Sutherland Springs, Texas Tragedy Touches “Rural Water Family”

We often refer to our industry as the “Rural Water Family”. When disasters and/or tragedy strikes one of us, it affects all of us. The tragedy in Sutherland Springs, Texas has touched the Rural Water Family.

The Sutherland Springs Water Supply Corporation is a member of the Texas Rural Water Association. In the wake of this tragedy, TRWA reached out to the general manager of Sutherland Springs WSC, Herb Williams. Mr. Williams tells a story of generosity, faith and hope that will touch every heart within “the family.” More than just our hearts and prayers are needed for this community. We know Rural Water will provide. Thank you for caring and sharing.

“We are comforted by the outpouring of calls and condolences from TRWA members for the members of our system and our community who were impacted by the tragic shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Our community is devastated by this tragedy. As names of the victims come in, we are saddened that each one is a member of our system, as well as friends, family members and school mates of many of our staff. Additionally, our system has a wonderful connection with this church and its community. One of the original organizers of our Water Supply Corporation was a deacon at this church and donated a well site and land to get the Corporation up and running back in 1971. His only payment for this generous donation was an agreement that this church would receive water from the Corporation at no cost. That agreement is still in effect to this day. As devastating as the events that played out yesterday morning are, it also makes us proud that one of our members of the Corporation, since 1995, was the hero who stopped the individual from causing more damage elsewhere.”

Herb Williams, General Manager

Sutherland Springs Water Supply Corporation

This area is very rural, and many in this community do not have the means to rebuild the church, pay for funeral costs or many other financial burdens that a violent crime of this magnitude would bring to any community. There is a local bank account set up that folks can donate to if anyone wants to help. If you would like to make a donation, you may send it to:

Commerce Bank of Texas
Benefit for First Baptist Church
PO Box 97
Stockdale, Texas 78160

Their phone number is 1-830-996-3125 if you would like wire information or other details. All donations will be used solely to assist the victims of this tragedy.

Thank you to the National Rural Water community for helping.

NRWA Partners with Department of Labor on Apprenticeship Program

DUNCAN, Okla. — The National Rural Water Association, the nation’s largest water utility association with more than 31,000 members, will hold a ceremonial signing in conjunction with the United States Department of Labor Nov. 14 at 3:30 p.m. local time on the rooftop of 101 Constitution Avenue NW, to launch a new nation-wide apprenticeship program.

The DOL will provide support for the NRWA as it continues to build the WaterPro Apprenticeship Program, which is set to become a nationally-recognized standard.

Twelve NRWA state affiliates will jointly make the announcement at training events held across the nation for water and wastewater operations specialists These states are already working with to register their programs with the NRWA’s national guideline standard. The announcement and events will commemorate National Apprenticeship Week 2017 and will highlight the need for a national water sector apprenticeship initiative.

CoBank, a cooperative bank serving agribusinesses, rural infrastructure providers and Farm Credit associations throughout the United States, will underwrite $250,000 to help establish the program.

It takes more than 380,000 highly-skilled water and wastewater personnel working to ensure the public supply of safe drinking water in the United States. Advancements in water treatment and supply technology have increased the skills and training required of this workforce. Water professionals are ultimately responsible for meeting stringent regulatory standards, replacing aging infrastructure, recruiting and training new operations specialists, and responding to and recovering from disasters.

The WaterPro Apprenticeship program will be tailored to the specific needs of water system operations specialists and wastewater system operations specialists.

Rural Water Helps Restore Water After Major Leaks Drain Supply Tanks

TORREY, Utah –With its water tanks empty and the system under a boil water notice, the town of Torrey, Utah turned to the Rural Water Association of Utah for assistance.

“I got a call Friday because Torrey was out of water, and they needed help starting their chlorinator,” explained Greg Johnson, a Circuit Rider with RWAU.

Torrey had installed a pressure station with a gas chlorination treatment system, in case there was an interruption from the springs that usually supplied the town’s water. The town called for assistance because the chlorination system had been installed before the current operations specialist came to work at the system.

Unfortunately, starting the chlorinator didn’t fix the supply problem.

“They were supposed to be getting 450 gallons per minute, but they couldn’t make any progress filling the tanks,” Johnson said. “I knew they had a problem then.”

Torrey was forced to go on a boiled water notice, and they struggled for several days to try to restore water. The community tried shutting off water service to residents at night and eventually the restaurants and hotels were forced to close.

“There were a lot of angry people,” Johnson said. “The businesses had to shut down because they didn’t have any water.”

