Entries for the 'Safety' Category


The struggle to provide safe drinking water in the face of the Gold King Mine spill is reminding many utilities and operators of the importance of knowing what to do if water service is disrupted. But creating a strong emergency plan is often easier said than done—and the middle of an emergency is the worst time to discover you’ve forgotten something.

Hosting a water emergency roundtable discussion is a great way to boost plans for service disruptions and help others in your community do the same. These events also provide a unique opportunity to connect water security with broader preparedness and community resiliency efforts underway in your region.

Here’s a quick glance at what you can do to host a successful discussion:

  1. Consult with partners within your water community to identify the groups that need to be at the table. Some groups to consider include hospitals, schools, farm operations, industrial parks, municipal pools, and first responders.
  2. Set a date and secure a meeting place that meets your meeting needs.
  3. Work with partners or co-hosts to ensure that the room has the equipment needed, such as a laptop, PowerPoint projector, and pens and pads for meeting participants.
  4. Have your water utility manager or superintendent call the groups to invite them to the event. A personal call typically results in a more positive response and can be followed by a formal invite and RSVP request.
  5. Call confirmed participants to outline what types of information participants will need to bring with them, how the discussion will be facilitated, and how sensitive information will be treated.
  6. Confirm with partners or co-hosts who will be responsible for facilitating the discussion, compiling participant data, putting together registration packets, welcoming participants, presenting, taking notes, and writing a meeting summary.
  7. Arrive at least on hour before the event is scheduled to set up materials and manage last minute details.
  8. Use meeting notes and discussed action items to develop a short report for participants.
  9. Write and distribute an internal and external report on progress towards action items approximately six months after the event.
  10. Determine the need for a follow-up meeting.

For more tips and sample invitation scripts, read the Water Emergency Roundtable—Outline for Discussion developed by the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators and EPA Region 5. 


Our partners at the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) have released a new instructional video on hydrant inspection and flushing. 

"This video covers basic inspection and flushing of a fire hydrant. All fire hydrants in a water system need to be inspected on a regular basis. Inspection is needed to ensure a high degree of confidence that hydrants will perform properly in an emergency. A number of circumstances can affect a hydrant's performance, including vandalism, accidental damage, wear and tear, and mechanical malfunction. Hydrants may also be flushed periodically to improve water quality."


This article was first published in the Summer 2012 issue of Spigot News, the Ohio EPA's drinking water program newsletter. Many thanks for allowing us to republish it!

Ohio EPA conducts sanitary surveys at least once every three years at community public water systems (PWS) and once every five years at non-community PWSs. The purpose of a sanitary survey is to evaluate and document the capability of a water system’s source, treatment, storage, distribution, operation and maintenance, and management. Each of these may favorably or adversely impact the ability of the system to reliably produce and distribute water that meets drinking water standards. 

This article is the second installment in a series of articles to help small water systems identify the most common problems found during a sanitary survey or other investigatory site visit conducted by Ohio EPA staff. The first article focused on source water (well) deficiencies. This article will focus on some of the more common treatment equipment deficiencies which are found during inspections of small water systems.  Future articles in this series will cover distribution deficiencies and other topics. 

Backwash discharge lines: If you have a softener or a pressure filter, you backwash your equipment to clean and replenish the media. The waste that is produced when you backwash discharges into a floor drain or another pipe, which carries the waste to where it will be treated.  If the pipe carrying the backwash wastewater from your treatment equipment is too close to, or even inserted into, the drain or pipe that carries the waste to treatment (see Figure 1), you could end up with back-siphonage.

This could occur if the pipe carrying the waste to treatment backs up and the wastewater is siphoned back into your drinking water treatment equipment, contaminating your treatment equipment with whatever waste the pipe is carrying. Solution: Ensure there is a sufficient air gap between the backwash waste pipe and the floor drain or the pipe conveying the waste to treatment to prevent backsiphonage (see Figure 2).

Softener tanks, cover, and salt: Softener brine tanks should be kept in sanitary condition. The brine solution should be kept free of dirt and insects. Solution: The best way to accomplish this is to completely cover the brine tanks with an appropriately fitting lid. The lid should not be over- or under-sized and should be kept in place on top of the tank. Also, the brine tank should not be overfilled such that the lid does not fit snug on the tank (see Figure 3). 

