The intrusion of PFAS into source water supplies has grabbed the regulatory spotlight. As more scientists and health professionals raise concerns about the compounds — technically known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — federal and state environmental agencies are under increasing pressure to impose limits for public protection. Now, it seems that municipalities have another looming headache as PFAS is finding its way into wastewater.
An Escondido water employee’s ingenuity improved safety at a city treatment plant and won a statewide water industry award.
City of Escondido Plant Maintenance Technician Joseph Lucero won third place in the “Gimmicks/Gadgets” category in the 2019 California Water Environmental Association Awards competition. His innovative safety device turns a difficult two-person job working on wastewater pumps into a safer process one person can complete alone.
Lucero, a 20-year veteran in the water and wastewater industry, recently transferred to his current assignment at the city’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF), a secondary treatment facility which can treat a flow of 18 million gallons per day for the City of Escondido and the Rancho Bernardo area of San Diego.
“When I transferred and started working on the grit pumps, I understood why it was among the least favorite jobs to do,” said Lucero.
Brainstorming creates innovative approach
Workers found it difficult to maneuver the heavy, bulky cover over the rotor assembly of the pump. Two people were needed to muscle the cover in tight quarters, and it carried a risk of back strain.
Lucero says he started to brainstorm, tapping his water industry experience.
“I was determined to come up with a device or a technique to eliminate the back fatigue, reduce time, and increase safety,” he said.
Without an existing device or specialty tool available to perform necessary maintenance or repairs, it meant Lucero had to design and fabricate something brand new.
Team effort results in improved safety
Lucero worked on the project during his off-hours.
He first designed the cover device on paper from an original concept, and then made a cardboard sample to produce a mock-up he could work with for placement, fit, and accuracy. A prototype was created which consisted of a bracket, a height adjustment all thread, chain sling device, and the pump cover attachment plates.
After testing the design, Lucero says he received key help from Raul Adame, a Plant Systems Technician at HARRF. Adame fabricated alignment tabs at his machine shop at home to help improve the device.
Lucero always believed in his innovative tool, but said it worked even better than he expected.
New device saves time and costs
“It was an immediate hit with those that work on the grit pumps,” Lucero said. “It saves time, money, and more importantly creates a safer work environment.”
Lucero’s innovative creation is used by all personnel when performing predicative maintenance and repairs on the grit pumps.
“The device turned a two-person job into a one-person job,” said John Del Fante, operations superintendent at the facility. “This device allows an individual to support the full weight of the pump cover, clean the interior easily, and reinstall. It used to take two people to muscle this piece in and out of place.”
For Lucero, winning his award for innovation was an unexpected and welcome surprise.
Plant System Technician Jason Blacksher, a co-worker Lucero calls “my biggest supporter in designing the device,” submitted the CWEA award nomination.
“We are going through a safety culture change at HARRF and it’s working,” said Lucero. “I am surrounded by talented, knowledgeable and innovative co-workers. I learn from them every day as we grow as a team on the path to a safety conscious and innovative culture.”
The Moulton Niguel Water District has agreed to pay $4.8 million to settle a 3-year dispute with South Orange County Wastewater Authority, which processes a portion of the district’s wastewater, according to a settlement agreement released Monday. Moulton Niguel wanted to terminate funding obligations for a treatment plant run by the wastewater authority, the Coastal Treatment Plant, because the water district has rarely needed the sewage capacity since signing a use-agreement in 1999. Instead, it has been able to rely on other plants and has said its customers shouldn’t have to pay for something they didn’t use.
Our public health relies on wastewater management to treat sewage and remove pollutants coming from our homes and businesses. This system is fundamental to protecting our health. In California, treated wastewater also is a critical source of water for the environment, and, increasingly, a source for recycled water. Climate change is worsening water scarcity and flood risks. Advancements in engineering and technology can help prepare wastewater agencies for a changing climate. But significant shifts in policy and planning are needed to address these challenges. Wastewater agencies must reliably remove pollutants even as the quantity and quality of the water they treat declines during droughts, and when large storms push their equipment to the breaking point.
Escalon City Council members on Monday night unanimously awarded a contract to Pace Advanced Water Engineering out of Fountain Valley for a comprehensive study at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The goal of the study is multi-faceted, aimed primarily at finding ways to improve the efficiency at the plant and determine if its capacity can be expanded. The bid price was $72,180 and council members had several pages of detailed ‘scope of work’ information to review provided by the firm prior to making their decision.
The wastewater in Santa Barbara is becoming one of the area’s most valuable resources. It is being converted into several different uses when most people think it goes down the drain and into the ocean. The city has just renamed its water treatment facility and it will now be called the El Estero Water Resource Center. “It will be used for more projects than ever before,” said Santa Barbara Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark.
On February 21, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the City of Los Angeles, the Department of Water and Power, and the Bureau of Sanitation would embark on an $8 billion plan to recycle 100% of its wastewater by 2035. This ambitious sixteen-year plan will involve recycling over 200 million gallons a day of wastewater into around 195,000 acre feet of potable water a year. This new source of water represents about one-third of the City’s annual consumption. It will allow to City to reduce its dependence on expensive water from the Southern California Metropolitan Water District that is pumped in from the Bay Delta in Northern California via the energy intensive California Aqueduct.
The San Diego City Council voted Thursday to move forward with the Pure Water San Diego project, which intends to provide one-third of San Diego’s water supply by 2035. The vote allows the city to award contracts for the first phase of the project, which will involve pipeline construction to move wastewater from a planned pump station in the Morena area to the North City Pure Water Facility in Miramar. The water will then be stored at the Lake Miramar Reservoir before it’s sent to the nearby treatment plant. Next, the water will be blended with other imported water before making its way to taps.
Valley Center Municipal Water District Board of Directors has taken formal action to declare October 6-14 as “Water and Wastewater Professionals Week,” along with hundreds of water and wastewater agencies statewide. Water and wastewater has long been described as the “silent service.” These systems providing these services are “out of sight, out of mind” as long as they work well, and the water comes out with the turn of the tap or the unmentionables are quickly taken away with a flush.
In California, it is a persistent challenge making water supply and water demand match up. A report being released Wednesday outlines how much water California’s coastal wastewater treatment plants dump into the ocean, and how much of that could be saved through better water management. James Hawkins is a water policy researcher at the Santa Barbara-based Heal the Ocean. The nonprofit is focused on reducing ocean pollution, and undertook a multi-year study of the state’s recycling potential. They did so by compiling an inventory of wastewater discharges into coastal waters, wastewater coming from urban cities along the coast.