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Wastewater Treatment Plants Need to Prioritize Remote Monitoring in 2022

Posted by Ian Uriarte

November 30, 2021

 

In 2021, the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District in West Virginia was fined $518,400 in penalties for, among other things, exceeding pollution limits and allowing sanitary sewer overflows.

King County, home to Seattle, faced $105,500 in fines in 2019 for violating sewer overflow standards. This is in addition to the $361,000 in penalties they faced after stormwater mixed with wastewater in Puget Sound. It was an equipment failure that caused this infraction…something that could happen to any wastewater treatment plant.

 

Aerial view of a wastewater treatment plant

 

Why an IoT-Based Remote Monitoring System Is Worth It

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you know just how high EPA fines can get when things go wrong with your wastewater treatment plant, especially when you don’t catch it quick enough.

The EPA fines companies and wastewater treatment plants $2,500 to $25,000 a day for allowing pollutants to enter waters in the United States. If violations continue, that penalty goes up to $50,000 a day. The longer a spill or overflow goes on, the higher that fine reaches.

As operations folks know, there are a whole host of reasons why things go wrong with wastewater treatment equipment. While it’s crucial to prevent those problems whenever possible, it’s smart to have a Plan B.

Imagine your bathroom for a second. It might be in the corner behind the toilet or in a closet, but there is a plunger somewhere. It’s a no-brainer. You don’t want to use it, but you will always have it there, just in case. The alternative is…messy.

What happens if an aeration pump fails? If one of your tanks reaches its limit? You can catch issues like that before they become a monstrous headache and an even more monstrous pollution fee. Because the alternative of not having that safety net is…even messier.

 

How Remote Monitoring Solutions Pays for Themselves. Fast.

As anyone who’s ever had a root canal knows, it’s cheaper (and less painful) to catch problems early than it is to fix them when they’re too far gone. Condition-based alarms and alerts notify you as soon as your plant needs attention and maintenance before things get out of control.

No matter the size of your wastewater treatment plant, this easily-scalable system boosts your team’s control of and responsiveness to your plant’s operations…no matter where they are. If you go a step further with remote monitoring and management solutions, You’ll be able to catch problems and even shut them down from anywhere, minimizing the need to be onsite.

Between not receiving EPA fines and preventing wastewater plant downtime, you’ll notice the cost savings.

 

A wastewater treatment plant at sunset

 

Here’s what our clients who’ve implemented remote monitoring systems enjoy:

  • Stay in compliance with regulatory organizations and avoid environmental contamination
  • Real-time, remote plant performance monitoring and preventive maintenance
  • Minimized repair costs and maximized equipment efficiency
  • No unnecessary downtime or outage
  • Decision-making based on actionable data and trend analysis
  • Intuitive, easily customizable, and ready-to-go dashboards and KPIs
  • A cloud historian with storage of all sensor readings & performance data

 

What IoT Has to Do With Wastewater Treatment Plant Monitoring

You can’t control what you’re not watching. Traditionally, this means a lot of onsite human presence and manual monitoring to avoid wastewater treatment process problems.

However, due to advancements in IoT (internet of things) technologies, you can watch any part of your plant from anywhere. Your operations team doesn’t need to be onsite in order to know what is going on. Data from each sensor is constantly being analyzed by software, cutting out the potential error of manual observation and evaluation.

 

Let’s review the processes involved in industrial IoT

All IoT systems involve connecting “things”, sending and receiving data between the “things” and the data center by means of an IoT gateway, analysis of the data, and actions triggered by that analysis.

While the “cutting-edge technology” name for this is IoT, for most in the field, this is just a remote monitoring system.

Industrial IoT projects often get a bad rap for being complicated and expensive. That’s where the “advancements in IoT” come into play. Now, more than ever, industrial IoT projects are easier, quicker, and more cost-effective to implement. We can thank “out-of-the-box” solutions and pros that are more and more experienced each year for that. As a result, IIoT solutions can be put together using tech that’s already been made. Even custom solutions are easier this way.

 

IoT Remote monitoring architecture diagram

 

What a potential IoT / remote monitoring solution would look like for a wastewater treatment plant

Step One: Data

We hook up IoT sensors to the equipment you need to monitor. You can keep track of flow, current on aeration pumps, backup power, overflow tank volume, and any other performance indicators you need.

Step Two: Communication

Your sensors are constantly sending data wirelessly to the cloud. Most of this data will be regular performance, useful for evaluating when preventive maintenance is pertinent and making business decisions.

Step Three: Integration

Using our own Moonshot IoT, a ready-to-go industrial IoT platform, we’re able to easily integrate into your asset management systems, such as IBM’s Maximo. As IT and operations folks know, system integration is historically one of the biggest challenges when talking about IoT projects.

Step Four: Dashboard

Out of the box, our platform comes with a set of predefined dashboards and KPI templates. We can customize and teach your team to customize these templates to reflect your plant’s performance perfectly.

Step Five: Condition-Based Alerts

If flow, volume, pressure, or power levels reach critical indicators based on predetermined KPIs, alerts will be sent automatically via text message or email before small issues become emergencies.

 

It Always Pays to Have a Plan B

If your teeth have a good dentist… And your bathroom has a plunger… Then your wastewater treatment plant should be remotely monitoring its processes and enabling early alerts on events that are happening, just in time.

Because the difference between just in time and too late might be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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