Continued from Summer 2023 Issue of WIAWWA Newsletter
Full article below by Gary Laguna of Hurley, WI Water Utility
Cross connections can be a menace that water utility systems just don’t need. Defined as ‘Any actual or potential connection between the water supply and a source of contamination or pollution, cross connections with potable piping systems have resulted in numerous cases of illness and even death. Not only must laws regarding cross connections be enforced, but staff and customers of those systems must be educated on potential cross connections and how to neutralize those hazards.
When I entered the role of certified operator-in-charge for the city in 2009, not only hadn’t the city performed cross-connection control surveys, neither had they developed nor implemented a formal cross-connection control plan. Starting from scratch, for even the most seasoned of water system operators, can be a daunting task as regulatory requirements and facility operations transform. Knowing that compliance requirements needed to be met, the city enlisted the services of HydroCorp and that’s when they stepped up and shined. Through the cross-sectional diversity of their company, HydroCorp developed an effective cross-connection control program tailor fit to meet the specific needs of the city complete with purposes and authority, definitions, requirements, inspections, penalties, and public education materials. Customizing their services to meet the specific needs of our community, HydroCorp offered a variety from a completely hands-free approach taking complete control of all aspects of the program to a smorgasbord approach enabling us to draw on certain aspects that best reflect our circumstances and preferences.
Partnering with HydroCorp has made life a lot easier for city staff in managing and maintaining cross connection compliance. Since the initial collaboration in 2010, HydroCorp completed an inspection of all commercial, industrial, and public authority facilities. They continue to inspect most all of the aforementioned facilities keeping complete and accurate records as well as furnishing non-compliant notices for outstanding violations and year end summaries for the Wisconsin DNR. To help maintain costs, city staff performs follow up inspections for outstanding violations as well as performing residential inspections.
Another advantage of the affiliation is their water meter replacement or changeout program. For years the city has been plagued with the issue of unaccounted for water. Having mostly antiquated meters that were already or approaching end of useful service, combined with the fact that one-half of its approx. 850 customers having to be physically read via either interrogating a touch pad or worst yet, gaining entry into the customers basements, the city chooses to undertake a complete replacement of all water meters. Once again it was a phone call to HydroCorp to assist in the replacement. Through their trained staff, the meter division offers not only the services of meter replacements along with cross connection inspections at the time of install, but they also compile a comprehensive log of other pertinent system information such as service line material data, piping inventory, and sump pump discharge information.
After being furnished with the city’s customer database, they quickly sent customers initial notification of scheduling procedures which included an 800 number, the ability to schedule on-line, or the opportunity to have the customer schedule directly through city offices. Upon initiation of the replacements, they were able to effectively complete the required number of replacements in 6 weeks which was 2 weeks ahead of the proposed schedule. Through this endeavor, the city has significantly minimized non-revenue water, increased efficiency while decreasing the costs of meter reading, and ultimately improved service to its customers by using SMART metering technology through an AMI fixed network system. The new meters identify leaks, reverse flow, burst, empty pipe, tampering and provide both ambient and water temperature to help identify potential freeze-ups.
The City of Hurley is now able to get a real-time snapshot of its water loss on a daily basis rather than through the previous quarterly meter reading. With all the challenges that water systems continue to face, it is quite evident that we are all in this together. Our water system, our customers, and HydroCorp continue to work collaboratively to improve system efficiency, eliminate cross connections, and to ultimately achieve the most important goal of all: Protecting Public Health. I’m proud to not only refer to the HydroCorp staff as partners but also as friends!
BPA – Certified Operator-in-Charge
City of Hurley Water Utility