The next step was to begin inspecting the transmission lines that connect the town to its water sources. The eight miles of pipe runs up a mountain and across a canyon and is only accessible by ATV. Johnson contacted Jake Wood, another RWAU Circuit Rider, and they began surveying the line’s airvac and blow off valves. They began finding rocks in the pressure release valves along the line, and eventually located a major leak.

“We found a leak at one of the blow off valves,” Johnson said. “It looked like about 200 gallons per minute was running out of the barrel and over a cliff. So, that was a lot of water just running into a canyon, and it was difficult to spot.”

As they started to repair the pipe, it revealed even more problems.

“We turned off the water above the leak but the water kept draining from the leak instead of the valves we’d opened to drain it,” Johnson said.

By chance, the Circuit Riders had a pipe inspection camera in one of their trucks. They ran the camera down the line and found rocks plugging the line.

“If he wouldn’t have had that camera, we wouldn’t have been able to locate that plug,” said Dustin Oyler, the Operations Specialist for Torrey.

The rocks created a blockage that was restricting flow and creating more leaks. As the water pressure increased above the plug, pipes and seals would fail and create more leaks. Once the leaks and plugs were located, the crews began clearing rocks from the lines and repairing the breaks.

“By midnight, we had the water going,” Johnson said.

Rural Water’s assistance was critical to getting the water restored quickly, and it’s the kind of effort that Oyler has come to expect from RWAU.

“If I have any kind of problem, I can get a hold of Greg and he’s there pretty quick,” he said. “It’s really beneficial for me.”

September and October Water University Graduates

Congratulations to the September and October Graduates of the Water University Utility Management Certification. They are:

Rodney Banks

Shelby Ericksen

Colby Goodliffe

Brittney Griffith

Philip Harold

Michelle Jensen

Jessica Leimer

Paul Lindhardt

Matthew Meyer

Shyloh Muhlestein

David Norman

Jordan Oldham

Luke Sieverts

Ryan Wolfinjer

Becky Wood

See more Water U graduates on the UMC Registry. Those who have already completed the UMC are eligible to renew every three years.

Florida Rural Water Assistance Improves High Springs Disinfection and Chemical Safety

HIGH SPRINGS, Fla. – The chlorine disinfection process for the City of High Springs, Florida was becoming a problem – the method produced too many disinfection byproducts and the utility’s need for tons of chlorine gas was a safety concern.

“The water office is right next to a city park,” explained Rodney Hoffman, High Springs Water Operator and Utility Superintendent. “I prefer using the chlorine gas, but the fact that we were so close to the city park. We were concerned about safety.”

High Springs’s elevated disinfection byproducts were a result of the organic compounds in their water source –  a common issue for Florida water systems. These organic compounds are treated with chlorine, but those reactions leave byproducts that can be unhealthy if consumed in high quantities over a long period of time.

The utility needed assistance transitioning to a new treatment process, and the Florida Rural Water Association provided assistance to test the effectiveness of a new series of chemicals.

FRWA Circuit Rider Fred Handy and Drinking Water Trainer Jason Sparks helped outline a new process and ran the pilot study to determine if it was effective. The pilot study would move high Springs from gas chlorine to a to a combination of hydrogen peroxide and liquid chlorine. Hydrogen peroxide is considered a more potent oxidant than chlorine, but is dissipates more quickly. Liquid chlorine then must be added as a primary disinfectant.

“They did the jar tests to help get the right balance,” Hoffman said.

The Florida Rural Water Staff discovered the system had been using twice as much chlorine as necessary for the past ten years.

“Florida water utilities that have ground water sources impacted by surface water have to show 4-log virus removal or inactivation,” Handy explained, referring to a standard that requires removal of 99.99% of virus.

The contact time calculations for High Springs had been done incorrectly, leading to increased costs and contributing to the high disinfection byproducts.

“We were able to vastly decrease their chlorine use and lower their disinfection byproducts,” Handy said.

The pilot study was designed to run for three months. Success would be determined by the levels of byproducts in future tests and customers’ reaction to the taste and odor of their water.

“So far, it’s been great,” Hoffman said.

Testing showed a significant decrease in disinfection byproducts, including low levels in September when temperatures usually cause an increase in organics. Hoffman credits the assistance of FRWA.

“They’re awesome,” he said. “They’re a great outfit. I can get assistance 24-7.”

“Sometime as an operator, you feel all by yourself,” Hoffman added. “When you have numbers where you can call guys that have the same experience, more experience, it’s a great feeling.”

Rural Water Prepared for Future Disasters with Emergency Response Training

CAIRO, Ga. – Emergency: A Rural Water team starts loading diesel generators onto a semi-trailer while others methodically work through the process of connecting generators and bypass pumps. It’s only a few weeks after hurricanes like Harvey and Irma made landfall, and 83 Rural Water experts from 23 states are in Cairo, Georgia, training for the next potential disaster.

