Iowa Rural Water Assists Community with Water Chemistry; Reduces Nitrites and Saves Money

WELLMAN, Iowa – When the City of Wellman, Iowa started showing high levels of nitrites in their water, assistance from the Iowa Rural Water Association helped adjust the system’s water chemistry, removing the nitrites and saving money.

“When I first started working with Wellman, they had two wells and one was bad,” said Joe Finch, an IRWA Circuit Rider. Circuit Riders are roving water experts that provide training and technical assistance to communities.

The problematic well was high in ammonia and naturally-occurring bacteria.
“The well had a lot of bacteria,” Finch said. “The transmission line was becoming restricted with bio growth.”

Unfortunately, the system’s permit was for two wells with their water blended. Finch worked with the utility, their engineer, and the Department of Natural Resources to amend their permit for one well. The remaining well still produced too much ammonia, but with levels that could be managed with changes to the existing treatment process. “We are unique in that we’re still small enough to have a limited staff and a limited budget, but we still have a very complicated treatment process,” said Tim Garrett, Water Superintendent for the Wellman waterworks.

Wellman’s system was designed to pre-chlorinate the water before the iron filters. The water was then dechlorinated before passing through reverse osmosis membranes, because the membranes couldn’t be exposed to chlorine. The process was not producing the desired water quality.

“We ran into a high nitrate MCL,” Garrett said, referring to the Maximum Contaminate Level standard.
The system would produce too many nitrites and still showed high ammonia levels after the filters were backwashed.

Finch took a mobile water testing lab to Wellman and ran a series of tests throughout the system. After examining the tests, he determined that the pre-chlorination was inhibiting the growth of the nitrifying organisms used to remove the ammonia. He advised turning off the pre-chlorination and the sodium bisulfate pump used to dechlorinate before reverse osmosis.

Finch and Garrett then started a process to track the water’s chemistry as it moved through the treatment plant.

“We both knew what we wanted to do,” Garrett said. “We set up a data-tracking system that allowed us to test and track the water as it moved through the plant daily.”

Finch created a Dropbox account where Garrett could upload the results of daily tests. Then each of them could monitor the results and start making changes. As the changes affected water quality and chemistry, they could identify them and make any corrections needed.

“You don’t want to fix one problem and create another one,” Finch said.

The pair monitored reports for pH, chlorine residual, ammonia, total dissolved solids, nitrites, nitrites and Langelier index, a measure of the water’s corrosion potential. Finch was especially cautious of monitoring the water’s corrosion, to prevent any heavy metals from dissolving in the water.

“It took a while for the biological process to catch up, but eventually it worked,” Finch said.

The changes have made the Wellman plant easier to operate and more efficient. In addition to higher water quality, the community is saving on reduced chemical use and longer RO membrane life.

“Joe has been a big help,” Garrett said. “When you have a small staff it’s nice to have an extra person to reach out to.”

Rural Water Loan Fund Helps Small System Repair Well After Lightning Strike

Rural Water Loan Fund

Want to learn more about the Rural Water Loan Fund? Read more in the upcoming August issue of Rural Water magazine or Click Here

LEAF, Miss. – When a lightning strike damaged Well Number 3 for the Leaf Water Association in Leaf, Miss. it created a financial emergency for the small utility. A loan from the National Rural Water Association’s Rural Water Loan Fund helped the system make affordable emergency repairs to the well.

“We had a lightning strike that split open the steel pipe and damaged the pump at the well,” explained Leaf Water Association Treasurer Pam McClendon. “We were in a bind and we needed help.”

The repairs were estimated at over $140,000, well above the funds the system had on-hand.

“We didn’t have the funds and there were no grants available,” McClendon said. “We decided to try something other than the bank because the interest was so much higher.”

The water association contacted the Mississippi Rural Water Association and began investigating the National Rural Water Association’s Rural Water Loan Fund. The Rural Water Loan Fund is a funding program specifically designed to meet the unique needs of small water and wastewater utilities. The RWLF provides low-cost loans for short-term repair costs, small capital projects, or pre-development costs associated with larger projects. The RWLF was established through a grant from the USDA/RUS, and repaid funds are used to replenish the fund and make new loans.

“We decided it was a good investment, working with rural water,” McClendon said.
The RWLF is designed to have a simple, easy application process.

“I went on-line and filled out the application,” she said. “It was very easy, and I corresponded with NRWA several times. Everyone was very helpful.”

The loan was a huge benefit and allowed Leaf Water Association to make emergency repairs to their well.

“We were just so glad to get it fixed,” McClendon said. “When we learned the loan was approved, I jumped up and gave a shout.”

McClendon considers Leaf’s Rural Water Loan a success and is very happy with the program.