All substances, including salt, added to the drinking water in a public water system must conform to standards of the “American National Standards Institute/National Sanitation Foundation” (ANSI/NSF).  This is to ensure it is a quality product that will not introduce contaminants into the drinking water. Solution: Ensure the ANSI or NSF symbol can be located on the bags of salt you use or ensure your salt supplier can provide you with documentation from the salt manufacturer that it is ANSI or NSF certified. 

Cartridge filters: Over time, cartridge filters will become clogged with iron or other minerals from your source water. When clogged, the filters become a breeding ground for bacteria. Solution: Ensure filters are replaced in accordance with the manufacturers’ specifications or even more often, depending on the quality of your source water.

General maintenance: Water treatment equipment should be accessible and cleaning solutions and other non-drinking water chemicals and materials should be kept away from the equipment. If treatment equipment is not accessible for Ohio EPA staff to inspect during a sanitary survey, it will not be accessible to the water treatment operator for routine maintenance or during an emergency. Likewise, non-drinking water chemicals stored in close proximity to treatment equipment can be an invitation for a mix-up or, even worse, intentional vandalism (see Figure 4). Solution: Keep clutter and non-drinking water chemicals and equipment away from drinking water treatment equipment. Preferably, these items should be stored in a different room.



This article was first published in the Winter 2011 issue of Spigot News, the Ohio EPA's drinking water program newsletter. Many thanks for allowing us to republish it!

Ohio EPA conducts sanitary surveys once every three years at community public water systems (PWSs) and once every five years at noncommunity PWSs. The purpose of a sanitary survey is to evaluate and document the capability of a water system’s source, treatment, storage, distribution, operation and maintenance, and management; these all may adversely impact the ability of the system to reliably produce and distribute water that meets drinking water standards.  

This article covers the sanitary survey or other investigatory site visits conducted at the water source and concentrates on the most common deficiencies found during the visit of small PWSs. Even though the article focuses on small systems, similar deficiencies can be found at larger public water systems. Future articles will cover treatment, distribution and other topics. 

There are common deficiencies surveyors hope not to find when conducting a sanitary survey, or when following up on complaint investigations or responding to total coliform bacteria positive sample results. Figures 1 and 2 show poor water sources and figure 3 shows an acceptable water source. Figure 1 shows a well equipped with a sanitary seal which is missing bolts. It also shows that the casing is flush or in line with the finished grade, and the electrical wire and raw water line are exposed and unprotected. Although the well is vented, it does not have a screened vent. The well is also not protected from surface water runoff, other contaminants or critters. 

Figure 2 shows a public water system well located in a parking lot. The well cap is missing bolts and therefore is not properly secured to the top of the well casing. There is also a depression surrounding the casing. If rainwater pools near the well, it can seep down along the casing and negatively impact the ground water and its quality. Located to the left of the well are bags of sodium chloride, which increases the potential for rust at the base of the well. Also, there is not enough protection around the well to prevent damage from motorized vehicles to the casing or electrical conduit.  

Although you can’t see this in the picture, the well has a 1988 approved “National Sanitation Foundation” (NSF) well cap but it is not a “Water System Council” PAS-97 (or Pitless Adapter Standard, 1997) approved cap as required. The PAS-97 cap provides a properly screened vent which is not present in this cap. 

Figure 3 shows an acceptable water source. The well casing extends approximately 24 inches above finished grade, which is beyond what is required (at least 12 inches above finished grade). The finished grade is sloped to drain surface water away from the well.  The approved well cap fits flush over the top of the casing and electrical conduit; it provides a tight seal against the casing and prevents the entrance of water, dirt, animals, insects or other foreign matter. The well is also properly protected with concrete filled posts to protect it from motorized vehicles and mowers. 



I was at an asset management workshop recently that included a number of state regulators. The theme was asset management and certification, but O & M and the tie-in to understanding your assets kept coming up.

O & M Is Tied To Asset Management
I realize the title of this blog post is about SCADA systems, and many small communities don't even have them, but whether you use SCADA or not, the principles behind good O & M are important for all systems. It's all about understanding your system, the equipment, infrastructure, and treatment, as well as the process of running the plant (O & M). I know everyone hears about the importance of testing generators monthly and servicing pumps when recommended, but many times these things are low priority. Weeks turn into months and months turn into years. I was at a plant this summer that was using a federal grant to get a new generator for their water plant. I had just been in the wastewater plant for this same community this last fall where there was a perfectly good generator that would serve the purpose. I brought this up to the consultant managing the grant, but he said it wouldn't work. Unfortunately, the community had no warranty on the generator because they didn't follow the maintenance schedule. It had sat in a garage for number of years and not been ran. As a taxpayer, that's frustrating, but as a small systems advocate, it gives us all a black eye.    