The annual training has been a part of the National Rural Water Association’s focus improving Rural Water’s emergency response capability since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The event was organized and hosted by the Arkansas Rural Water Association, Florida Rural Water Association, Georgia Rural Water Association and Louisiana Rural Water Association at FRWA’s emergency warehouse in Cairo.

“I like to say that emergency response is what you do every day; if a community loses water it’s an emergency for them,” said Gary Williams, FRWA Executive Director. “What we’re training for is when the emergency is more widespread.”

The event is designed to cover all aspects of emergency response, from planning and management, to loading and unloading heavy equipment, to connecting emergency generators. These are the foundational skills for emergency response, but each disaster is unique and they often require responders to adapt to those new situations.

“These hurricanes were bad, but they weren’t like Hurricane Rita,” said Patrick Credeur, LRWA Executive Director, in reference to another, powerful 2005 hurricane that struck Louisiana. “Rita’s 20-foot storm surge washed away over 500 homes in the Holly Beach community and pushed the debris 18 miles inland. It was total devastation.”

Dennis Sternberg and Jeff Ford from ARWA discussed practical equipment upgrades for associations interested in acquiring their own generators or other emergency response equipment. The primary recommendation was to implement a GPS-based fleet tracking solution that would allow the association to track and manage equipment used during the emergency.

“If it moves; we know about it,” Ford said.

Amy Rammo-Kuhs from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division gave a presentation about the operation of Georgia’s State command centers during the recent disaster. She also presented coins to employees from Fort Payne, Alabama, in recognition of the community’s assistance to Georgia after hurricane Irma.


All Photos from the Emergency Response Training

Carbon 101: 2 PM CST Nov. 9

Carbon 101: 2 PM CDT Nov. 9  Register Now

This webinar is designed to provide a basic understanding of carbon, including starting materials, processing techniques and properties.


Ralph Franco PE – Director Municipal Products – Calgon Carbon Corporation

Ralph has spent the last 27 years in the water treatment industry. He has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Penn State University as well as an MBA from Point Park University. He is a licensed Environmental Engineer in the State of Pennsylvania. He originally worked in the industrial water sector designing high purity ion exchange and reverse osmosis systems primarily for the cogeneration and chemical processing sectors. Ralph has also worked in the specialty membrane separations market and the municipal low pressure membrane market as a product manager. Ralph joined Calgon Carbon Corporation’s UV Technology Division fourteen years ago and now serves as the Product Director for Calgon Carbon’s Municipal Business Unit.

Eric Forrester – Municipal Applications Engineer – Calgon Carbon Corporation

Eric Forrester is an Applications Engineer for the Municipal Business Unit at Calgon Carbon Corporation, where he is responsible for product selection, treatment system design, and application troubleshooting for municipalities across the United States. He has been the primary technical point-of-contact for municipal PFAS removal applications since the announcement of the EPA Health Advisory level in May 2016. He graduated summa cum laude from The State University of New York at Buffalo, earning a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a B.A. in Mathematics.

Georgia Honors Fort Payne, Ala. for Assistance After Hurricane Irma

CAIRO, Ga. – After Hurricane Irma left a swath of communities in Georgia without power, the Alabama city of Fort Payne sent a crew of workers and generators into their neighboring state. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources honored their efforts by presenting them coins at the emergency response training held on Oct. 11 in Cairo, Georgia.

Amy Rammo-Kuhs from the DNR’s Environmental Protection Division presented the coins to Randall Neal, David Rigby and Derick Templeton from Fort Payne Water Works.

“They make themselves available 24-7 to assist utilities in Alabama as well as beyond the state line,” said Kathy Horne, Executive Director of the Alabama Rural Water Association. Fort Payne is a member of ARWA and partners with the association on emergency efforts.

Fort Payne provided assistance to Jekyll Island, which was completely without power following the hurricane.

“They were completely blacked-out,” Rigby explained. “We brought in generators to get their water and wastewater up again.”

The crew also assisted a nursing home in Glennville, Georgia. The nursing home’s generator failed, leaving residents, including some on life support, without power. Fort Payne workers helped repair the generator and restore power to the facility.

Videos from the 2017 WaterPro Conference

2017 WaterPro Conference Opening Session

2017 WaterPro Keynote: The Risk of Industrial Cyber Attacks

2017 WaterPro Awards Ceremony

2017 WaterPro General Session: USDA Rural Utilities Services Outlook 2018

2017 Water Pro General Session: USEPA Regulatory Outlook 2018

Are You Smarter Than A Circuit Rider?