“It’s an awesome program for small, rural communities like Leaf,” she said. “We were not put on the back burner because we were small.”

Florida Rural Water Assists Community Battling Leaks

TALLAHASSE, Fla. – The Florida Rural Water Association recently assisted a community, battling numerous leaks that forced the city’s water pumped to double their production to maintain service.

“The story begins when the city comes to the Florida Rural Water office to borrow a leak detector,” said FRWA Executive Director Gary Williams. “We asked if they needed help along with the leak detector and they said only the equipment was needed.”

The city had isolated the leak, but they wanted to disrupt the service of the fewest possible customers. The leak was pinpointed to a galvanized line that only affected three customers. The community ran new service to those customers and retired the galvanized line.

“That was a great decision, because the line ran under a state highway and this was not going to be the last time they had problems with that old line,” Williams said.

At the same time, a large leak started somewhere in the city. The demand at one of the city’s northern wells spiked from 300,000 gallons per day to 600,000. The city tried to locate the leak, but as the demand approached 750,000 gallons per day, they contacted FRWA for additional assistance.

Williams and one other Florida Rural Water staff member went to assist the city. As they were assisting the city, the leak detector loaned to the community failed and had to be sent off for repairs. Even with the set-back, the rural water experts are able to quickly begin locating leaks in the community with other Association leak detection equipment.

“We first located a leak on a galvanized line, but it turned out not to be the big one,” Williams said.

They later traced a leak to a six-inch PVC line near a storm sewer. That leak was the large leak that was creating such excessive demand and the storm drain allowed it to escape without surfacing. FRWA experts also found another two, smaller leaks in the city before completing their assistance.

“We were taking pictures of the storm drain and leak repairs when the city asked ‘What are you doing? We don’t want to be on the cover of the next FRWA magazine,” Williams said. “We decided to keep them nameless so this run of bad luck doesn’t continue.”

Independence Day Celebrations Would Look Much Different Without Rural Water

Today, people across the United States will celebrate the founding of our nation, most with some combination of barbecue, parades, flags, family and fireworks. The Rural Water Family prides itself on both its love of country and dedication to community. The efforts of the water industry often go overlooked, but before this holiday season, take a moment to consider that our Independence Day Celebrations would look much different without Rural Water.

One of the hallmarks of Independence Day celebrations are fireworks displays. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates that more than 14,000 professional firework displays light the skies on July 4. Another 238 million pounds of amateur fireworks are launched from backyards, parks and streets across the country. The same water utilities that provide quality drinking water are also the primary source of water for fire fighters to combat the estimated 16,000 fires started by fireworks every year.

Benchmarks vary by jurisdiction, but one standard requires water systems be able to supply an extra 250 gallons per minute over the utility’s maximum daily rate, sustained for at least two hours. That’s the rough equivalent of the daily water use of the average house every minute. Rural Water professionals make roughly 30,000 on-site technical assistance visits annually, that include everything from hands-on repairs and leak detection to managerial assistance and rate studies. Rural Water also trains over 100,000 utility personnel every year to ensure communities can provide both the quality of water necessary for drinking and also the quantity needed for fire protection.

Many people will choose to celebrate Independence Day at a lake, river or outdoor location. AAA estimates that at least 42 million people will travel over 50 miles to celebrate Fourth of July, and many of them will do so at lakes and rivers. Lake Mead, by itself, is expected to host over 100,000 visitors for Independence Day, according to the National Park Service.

The lakes and streams that host these Independence Day celebrations are protected by Wastewater Operations Specialists and Source Water Protection Specialists across the country. Wastewater treatment prevents gallons of waste and sewage from pouring into lakes, rivers and streams every day. Rural Water make roughly 20,000 on-site technical assistance visits a year to wastewater systems to help them maintain proper function. Rural Water Source Water Protection Specialists also created plans that provide additional protection from “non-point sources” that include runoff, drainage and seepage. These efforts help preserve the environment and keep lakes, rivers and streams safe for swimming, boating and fishing.

Rural Water also helps preserve the American cookout. Agriculture is one of the largest consumers of water and it is an industry overwhelmingly located in rural areas. Access to clean, reliable, and affordable water helps produce the 150 million hotdogs, 190 million pounds of beef and 700 million pounds of chicken consumed on Fourth of July.

The National Rural Water Association and all the Rural Water Family wishes everyone a happy and safe Independence Day celebration. NRWA hopes that you will also not forget the role that Rural Water plays in serving and protecting our communities on July 4 and every day of the year.

