in 1995, our council implemented a plan to gradually increase water and sewer rates to pay for an expansion of the Rip Rap Road Water Treatment Plant in 2006. When finished, the plant's capacity will increase from 1.44 to 7 mgd, ensuring enough quality water to serve our citizens' needs and desired growth for years to come.”

As the project nears completion, the Earth Tech team is putting the finishing touches on its new O&M procedures. What the team has learned about designing in quality for this new operation may help your city successfully take on a similar task.


To get a new facility up and running and ensure it complies fully with all local and state regulations, you'll have to do your homework. Based on our experiences at Huber Heights, you'll need to identify, plan for, and manage key process components to ensure the success of your project. These steps include:

Identify available land. First, locate usable land that provides enough area for wellheads and isn't surrounded by harmful industries or landfills.

Know your current water sources and supply. For any city to grow, it needs enough water to meet its general demand. Locate your town's nearest water source and select a strategic location.

Project your future water demands. It's not enough to know your city's present water demands; you must also project its needs for the next five to 10 years. Create a model of available land, identify which industries may settle there, and estimate these industries' annual water demands over time.

Know EPA regulations. EPA compliance is a top concern for every water treatment facility. Each plant needs to ensure proper water sampling and testing processes, as well as:

  • Types of contaminants present
  • Current levels of active contaminants
  • EPA-required standards and reports
  • Required frequency of sample collection and testing
  • Cost differential between in-house testing and outsourcing.
  • Prepare for a lengthy approval process. After you create your plant's engineering drawings, it can take time to obtain all of the necessary approvals. The plans need to meet all OSHArequirements and get approval from your state EPA agency. For the plant in Huber Heights, this process took nearly six months.

    Plan to maintain your current water supply. If you're enhancing your only water treatment plant, you will need a strategy for pumping clean water during renovation.


    Once your treatment plant is up and running, you can focus your attention on building in improvements for safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. Here are a few issues to consider.

    SCADA technology. In recent years, public safety and homeland security have attracted more media attention than ever. To protect themselves, many plants in large metropolitan areas use supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). A growing number of smaller communities, including Huber Heights, are making the transition.

    SCADA gives facility managers around-the-clock, remote access to plant controls. This enables managers to respond quickly to plant emergencies and, if necessary, shut down the plant to protect public safety.

    Preventive maintenance. Regular preventive maintenance is vital to the operation of every water treatment plant. This practice not only reduces the risk of equipment breakdowns, it also frees up money for upgrades, personnel, and security measures. In addition, preventive maintenance helps ensure regulatory compliance, which keeps cities from paying large fines.

    Environmental protection. Supplying the safest drinking water to the community is our plant's No. 1 priority. But a close second is protecting our environment. This can be accomplished through:

  • Proper disposal procedures
  • Public awareness signage around the plant and nearby areas (e.g., signs stating “no dumping” or “wellhead protection area”).
  • Emergency response plan. Safety is a critical issue when handling hazardous chemicals. Establishing an emergency response plan is a must for every treatment plant. An effective plan covers every possible contingency, including water supply contamination, chemical spills, and natural disasters, such as tornadoes, fire, and floods. The plan also should contain detailed instructions for periodic disaster drills, a disaster recovery command center, a recovery site, and a treatment resumption plan. This plan should contain a complete list of emergency numbers, including local fire departments and hazardous material teams.

    Staff training. Equally important is employee training in emergency response procedures and non-emergency functions such as OSHA-mandated lock-out/tag-out procedures, chlorine handling, changing filters, chemical spills, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

    Preventive maintenance schedule. Every plant should maintain a preventive maintenance schedule that tracks the maintenance required for its unique equipment set. This information is found in each system's owner's manual and should be easily merged into a single reference guide.

    Equipment maintenance and repair records. Plants also should document the work performed on each piece of equipment. Records should include the date of the procedure, the exact work done, who performed the work (e.g., vendor or staff member), the parts used, and the time required. Knowing the frequency of repairs, for example, also helps a plant identify equipment replacement needs.

    Physical plant security. Since Sept. 11, 2001, water vulnerability has become a big issue, and water treatment plants around the nation are stepping up efforts to make their facilities more secure. The level of security needed depends, in large part, on your city's allocated budget, risk assessment and unique level of vulnerability. At Huber Heights, we've addressed this security issue by investing in alarm systems on all of the plant windows and doors, an automatic gate that controls access to the entire plant, fences surrounding the entire plant, and a surveillance camera.

    While creating or upgrading a water treatment plant is a multi-faceted and often time-consuming endeavor, a sound strategy focusing on quality and service to your customers is the key to success.

    — Inman is an operations manager for Earth Tech, overseeing the Rip Rap Road Water Treatment Plant in Huber Heights, Ohio.

    O&M manuals at a glance

    As you create your facility's O&M manual, don't forget these vital components:

    Permits, standards, and regulations (available through your local/state EPA representative):

  • Water quality standards
  • Drinking water specifications
  • Pretreatment rules
  • Personnel licensing requirements.
  • Operation and controls

  • Type of water plant (e.g., gravity filtration system, ion exchange, softening plant)
  • Source of raw water (e.g., groundwater, service water)
  • Plant processes, from well to effluent.
  • Preventive maintenance

  • Equipment-specific schedules
  • Proper PPE for service and repairs
  • Vendor contact numbers
  • Equipment emergency repair numbers.
  • Emergency operating plan and procedures

  • Specific procedures for each type of emergency
  • Emergency chain of command
  • Disaster recovery location
  • Contacts and phone numbers for governing agencies (e.g., EPA, hazardous materials, fire department).
  • Staffing requirements

  • Number of staff members required
  • Required licenses for your type of plant.
  • Safety requirements

  • OSHA requirements
  • Hazardous materials communication procedures
  • Lock-out/tag-out processes.