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Water: Wastewater Operator Training

Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator - On-Site Technical Assistance Training Program-104(g)(1) - End of Fiscal Year 1998 Accomplishment Report

 

United States Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Water
Office of Wastewater Management
Municipal Assistance Branch

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Purpose

The purpose of this report is to summarize the assistance efforts that the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator On-Site Technical Assistance Training Program - 104(g)(1) has provided to small, under-served community wastewater treatment plants throughout the fiscal year of 1998.

Summary

The Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator On-Site Technical Assistance Training Program assisted 999 facilities throughout fiscal year 1998. Compliance was achieved, maintained, or performance was improved at 890 of these facilities. A Regional breakdown of the total number of facilities assisted by Regions or States are as follows: Region I = 78, Region II = 48, Region III = 109, Region IV = 97, Region V = 239, Region VI = 97, Region VII = 67, Region VIII = 103, Region IX = 37, and Region X = 124 (see table 1).

The majority of the work that was conducted in the Program for fiscal year 1998 consisted of assisting facilities to achieve compliance and improve performance. These facilities fall into two categories; 1) completed training and 2) continued training. Facilities that completed training activities in fiscal year 1998 needed the most assistance in achieving compliance at the treatment plant site. However, the facilities that continued training activities from fiscal year 1998 into fiscal year 1999 need assistance mainly in the area of improving performance at the treatment plant location (see Tables B and C).

Program Background

Section 104(g)(1) of the Clean Water Act authorizes funding for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator On-Site Technical Assistance Training Program. The Program was implemented to address the problem of non-compliance at small, publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants, with a discharge of less than 5 million gallons per day, through direct on-site training and other operation and maintenance assistance. Federal funding for the Program is administered through grants to States, often in cooperation with educational institutions or non-profit agencies. In most cases, assistance is administered by an environmental training center.

The need for individualized technical assistance is real. There are over 12,500 municipal wastewater treatment plants that discharge less than 1 million gallons per day operating in this country. Over half of these plants have sophisticated activated sludge treatment technologies which require highly-developed operating skills. Operator turnover rates at small wastewater treatment plants are high, budgets and salaries are low, and community support may be lacking. These are the ingredients for wastewater treatment plant failure/non-compliance. These types of small, under-served wastewater treatment plants are candidates for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator On-Site Technical Assistance Training Program.

The goal of the Program is to provide direct on-site assistance to operators at small under-served community wastewater treatment facilities, in order to help the facility achieve and maintain consistent permit compliance, maximizing the community's investment in improved water quality. In a cooperative effort with EPA Regional Office Coordinators, States, State Training Centers, Municipalities, and Operators, the assistance endeavor focuses on issues such as, wastewater treatment plant capacity, operation training, maintenance, administrative management, financial management, trouble-shooting, and laboratory operations. There is no cost incurred by the facility in need of assistance. The only requirement of the Program is the willingness to work with a trainer to correct the facility's problems.

Furthermore, the Program can help identify any need to repair or build new facilities to meet existing or future permit limits, assists the town during the process of selecting consultants and design review, recommends ways to improve preventive maintenance of equipment and structures, and often reduces energy and chemical costs through more efficient operation techniques. Most importantly, the Program gets plant operating staff and local elected officials working together on the problems at the treatment plant, in order to improve water quality through efficient use of treatment equipment for maximum environmental benefit.

$1.794 million were allocated to the Operator Training Program in fiscal year 1998, this money is leveraged by the States; $294,000.00 came from EPA's budget request and the remainder ($1.5 million) from a congressional add-on. Financial support for this Program has remained relatively constant over the past five years with little or no change in funding levels.