Sizing a VFD: 2 PM CST August 2

Sizing a VFD: 2 PM CST August 2
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Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) have been and continue to be used in many applications within our water and wastewater treatment plants. Applied correctly and the simple VFD will extend the life of your aging infrastructure and even reduce energy cost. Properly selecting a VFD may not be fully understood and this presentation will help demystify VFDs, providing a better understanding as to where and why you would use them. Attendees will cover:

•             The “Don’ts” such as don’t size the drive on Hp alone and Don’t forget the system voltage

•             The “Remember To things like” – location, altitude, enclosures

•             Uh – OH’s like long motor leads and non-invertor motors

•             Maybe a little single phase talking or off the power point topics like harmonics

•             And certainly, during the course we will cover some problem areas and even troubleshooting


About the Presenter

Larry Stanley was raised and educated in the coal fields of rural West Virginia, earning a BSEET degree from Bluefield State College in West Virginia. He has more than 30 years of experience working with all aspects of design, application, and installation of AC drives and soft-starts. Stanley developed and maintained the drive support group for a major manufacturer from 1985 to 1997. He moved into a Senior Field Engineer’s role in 1997, and since then, supports applications including commercial, municipal, hot ladle, distribution conveyance, food and beverage, and more.

Unfiltered Episode 3 – Circuit Rider Program

In this episode of Rural Water’s Unfiltered, host Michael Preston sits down with Missouri Circuit Rider, Joseph Anstine, and Oregon’s Program Manager and Circuit Rider, Heath Cokeley, to discuss the vital services, technical assistance and training provided to rural water and wastewater systems everyday through the well-established NRWA Circuit Rider program.

Illinois Rural Water Circuit Rider Locates Leak in Unmapped Water Main

TUSCOLA, Ill. – When a 120,000 gallon-per-day leak threatened to disrupt service in Tuscola, Illinois, the community turned to experts from the Illinois Rural Water Association to locate the leak.

“They couldn’t keep up with the demand and they were losing water from the tower,” said Chuck Woodworth, an IRWA Circuit Rider. “They would have run out of water in two days.”

A Rural Water Circuit Rider is a roving water expert that provides training and technical assistance to utilities. Woodworth has previously provided leak detection for Tuscola, city of 4,600.

“They were looking for heavy flows in the sewer main because they couldn’t find any water on the surface,” Woodworth said. Usually the pressure from such a large leak pushes water to the surface, unless it has another place to drain.

After searching the town, Woodworth and Dewayne VanCleave, the Tuscola Systems Operations Specialist, located a manhole with water flowing into it.

“There was water pouring in through the seams,” Woodworth said.

Woodworth used a computerized leak logger to pinpoint a possible location. They consulted the system’s pipe maps and tried to narrow down the leak’s location on the nearest water main. Except when the Circuit Rider tried to confirm the location with a ground mic, he couldn’t hear a leak. There was clearly a leak near the manhole, but there was no leak audible on the nearest mapped water main. The only option was to start searching for another source.

“I started using the ground mic to sweep the area,” Woodworth said. “I found and marked a leak sound.”

He and VanCleave consulted the system map, but there was no main listed at that location.

“I used a subsurface material locator to confirm there was a line in the area,” Woodworth said.

The material locator uses UHF radio waves to measure changes in material density.

With the ground mic and material locator indicating the presence of a leaking main, VanCleave decided to excavate the area.

“Within a couple of scoops from the backhoe, water started coming out of the ground,” Woodworth said. “Normally maps are close, but in this case, it was 20 feet off.”

Locating the leak in the unmapped main saved the community thousands of dollars and prevented the water pressure from dropping low enough to require a boil order.

Lead and Copper Rule 101 for Small and Medium Systems: 2 PM CST June 21

Lead and Copper Rule 101 for Small and Medium Systems: 2 PM CST June 21
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EPA will be conducting a webinar on the federal Lead and Copper Rule. The webinar will provide an overview of the requirements that apply to small and medium systems, including: monitoring and reporting, corrosion control, source water, public education and lead service line replacement.

About the Presenter
Edward Viveiros is an environmental engineer in EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. He supports the Drinking Water Protection Branch as an implementation lead on the Lead and Copper Rule and a supporting lead on the Radionuclides Rule. Prior to joining EPA, he was a consultant with Eastern Research Group, where he provided analytical support to the Agency in the areas of wastewater management and chemical policy. He holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering from Northeastern University.

Revised Total Coliform Rule Webinar: 2 pm CST Jun 28

Revised Total Coliform Rule Webinar: 2 pm CST Jun 28
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This webinar will cover the aspects of the Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR) and navigate through changes from the original Total Coliform Rule.

