More than 40 teams are expected to compete this year in New Orleans.
by Jennifer King
September 12, 2018

WEFTEC—the annual water quality technical conference and exhibition—will kick off on Sept. 29 in New Orleans and as part of the event, teams from all over the world will compete in the 31st year of the Operations Challenge.

Pumps & Systems magazine spoke with Steve Harrison, senior manager of operator programs for the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and Sherry Heinly, KSB marketing manager, about the Operations Challenge, the KSB Maintenance Event and KSB’s Conquer the Clog campaign, which brings attention to clogging issues plant operators face every day.

P&S: The five events will be collection systems, laboratory, process control, maintenance and safety. Can you tell us more about each event?

WEF: The process control event will consist of a written test and a scored computer simulation, using the OpTool created by Hydromantis. Teams will try to earn points in the time allowed. Points will be awarded for correct answers in the written test, and for achieving goals in the computer simulation.

In the lab event, operators will run straight and diluted samples of ammonia and alkalinity to determine basic alkalinity needs of treatment plant based on influent ammonia and alkalinity values. Once these values are identified, calculations will be performed to identify if adequate alkalinity is available to provide complete nitrification. If not, the amount of additional alkalinity needed will be calculated.

In addition, profiling of aeration basins and final clarifiers will be part of this equation. Influent and effluent values will need to be determined by analysis, and the appropriate remediation identified.

For the collections event, teams will remove a section of in-service 8-inch gravity polyvinyl chloride pipe, fabricate a replacement section with a 4 1/2-inch compression fitting, and install the replacement section with flexible repair couplings. They will also complete a programming sequence for a 3-gallon composite sample using a Hach AS950 peristaltic sampler. The integrity of the repair will be evaluated.

During the KSB Maintenance Event, the ability of a maintenance team to respond to trouble at a sanitary sewer lift station that has resulted in an alarm will be tested. A pump trouble alarm was received via the SCADA system at the Operations Control Center caused by “flushable” wipes. A crew has been dispatched to troubleshoot the alarm. The teams will troubleshoot the electrical control panel, adhere to safety protocols, erect and deploy a gantry unit with trolley and chain hoist, troubleshoot and perform routine maintenance on the KSB submersible pump, and restore the pump station to normal operating condition.

At the safety event, teams will respond to an unconscious colleague in a manhole. After testing the atmosphere and ventilating the confined space, they will assemble fall-protection equipment and retrieve the victim. After extraction, the victim will be revived with an automatic external defibrillator training module. The entrants will also isolate two gate valves and repair a defective check valve.

P&S: What is the winning team’s prize?

WEF: Automatic qualification and complimentary registration for next year’s event, a trophy and a $500 WEF gift certificate.

P&S: Why does KSB like to be involved in the Operations Challenge?

KSB: It starts with a desire to give back to the water quality community. These operators, who provide clean water and sanitation services to the communities they work in, are usually not known and often work alone. The highlight of this event is that it gives them a chance to show off their skills, and it is an opportunity to show them the appreciation they deserve.

The Operations Challenge attracts competitive and talented people, and it enables us to develop relationships with the operators that are down in the trenches with our products every day. We feel we have much to offer, but also much to learn, from the most dedicated operations personnel in the water and wastewater industry.

P&S: What does KSB hope the Operations Challenge will do for the competitors in the challenge?

KSB: We hope to contribute to their continued professional development. The Operations Challenge provides a venue that exposes the operators to real world applications, therefore reinforcing their knowledge, and arms them with the expertise to deal with issues when they are presented with them day to day. As the prevalence of nonwoven fabrics continues to plague the water quality sector, it is essential that our operations personnel are aware of all of the resources available to them.

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