So On To Best Practices
At the workshop, someone from Michigan mentioned that one of their larger communities was planning to shut down their SCADA system for a week. This wasn't being done to allow upgrades or changes to the system, this was being done because the Water Supt. wanted to make sure his staff knew how to run the plant. This system is being proactive, both from an emergency standpoint, and also from an operations standpoint. We all rely on technology and automatic this or that for so many things these days, but to really "know" your plant, to be able to troubleshoot and tell when something isn't quite running right, you really have to have a comprehensive understanding of how your system works. 
I Know, You Already Know Your Plant That Well
You are thinking, I already have that level of understanding of my plant, I know when something doesn't sound right, look right, or even feel right. Thats great, but what about the next level of support? What happens when you are not there? Do you ever take vacation or have to be out of town for a day or two? Is the person left in charge of your plant as familiar with your system as you are?  Do they know your plant well enough to troubleshoot when a problem pops up? They need to have that level of understanding, or have something they can turn to that has those details.
That brings us back to one of those O & M things that are a pain, take time, and because you know the plant so well, keep putting off or don't see a need for. You should have an O & M manual for your plant. No one else can write it, and its only as useful as the information you put into it. It comes down to being prepared and taking full responsibility for the operation of the plant. That also means being prepared in case you can't be there for some reason.    

Getting Started 
First of all, develop an emergency response plan. There are templates available from a number of sources. You can contact a TA provider you work with, they will be able to get you started. If you want to look at some of the better ones, type in "emergency response plan" in our document keyword search, and use "type = templates". But, for those of you that already have an ERP, take the next step, develop an O & M plan for your plant. Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Florida require O & M plans, I'm sure there are others. New Jersey has an O & M template that operators can use to help them develop their O & M plan, as do Florida, Louisiana, and Vermont. Georgia has a guidance manual as well. It was also brought up at the workshop that Colorado is developing an O & M and training manual geeared toward walking you through developing an O & M plan for your facility. It sounds like it will be a great resource. Once the Colorado document is available, we'll post an update and provide those details. Lastly, if you need some help, email or call us. We can either help you directly or find someone in your area who can help you get started.

With the sun higher in the sky and summer staring us down, it's a great time to remind your staff (and yourself) about best practices in health and safety for working outside. While these are practical tips year-round, summer can be a more dangeous time. 

SmallWaterSupply.org Loves these strategies for working outdoors:

* Wear sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and UV-protective clothing for sun protection

* Wear bug repellant to protect yourself from mosquitos, ticks and chiggers

* Check your local air quality index if you have allergies or asthma

* Stay hydrated and comfortable with water in a BPA-free reusable water bottle

* Try to schedule breaks when the sun is highest in the sky 

* Wear boots and long pants to reduce contact with poisonous plants or animals

For more details and downloadable factsheets, visit CDC's Hazards to Outdoor Workers website

Stuff We Love is posted on Fridays and includes favorite documents, links and other resources for small water and wastewater systems. We'll find the cream of the crop so you don't have to. 

Posted in: Safety
I was at the Alabama Rural Water Association Conference a few weeks ago and there was a really interesting talk by a lawyer for an Alabama utility.  The utility is being sued by a few of their customers for poor water quality even though their water meets all health standards.  If a water supply provides water that meets all of the health standards and their operation meets all of the regulatory requirements, should their customers be able to sue them if they percieve there are water quality problems? Thats a tricky question for sure.
Safe Harbor
A safe harbor law basically protects someone from civil suit if they are meeting all of the legal and professional requirements for the services they provide.  For instance, a prosecutor in a district attorney's office has immunity from civil action, even if they help put an innocent man in jail.  For a water system, this type of law would mean that your customers cannot sue you for percieved water quality problems if you are meeting all of the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act and your state regulations.  Alabama currently does not have such a law.
What's Happening In Alabama
Because of the lawsuit currently going on in Alabama, there is a push to pass a "safe harbor" law as an amendment to the Alabama SDWA. It's going through their state legislature now and appears to have alot of support.  In the ongoing lawsuit, 10 homeowners that are spread throughout a 53 home subdivision, claim their water has oil and grease in it.  Testing by the utility and extensive testing by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management show there are only normal, background levels in the water (a trip blank even had similar levels in it).  I don't want to get into the details, but 3000 customers use water from the same main, and some of the allegations (like their water catches fire), are hard to understand if the water is meeting all of the SDWA standards. 
What It Means
I'm not a judge or jury, but I do believe that if a utility is meeting its legal obligations and works with their customers fairly and openly, there should be some reasonable expectation that the utility met its obligation and has their customers best interests at heart. As the speaker said, without this legislation, any customer could sue any utility and that could lead to a jury setting water standards in that state, "regulation by litigation" is the term he used.  Can water systems afford litigation because of unhappy customers? 
How about you?  Does your state have "Safe Harbor" legislation attached to its SDWA rules?  Do you think it's a good idea?