One of the focuses of the RTCR is to find and fix possible contamination issues rather than having an MCL violation for total coliform positive samples.  In place of the MCL violation a Level 1 or Level 2 assessment is done on the system to determine what caused the positive total coliform sample.   MCL Violations, however, can still occur due to positive E. Coli samples, failure to conduct required assessments or failure to fix issues found in the assessments.  The webinar will go through the scenarios of an assessment and/or MCL violation to clear up any confusion with the new rule including the public notification requirements.

Another focus of the RTCR is to limit the number of contaminations that could occur at seasonal systems.  This is accomplished by having the systems conduct state approved start-up procedures that include disinfection, flushing, sampling and fixing any sanitary defects.  It also changed the monitoring frequency for most systems to be at least monthly.  The webinar will go into more detail on these requirements for seasonal systems.

The RTCR also required updates to the sample site plans for water systems.  This included ensuring the routine sample sites were representative of quality throughout the system as well as defining the repeat sample site locations in the event of a positive routine sample.  The updates to the sample site plan for most systems should have been done already but the webinar will go through them as well other sampling requirements.

The webinar will conclude with some common issues that have been found since the implementation of the RTCR.

About the Presenter

Steve Attema graduated from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  After earning his degree, Steve worked at Bolton & Menk, a consulting engineering firm in Mankato, MN where he was involved design and inspection of water and wastewater systems.  Steve then transitioned to operations where he managed an Industrial Wastewater Treatment Facility near Sioux Falls, SD.  Steve currently is a training specialist at South Dakota Rural Water where he conducts safety and water system training as well providing technical assistance to many water systems.  Steve has given many presentations regarding the Revised Total Coliform Rule and worked with the state primacy agency in helping systems comply with the rule.  He has also consulted with several water systems including updating sample site plans, proper sampling techniques, chlorine residual testing, public notification and more.

NRWA Grateful for Congressional Appropriations Providing Robust Funding to Support Rural Water Infrastructure

The National Rural Water Association (NRWA) is grateful for the beneficial support of Congress with its recent approval of robust funding levels targeted to rural America. These appropriations will provide much needed assistance to rural water infrastructure through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rural water and economic development initiatives.

“Rural and small-town USA are very grateful to Congress in recognizing the unique success of this initiative. Over the last 70 years, through the funding provided by Congress, USDA’s rural water initiatives have made great advancements in the standard of living in Rural America,” NRWA CEO Sam Wade said. “These rural water infrastructure initiatives have been the engine of economic development and agricultural-related advances in rural communities, and they have provided for dramatic improvements to the environment and public health.”

In March 2018, Congress provided the largest annual appropriation in history to the USDA rural drinking water and sewer infrastructure programs of $1,060,000,000. This level is almost double the total amount provided in the previous year. The Appropriations Committee also provided Rural Development the maximum flexibility to use the $1.060 billion to support billions of dollars in direct loans and over $950 million for grants targeted to eligible rural utilities. The current backlog for the USDA Water and Sewer Loan and Grant program is approximately $3 billion in applications. This funding and flexibility provided is more than adequate to address the entire current backlog.

Congress has just begun the fiscal year 2019 appropriation process and the initial efforts by both the House and Senate provide continued support to address rural community’s water and waste water needs as follows:

  • On May 16, 2018, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved the USDA fiscal year 2019 budget bill including $637,690,000 for USDA rural water infrastructure.

  • On May 24, 2018, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved their version of the USDA budget bill including $958,183,000 for USDA rural water infrastructure.

“We worked hard to craft a strong agriculture funding bill that provides our small rural communities, farmers and ranchers with the resources they need to overcome the challenges they face in farm country,” said North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, Chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. “This bill makes responsible investments in critical farm service programs, agricultural research and rural development programs to reaffirm our commitment to growing rural America.”

“USDA’s rural water loans and grants are essential to helping rural communities overcome the limited economies of scale and low median household incomes to provide safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation. The initiative funds construction and expansion of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure through grants and loans provided at reasonable rates and terms. Without this assistance, many communities would not have the means to construct new water systems, expand existing systems, or comply with federal mandates,” stated Steve Fletcher, NRWA President and Manager of the Washington County Rural Water Company in Nashville, Illinois.

Most U.S. water utilities are small. More than 91 percent of the country’s 50,259 drinking water systems serve communities with fewer than 10,000 people, and approximately 80 percent of the country’s more than 14,500 wastewater systems serve fewer than 10,000 people.

“We want to acknowledge both the House and Senate and especially the Appropriations Committee members for recognizing the need to increase in investments in Rural America to maintain and upgrade the Nation’s aging infrastructure,” Wade expressed, “Because of this continued support millions of rural Americans have access to affordable and safe public water that their parents did not have and thousands of rural communities have public sewer or wastewater systems that have allowed for elimination of millions of questionable septic tanks, cesspools, straight pipes, or worse. “