weftec connect
COVID-19 in water & wastewater systems, CMOM, water reuse and more.

Here are the important takeaways from sessions attended by the Pumps & Systems' editors at WEFTEC Connect Day 2.

Fate of COVID-19 in Water & Wastewater Systems & Implications

Presenters for this topic on Day 2 of WEFTEC Connect were professor Francis De Los Reyes from North Carolina State University and Dan Gerrity from Southern Nevada Water Authority. De Los Reyes provided insights into a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project that is seeking to monitor wastewater from four U.S. cities for indicators of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The research could provide early warning of outbreaks and enable better resource allocation to affected areas. Gerrity provided insights into SNWA research that is measuring the presence of the virus in untreated sewage wastewater and collecting data along with other researchers across the country.

Wastewater-based epidemiology, or wastewater monitoring, is not a new thing, but what’s novel now is the overall focus on one particular target, Gerrity said, and that’s SARS-CoV-2. Everybody is focused on the exact problem, and since this is so different compared to other pathogens researchers have looked for in the past, it’s a challenge to uncover this genetic material since the other viruses don’t have this envelope.

Gerrity mentioned the pool testing approach, such as what you see in wastewater systems coming from dorms, prisons, senior centers and more.

“When you couple with wastewater monitoring and surveillance, it gives you confidence in answers officials will give—when you saw wastewater signal go up, you could go to public health officials and say no, it’s not that you are testing more, there’s something changing in the community, seeing it more in the wastewater side, more of a complete picture of what’s going on,” Gerrity said.

There are different ways to test this, such as solids (fecal matter) or the wastewater samples. Primary solids are an easier metric because of the makeup. De Los Reyes mentioned how the study detects fecal matter before those infected show symptoms, referencing a study by the University of Arizona.

Other things to monitor include trends tracking, prevalence estimation and identification of hotspots such as dorms, prisons, schools and senior facilities.

Gerrity said that once we get through this initial stage, a lot of this can be broadly applied to future targets such as potential future viruses. It is important to leverage momentum that the industry has right now. Wastewater surveillance is not a new component, but how do we make this sustainable long-term? Hopefully COVID goes away, but what if something else pops up?

De Los Reyes mentioned that for people in wastewater plants, the virus threat is still through aerosols. There is no evidence that there are infectious virus particles in wastewater, but he did not want to say it was zero risk.


How CMOM Has Changed Since Implementation in 2005

During the WEFTEC Connect session “CMOM: What Lessons Have We Learned and Where Are We Going?” four water/wastewater experts shared how technology has improved the management of sanitary sewer systems since the EPA published the Capacity, Management, Operations and Maintenance (CMOM) guidance document in 2005. Here is what the experts had to say.

Bill McMillin of Jacobs Global, technology leader for wet weather management:

McMillin said the main CMOM goals of monitoring, testing, inspection and rehab have not changed. “Those goals haven’t changed. The use of professional standards hasn’t changed. There have been huge changes on the technology side,” he said. “We can have things in our hands at the moment.” For example, he explained that flow monitoring used to take a much bigger effort and a lot of cost. “Today we have real-time monitoring and cellular communications, through a SCADA system or it can be remotely done,” he said. “Sensors are so sensitive now we can predict if there’s sediment or clog building up and predict ahead of time before it gets really bad.”

Reggie Wells, Dekalb County, Georgia, director of watershed management:

Being able to account for and control your assets with an asset management system has been very beneficial to maintaining the collection system and managing multiple shifts and crews, Wells said. “You can pull up asset data in the field and have an historical context of what’s happening real-time with those assets. That alone has made it lightyears different than what it was before, which was mostly handwritten, and data wasn’t categorized.”

Reese Johnson, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, superintendent of regulatory compliance and safety: 

The biggest game changer for the Cincinnati sewer district has been the availability of real-time data and turning that into operational changes, Johnson said. The district added 600 sensors that turned it into a “brain” for the collection system. “Now all of these assets can respond in real-time to this data,” Johnson said. “Our wet weather facilities are able to operate better. They can see conditions far away from the wet weather assets–they’re reacting to conditions upstream and downstream. The facility can start taking action sooner.” Johnson said they also use it to improve the water quality in that they’re able to detect where overflow is going to happen, where there’s possible harmful chemicals in the water, so they can ask businesses to alter their operations to avoid that possibility. “Now the facilities are looking at each other and how they’re operating,” he said.

Joe Hoffman, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, risk analysis division engineer:

“Our asset management framework has changed quite a bit,” Hoffman said, noting that they look at risks such as mortality risk from a structural failure and the cost of maintaining a facility. “We can scale our risk from an individual asset to a project and up to a program,” he said. “The data management tools and how we analyze the data, that has matured quite a bit. We’re upgrading to the current version so we can have more capabilities to enter data from the field and do more dashboard reporting.”

Click here to watch this session on-demand.


Global Lessons in Reclaimed Water Use 

During the first half of the session “Conversation on Water Reuse in Industry: Sustainably Supplied from Municipal Resource Recovery Facilities,” Haruka Takeuchi, an associate professor at Kyoto University, spoke about a project being conducted in Itoman city in Okinawa. Her presentation, titled “Evaluation of Applicability of a Reclaimed Water System for Industrial Water Reuse in Itoman City,” has established a value for reclaimed water use in Okinawa, which has been experiencing a shortage of water, but she explained that some challenges lay ahead. The lack of sufficient water quality standards is cause for public concern as are the low rates of economic competitiveness in this arena. She is hopeful that innovations in areas such as membrane technology will improve the feasibility of water reclamation.  

Representatives of the CHS Refinery of McPherson in Kansas, the city of McPherson, and Burns & McDonnell presented on a “Unique Reuse Agreement for Supply of Treated Municipal Wastewater to a Refinery.” They spoke about specific case studies regarding the implementation of a wastewater treatment facility in Kansas and collaborating with the city of McPherson to provide effluent water for the city. Since undertaking these projects, their overall experience has been positive. They found that they could not only generate high-quality water, but they also found that water treatment was a cost effective solution for many industries, that an increasing number of industries have become more open to water reuse, and that water reuse is a valuable solution to the growing problem of water scarcity that many areas are experiencing globally.