A few years ago I shadowed a Maryland Department of the Environment sanitary survey of a small system in western Maryland. It was an eye-opening experience, especially since I was pretty green in the industry at the time. One thing really stuck with me: the importance of a cross connection control program. I also learned that this is one of the most commonly noted deficiencies in sanitary surveys.

A cross connection occurs whenever there is an actual or potential physical connection between the public drinking water system and any possible source of contamination.

We have documents from many states in our database (including specific regulations and requirements); these below are some of the most helpful introductory materials. What is included is not only helpful for water system operators, but also the public. Homeowners and businesses in your community play a large role in backflow prevention and this is not commonly understood by the general public.

Cross Connection Control: A Best Practices Guide
from US Environmental Protection Agency

This 4-page document is a fact sheet answering common questions about backflow and cross-connection control. It also contains information about the risks of cross-connections and well as some preventative advice. Technologies that are available to control cross-connections and prevent backflow are also covered.

Backflow Prevention and Cross-Connection Control: Protecting our Public Water System
from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
This 2-page flier presents information on backflow prevention. It discusses what it is, concerns associated with it, how it occurs and what it causes, and what can be done to protect the system. Some specific topics discusse include auxiliary water systems and booster pumps.

Cross Connections Can Create Health Hazards
from Washington State Department of Health
A 2-page brochure that explains what cross connections are, how contaminated water can flow backwards into a consumer's plumbing and the public water system, and where to get help to prevent backflow from occurring. It is intended for consumers and also mentions 12 common places that cross connections are found.

Cross Connection and Backflow Prevention
from National Environmental Services Center
This 4-page tech brief examines the problems associated with cross connections and backflow and provides practical solutions for controlling or eliminating them. Some of the common questions that are answered include: What is a cross connection? What is a backflow? What about terrorism and water security?

Commercial Cross-Connection Survey Form
from Nebraska Rural Water Association
This 2-page document is a survey conducted by utilities to assist customers in reporting potential backflow hazards and to comply with regulations. It is intended for consumers to fill out and return to their water providers. This form must be filled out every five years by consumers.

Further Reading
For additional technical support in developing your program, we recommend US EPA's Cross Connection Control Manual. This 50-page guidance manual contains information on cross connections, backflow prevention, system management and public health. It describes the health significance of cross-connections, how back flow events occur, how to prevent backflow and backsiphonage, how to test preventers, how to develop a cross-connection control program, and information on ordinances.

SmallWaterSupply.org's Document Search can help you find valuable references, resources and educational materials to make your job easier.

