Operations Dashboard: Customized dashboards allow wastewater treatment plant managers to actively monitor key data points, allow fast data mining and visualization, and provide data transparency. Photo: Hach Co.
Plant SVI Trend: Monitoring biological nutrient removal (BNR) and operating efficiently within limits is especially important when discharging to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Photo: Hach Co.

By Gabi Miles


WHO: Henrico County, Va., Dept. of Public Utilities
SERVICE AREA: 90,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in three counties and the City of Richmond, Va.
CHALLENGE: Integrate performance data of new and existing treatment processes
SOLUTION: Water Information Management Solution (WIMS) software
IMPLEMENTATION: $100,000, including offsite and onsite set-up and user training

Henrico County's 75 mgd Water Reclamation Facility recently added two six-stage enhanced nutrient removal (ENR) reactors and has almost finished upgrading two three-stage reactors to five-stage reactors. The additional nutrient removal capacity will ensure compliance with more stringent pollution standards: 5.0 mg/L for total nitrogen and 0.5 mg/L for total phosphorus on an annual average basis.

The facility's upgrade is part of an effort by U.S. EPA and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) to improve the quality of water entering the beleaguered Chesapeake Bay by reducing nitrogen by 17.5 million and phosphorous by 1 million pounds a year. Approximately 35% of the $24-million upgrade is eligible for reimbursement through a Water Quality Improvement Fund grant from VADEQ.

To make the most of their new-and-improved operations, managers realized they needed to streamline how they gather, process, and analyze the metrics associated with the plant's various functions. “Without effective processes to manage our data, we were very concerned that we wouldn't succeed in complying with the new nutrient limits,” says Division Director James Grandstaff. “We needed to have real-time functional control of our equipment and processes as well as an improved ability to more effectively and efficiently leverage our data.”

Before the upgrade, employees manually entered data from multiple entry points without a cohesive system for collecting or analyzing the information. Process data, lab data, and field logs were housed in three different Excel spreadsheets; equipment and process data was in a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system. Managers spent hours every month requesting, compiling, confirming, correcting, integrating, and analyzing this information to prepare three different Discharge Monitoring Reports.

This process ate up at least four hours of Grandstaff's time every week; Operations Superintendent Michael Chapman spent 10 to 15 hours a week filling out paperwork, re-entering data, and compiling quality control assessments. After all that time and effort, they still had no good way to evaluate seasonal performance trends, identify quality control opportunities, or perform correlations.

Generating meaningful operations reports from existing equipment was challenging enough, but it would be virtually impossible as new equipment came online and regulatory limits became tighter. So they invested in software that would allow them to monitor and manage systemwide performance from a central database without having to invest in new hardware as well.

Keeping centralized data secure

Formerly known as OPS SQL, Hach Co.'s Water Information Management Solution (WIMS) compiles and secures data from multiple sources, converting information from systems such as SCADA, LIMS (lab information management), and CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) into easy-to-understand and usable formats like trend analysis charts and reports.

Each user logs in with a unique password that's tied to a specific level of access. Some have full administrative rights, some can only enter data in certain input forms, and some have read-only access. The program tracks input by time, date, and user, virtually eliminating any remaining possibility for data-tampering.

Facility managers can build their own WIMS dashboards so they can see the parameters for which they are responsible, and quickly monitor their processes with little support from IT. Chapman's dashboard, for instance, has direct links to the reports he tracks and time-stamped updates of LIMS and SCADA data imports.

Any operational data that's not automatically generated or incompatible with the SCADA interface — such as aerobic volume, internal recycle flow and carbon feed rates, and operational targets — is entered by operations staff. This data is typically collected in the field, so Hach provided WIMS training for portable devices to keep manual entry to a minimum.

Because Henrico County's security policy requires the system to reside on its own server, some SCADA data must still be transferred by jump drive each day. Grandstaff hopes to resolve the issue soon, as the policy is being revised.

The configurable software integrates data from all plant functions to provide a visual of overall performance that managers can access any time of day or night. The county's IT Department used the software's “automated tasks” function to set up three e-mails a day that provide the status of all vital processes at a glance.

Reports are populated as the data is generated (according to preset calculations), so regulatory and business reports can essentially be reviewed in real time. Managers review their monthly Discharge Monitoring Report whenever they want instead of waiting for and compiling data every few weeks.