This is the 3rd post covering the communication toolbox, a new tool available from CDC on how to prepare, deal with, and learn from situations where you need to (precautionary) or have to (mandatory) communicate with your customers to advise them of a drinking water situation in your community.  The 1st blog post provided an overview of the toolbox, the 2nd blog post discussed the introduction section of the toolbox, which explained some of the basics about when and why you should communicate with the public. Today, we'll provide you with some suggestions they provide for small systems.
For Small Systems Using the Toolbox
The toolbox was written for water systems, both large and small.  But, it was developed with both in mind.  We've already mentioned that we think the toolbox is one of the most complete tools available to help you with communicating with the public during an emergency, and on page 13, they offer some suggestions for small systems, recognizing that sometimes small systems may not have the capacity to implement all of the suggestions listed in the toolbox.  Basically, these are the things every small system should do to be prepared, regardless of the emergency.
1. Identify and prioritize specific tools or sections in the toolbox to use.  The toolbox is worth going through, cover to cover, to really understand what it means to communicate with your customers and to be prepared in an emergency.  In doing so, you will find many great ideas that will help you prepare, act, and recover from an emergency situation.  Pick and choose what you think will work for your specific situation and within the capacity of your system and community.
2. Incorporate water advisory protocol planning into regular activities, such as sanitary surveys and updating emergency response plans.  I'm sure some of you think this is "beyond" what you can do, and may not even have an emergency response plan in place for your system.  That is a great place to start and there are some great templates available from RCAP and Rural Water that walk you through development of a plan.  Do that first, and you will understand why its important to be prepared and think ahead, rather than react to an emergency. (call or email us, we can help, as can your local TA providers.  See the links to the templates below).
3. Build water advisory protocols into regular communication, such as customer updates.  Again, some of you may look at this and say, I never send stuff to my customers.  Why not?  When operators tell me their customers want "free" water, and don't value what they do, I tell them to start marketing to their customers, help them understand what a service you provide, how important safe water is to your community. Operators can't just do the technical stuff anymore, they have to engage their communities to understand the need and importance of safe water.  Along with that is the importance of dealing with emergency situations.
4. Partner with local public health and neighboring water systems. Planning for an emergency means working with others outside your community.  When a real disaster happens, you need to know what to do, who you can call, who you can rely on for help.  You need to ask yourself, what does your community deserve? Doing it all on your own usually ends up hurting your community when a disaster occurs. It's the responsible thing to do, and best for your system and customers.  This would also be a good time to mention your state's WARN program.  Look into it, consider how it might benefit your community.
Getting Started
Remember these suggestions as you go through the toolbox.  Find the pieces that you think will work for you.  It states that many of the actions you can consider taking, as described in the toolbox, shouldn't require outside support from consultants or others.  It also says building a network of partners and organizations to work with in an emergency is the key to success.  We agree.
Should you have any questions, let us know. We will gladly help you navigate through the material and find resources that you can use with your customers for both emergency response and just for marketing the value of your water system.
Below are links to some of the resources mentioned above:
Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP)
National Rural Water Association (NRWA)
Water & Wastewater Agency Response Networks (WARN)
(click on the "WARN Regions" tab to find your state WARN program)


How To Run Your System Like A Business is a series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on Monday.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released a new document, the Drinking Water Advisory Communication Toolbox.  This 162 page document was a collaborative effort among 6 organizations that all work in the drinking water and environmental health fields.
What Is It?
The Toolbox provides protocols for communicating with stakeholders and the public about water advisories and has practical information on how to plan for, develop, implement, and evaluate drinking water advisories.
How is this document different?
It is to date, the most far reaching effort to help prepare and assist drinking water systems in dealing with drinking water advisories to their customers that we have seen. The document recognizes the degrees of severity where advisories might be needed, from a drop in pressure,to a hurricane, and everything in between. It has practical solutions that affect the types of tools, planning, and communication needed for specific situations.
More importantly, it was developed by consensus among a tremendous number of stakeholders, industry folks, water systems, and technical assistance providers.  The list of acknowledgements is over 3 pages long and includes over 50 water systems.  They really did their research, compiling over 500 documents related to advisories, and conducting over 100 interviews.
What does that mean for me?
It means it will be a useful tool that you can use when you need to prepare a drinking water advisory. It also means the document is well thought out, organized, practical, and useful.  
That's a lot to read!
We agree, the problem is that it is 162 pages long.  We hope to help with that aspect by breaking the toolbox down in subsequent blog posts and highlighting the things we feel are most relevant for small systems.  Stay tuned for more, but if you get the chance, take a look.  You can find the report here.   
Problems With Public Notification
Recently, I attended the Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems (WARWS) Spring Conference and I heard a talk that was really interesting and new to me.  Every system has public notification requirements and the requirements for reporting to your customers can sometimes seem a little outdated in todays technology filled world.  In Wyoming, there are areas where there is no local television station, so there is no one to provide a report to.  In those areas, many people have satellite television with no local news or info.  Also, sending press releases to newspapers can be ineffective, especially today when fewer and fewer homes take the paper anymore.  In a time crucial emergency, such as a boil order, operators are left with putting out hang tags or contacting every customer individually.  This can be expensive, time consuming, and worst of all, hang tags can be ineffective, should they be thrown away without being read or blow off in the wind.
Where Things Are Headed
This was all brought up during a talk by a company that sells public notification services, Swiftreach Networks.  Never heard of these services? Neither had I, or at least I didn’t realize what it was.  What these services do is provide you with a way to contact every customer electronically through cell phone, home phone, email, SMS text, and even twitter and facebook.  These systems are very robust and surprisingly affordable, but what they really offer is a way to be sure that your customers receive your message.  The way they explained it, the system allows you, the operator, to set up a message tailored to your needs, and when you use the system, it sends that message out to every one of your customers.  The system keeps track of who answers, who listens to the whole message, and provides detailed reporting of the status of whether each customer was reached.  It can even require that the customer press “1” to acknowledge that they received the message.  Regardless of availability of other media, having a record of who was contacted is a great feature for your peace of mind.
Why They Are Better
The really special thing about these sorts of applications is that they can be shared by all of your community personnel and emergency responders.  The examples they gave were many, from informing a community to stop drinking their water because of a train derailment and spill, to reminding your community to set out your recycling, to having elderly folks in home environments press 1 to confirm that they are ok each night.  Here at the University of Illinois, they have implemented a similar system for staff and students. It came about because of some of the campus shootings that have occurred across the country, but it is also used to provide timely non-emergency information to the campus community.  It can be used to inform about road closings, upcoming meetings, just about anything you can think of that would be relevant to your customers and community. 
Roxbury Example
Swiftreach Networks gave me a great example of how their system was used to support a community water supply.  Roxbury Water Company had an isolated E. Coli outbreak that only affected a small number of homes, but the news media picked up the story and incorrectly identified the outbreak as system wide.  It caused an immediate scare in the community and the city personnel were faced with how to deal with notifying all of their customers with the correct information.  In addition, they started getting calls from scared customers that were flooding their system.  Using their Swift911 system, the community was able to send out telephone notifications correctly describing the situation right away, which allowed them to reach everyone quickly and also saved their staff tons of time on the phone with concerned customers.  What’s unique about these systems is that your customers can provide multiple phone numbers, numbers for text messaging, and email addresses, so that they are more likely to receive your message.
Our Disclaimer
Swiftreach Networks is one of several companies that provide these types of services.  We at SmallWaterSupply.org don’t endorse any individual company, and we recommend you do your own research to find out which system might best serve your needs.  That said, we greatly appreciate the time Swiftreach Networks gave us to learn more about how these systems work and their track record with small systems is impressive.  Whether you contact them or another company, these services are remarkable and its worth your time to find out how a system like this might benefit your community.

There is a lot of talk and training on preparing for the worst-case scenarios, but everyday hazards are much more likely to impact your system. These resources, found in our document database, can help you get started with a safety plan.

Developing an Effective Safety and Health Program
This 16-page document is a handbook for developing a safety program for the workplace in Vermont. Examples of successful programs, steps to take to develop a successful program, and resources for help with development are listed.

Safety - Small Systems Operations & Maintenance
These 108 slides discuss how to implement a safety program. Topics covered include: operator personal safety, protective clothing, slips and falls, acid cleaning of wells, working around electrical units, pump safety, working safely in the streets, excavation safety rules, confined space, working near noise, and Emergency Response Plans.

Safety Document Template
This 4-page blank document conatains a blank safety document to be completed as part of the Operation and Maintence Plan for Pulic Water Systems for Pennsylvania.

Safety Committee Manual
A sample Safety Manual covering the basics of a safety committee. Includes different officer roles, policy implementations and requirements that must be abided.

How to Handle Chlorine Gas Safely
This 5-page document provides information on what chlorine gas is, emergency help, protective equipment, separate chlorine room, leak detection, first aid and how to change chlorine cylinders.

Incompatible Chemicals Storage
This 2-page document is a sanitary survey quick reference guide for determining how to properly store chemicals at a water treatment plant.

Do you have a safety plan and procedures in place?

How to Run your Small Water Supply like a Business is a series at SmallWaterSupply.org, appearing on Mondays.

A New "Liquid Assets"
When I heard CNBC was going to air Liquid Assets, I assumed it was the Penn State documenatary from 2008, and that's the information I gave out on Wednesday's blog post.  Well, if you watched the CNBC video last night, it was a different documentary that highlighted water use, saving water, bottled water, etc., but really carries the same message: its up to everyone to understand how important water is to our lives.  The correct link for information about the CNBC documentary is here, if you want to follow up.  You can tell them what you thought of the show, take a quiz testing your knowledge of bottled water, or view a slideshow that talks about the water footprint of various consumer foods and products.
But What About The Penn State Documentary
We are going to get a copy of the Penn State Liquid Assets Documentary and will loan it to any community that is interested. (I'm looking into who might have more copies to distribute to communities.) If you look on their webpage though, I encourage you to look at their impacts tab.  There you will see how many public television stations have already broadcast it, how many videos have been distributed, and how many communities have gotten involved.  If you haven't gotten involved yet, you definately should.
Honest Mistakes
Sorry again for the mixup regarding the two videos, but maybe its a good thing, its really worthwhile to watch them both.
This Saturday, Sept 25th, at over 1700 sites around the country, you can bring in unused, unwanted, extra, or expired drugs (controlled substances) and prescription medicines for free anonymous disposal.  This is an opportunity for the public to do their part in participating in source water protection nationwide.
How Is This Source Water Protection?
So many prescription drugs end up being thrown away or flushed down the toilet that they can end up coming out of a wastewater treatment plant and discharged into the nations river system (80% have traces, according to P2D2).  Or, where small communities/villages have no centralized treatment, these drugs can end up in your septic systems, and eventually find their way into the groundwaters that may be your drinking water supply as well.  The best way to eliminate that threat is to properly dispose of drugs and medicines.
How Can I Alert My Customers?
If you are serious about source water protection, take action today.  Create flyer's and put them up in town letting people know where they can take their medications.  If you have a website or facebook page for your community or water system, put up a link to the program site.  Get involved, its an opportunity to let your customers know how important source water protection is and how they can do their part to protect their drinking water supply.
For More Information.....
The website for the event is here.  On the site, you can find the nearest location in your area where you can take your medicines in.  It also describes what things are not eligible for this program (illegal drugs, liquids, needles, etc).
Have you heard of the P2D2 program started at Pontiac High School in Illinois a number of years ago?  If not, check out their website here.  Started by a teacher and his students, this program is a testiment to the power of public good.  Today P2D2 reaches across the country and also educates both students and the public about the need for proper disposal of pharmaceuticals.  There are a lot of interesting facts on their website about what scientists are finding in our water supplies, why medicines are a risk to our water supplies, and why Americans need to be more aware of these risks, so be sure to take a look.
Continuing with some of the information I learned at the Non-Transient, Non-Community Recertification Workshop in Illinois a few weeks ago, one of the things that really stuck with me was, "Always ask why". You really need to know how it works and what the consequences are of any task you perform with your system.
Operators Are An Independent Bunch
By the nature of their jobs and responsibilities, operators are independent and are used to solving problems by themselves or in non-traditional ways.  They do what they need to, to keep things running and do so typically with limited resources.  Sometimes though, that personality can also lead to situations where they "learn the hard way", or "learn by experience".  The problem with doing that when running a water system is that learning the hard way can affect your customers, cause health problems, or put you at a safety risk.
There's Also Murphy's Law To Deal With
Wayne (the instructor) asked the attendees to think about when problems generally occur with their systems.   Is it on a Monday morning when everyone is at work ready to go, or is it on a holiday, or the day after you've left for vacation and left the system in the hands of your young, new operator-in-training?  Everyone nodded, understanding his point, and everyone could think to a situation where some problem had occurred at a really bad time.  Which is exactly why you and your staff always need to ask why.
Knowledge Is King
It's not enough to know the basic tasks involved with running your water system, "Bob said to add a gallon to the tank after every backwash cycle and I wouldn't have to worry about anything else."  You need to know why you are adding that chemical, what it does, what will happen if you don't, and what will happen if you spill it.  Everyone who might be assisting you needs to understand your system as well as you do, so that if something goes wrong, or a valve sticks, or a pump fails, or the line gets pinched, it won't become a major event that risks the health of your customers or the safety of you and your staff.  Taking shortcuts leads to losing your understanding of both the system and why the guidelines are there in the first place.
Protect Yourself
Most safety hazards can be managed with training and by following safety guidelines on proper handling, use, storage, maintenance, and disposal.  Most accidents occur when these things aren't followed.  If you can't follow the proper procedures because of the cost, have a TA provider come to your board meeting to explain what the costs might be should a preventable accident actually occur (can you say lawsuit?).  Wayne told a really sad story about an operator that was installing pipe and didn't use a trench box for just the last section of pipe.  It cost him his life.  It was a totally avoidable accident caused by being in a hurry.
Some Safety Guidelines Are Overkill
There are reasons for all of the safety measures you are expected to follow as an operator.  Some might seem ridiculous, but the reality is that they are there for a reason, and many times someone before you learned the hard way that its not so ridiculous after all.  After hearing the things that Wayne has seen over the last 30 or so years, the operators who have died or been seriously hurt in avoidable accidents, I would recommend following every safety precaution and guideline that was provided for me.  No guidelines are overkill.
Along with the discussion of chlorine gas safety from Aug 10, Wayne talked about the safety issues related to sodium hypochlorite.  It's becoming the more "popular" choice for small and medium sized water and wastewater plants, but it has issues of its own.
About Sodium Hypochlorite
Liquid bleach is a colorless to light-green colored liquid thats 12%-15% active chlorine. It's a Class 8 corrosive and strong oxidizer. It's considered by some to be a safer alternative to chlorine gas, but in reality, it can be just as dangerous when handled, used, and stored improperly.
  • Sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxider, and as such must be kept away from acids.
  • if adding flouride in your system, any mixing can cause the formation of mustard gas, they must be stored away from each other so spills go to different drains
  • heat and sunlight can cause it to quickly decompose, so it must be kept in a cool area
  • many problems with using it have to do with the chemical-feeder 
Chemical Feeders
There are a number of problems that are easily corrected regarding chemical feeders.  Here are some problems Wayne has seen:
  • located next to same equipment, using same tank or feed pump
  • feeders not labeled to correctly idenify them, several lines side by side
  • containers or carboys not properly labeled
  • no PPE used when handling chemical
  • no eye-wash or shower nearby
  • no encased feed lines
  • using same hand pump for multiple chemicals
  • fill pipes/hoses left submerged can allow back-siphoning
The bottom line is that all chemicals have safety issues and they deserve everyones respect. Learning about your system and the proper use of the equipment and chemicals that you need to provide safe water is always a worthwhile effort and should be a manditory part of your systems management plan.  
At the NTNC Recertification class I attended last week, Wayne Nelson (IRWA) spent a good deal of time talking about workplace safety and disinfectants. Chlorine gas is an important issue because it's still the most widely used disinfectant (at least in Illinois) What really hit home were the real life examples of what not to do that seem pretty simple, but don't always get done when you are short handed, don't have enough resources, or just aren't using your common sense.  All of the information below comes from the class and Wayne was nice enough to let me use some of his material here.
About Chlorine Gas
When used properly, chlorine gas is no more dangerous than other types of disinfectants (sodium hypochlorite-liquid, Calcium chlorite-powder, Potassium permanganate).  In fact, all disinfectants are dangerous if you don't understand how they interact/react with other common chemicals.  Chlorine gas:
  • 2.5 times heavier than air
  • expands 460 times from liquid to gas
  • causes irritation, anxiety, loss of senses, and possible death
  • is rarely a killer
  • injuries occur because of failure to leave area, most of the time
What You Should Know
Here is some practical information that you should know about chlorine gas, it's storage, and use.
  • the fusible plug on chlorine gas tanks melts at between 158-170 degrees
  • if tank can't be opened with a 6-inch wrench, send it back, shouldn't be hard to open
  • you should only open the valve 1/4 turn
  • your water or wastewater plant should have a plan in place for dealing with a chlorine leak (probably more about this in a future post)
  • when changing tanks, should have 2 people involved
  • have appropriate safety equipment available
  • maintain a safe temperature in your chlorine room - too warm can melt plug, too cold can freeze lines and cause leaks
What Not To Do
Wayne went over a bunch of examples of systems that weren't prepared for a leak or weren't managing their chlorine correctly.  Here are some things not to do, or that you should be aware of.
  • Never try to shut off a chlorine valve without a SCOT-pack or hazmat suit, you cannot just hold your breath (a lot of injuries have occurred this way)
  • don't store your SCOT-packs in the chlorine room, this is something Wayne has seen a number of times
  • never spray water to dispel a gas plume
  • don't open the valve 100%, makes it much more difficult to shut off
  • don't try to fix it yourself, follow a plan, get help, be safe
  • don't assume you know how to use the safety equipment, get trained
  • don't be afraid to ask questions, many times someone shows you what to do, but not why its important.  You need to know why, so you will know how to deal with problems.