Number of Facilities Assisted - Types of Assistance Provided
  • A total of 218 facilities have achieved compliance, and the assistance effort is completed at the facility (C);

  • A total of 140 facilities have been assisted with compliance maintenance, and the assistance effort is completed at the facility (M);

  • A total of 93 facilities have improved performance (preventative maintenance), and the assistance effort is completed at the facility (I);

  • A total of 34 facilities have no improvement, and the assistance effort is completed at the facility (N). The majority of these facilities have decided to try and achieve compliance at their wastewater treatment plants through their own methods;

  • A total of 98 facilities have been assisted in achieving compliance, but are still being trained by a Program training center (CT);

  • A total of 70 facilities have been assisted in compliance maintenance, but are still being trained by a Program training center (MT);

  • A total of 271 facilites have been assisted in improving performance, but are still being trained by a Program training center (IT); and

  • A total of 75 facilites have had no improved performance, but are still being trained by a Program training center (NT). These facilities have decided to continue to work with the Program to achieve compliance at their wastewater treatment plant.
Table / Graph Information - Success Stories

Attachment #1, Table-A outlines the number of facilities that have been assisted (by either States or Regional Offices) in each Region. Table-B and Table-C break the Program's assistance efforts down into two categories; completed training assistance and continued training assistance, respectively. These tables outline the assistance efforts that are occurring in each Region. As stated above in the Summary, the bulk of the work that is being conducted in the Program consists of assisting facilities to achieve compliance and improve performance at the treatment plant site.

The bar graph, labeled as Attachment #2, provides a comprehensive view of the number of facilities assisted in each Region for fiscal year 1998. This graph outlines the breakdown of whether the facility achieved or maintained compliance; improved performance; or in rare instances, did not improve, as a result of the Operator Training Program's assistance effort.

The attached pie charts represent a specific breakdown of the amount of assistance that was achieved in each Region by outlining the number of facilites assisted and a Regional percentage breakdown, please see Attachments #3, #4, #5, and #6.

The cover photograph on the left-hand side of this document is Petersburg Wastewater Treatment Plant located in Petersburg, Michigan - Region V. This facility was assisted by representatives from the United States Environmental Protection Agency - Region V, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Management.

The Petersburg facility, a 0.2 million gallon per day activated sludge wastewater treatment plant, had difficulty meeting its NPDES permit pollution discharge limitations for 5-day Biological Oxygen Demand, Total Suspended Solids removal, and pH, several times in 1997. The wastewater treatment plant operation had improved significantly when a new Superintendent took over at the beginning of 1998, but low pH and equipment maintenance problems persisted.

During a one week period in August of 1998, the Petersburg Wastewater Treatment Plant underwent a diagnostic evaluation lead by EPA Region V trainers. The evaluation identified problems with the treatment capabilities of the facility's aeration basin and secondary clarifier.

As a result of the 104(g)(1) Program's assistance, the low pH problems have been eliminated through the careful control of digester decanting and the addition of quick lime during critical treatment periods. Additionally, process control improvements and the installation of a custom designed laboratory software program helped the plant maintain more efficient compliance. Since the period of the evaluation, despite the maintenance problems of some inoperable and outdated equipment, the plant continues to achieve compliance. Petersburg Wastewater Treatment Plant continues to await State funding assistance to help with the replacement of the equipment necessary to assure long-term compliance.

The cover photograph on the right-hand side of this document is the City of Abbeville Wastewater Treatment Plant located in Abbeville, Louisiana - Region VI. This facility was assisted by representatives from the Louisiana Environmental Training Center.

The City of Abbeville completed construction of their existing wastewater treatment facility in October, 1989. The facility is an oxidation ditch and extended aeration treatment system, and is designed to handle flows of more than 2.3 million gallons per day, which are discharged to the Vermillion River in South Louisiana.

Approximately seven years ago the facility began to experience problems with both capacity and effluent quality. The City's engineer, believing that the facility was "over-loaded", took steps towards expanding the facility. Prior to approving this action, the mayor and city council requested the services of the Louisiana Environmental Training Center in evaluating the possible problems at the treatment plant. The Louisiana Environmental Training Center discovered that the problem was a tremendous build-up of sludge in the aeration basins due to improper operations. It was recommended that the basins be drained and the sludge removed; when this work was completed, the facility was successfully put back into operation.

Because of the work done by the above-mentioned trainers, the Petersburg Wastewater Treatment Plant and Abbeville Wastewater Treatment Plant were able to realize a cost savings of over a million dollars. These are two examples of the value of the Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator

On-Site Technical Assistance Training Program - 104(g)(1).

If you have any question, comments, or require more information on this subject matter please do not hesitate to contact Curt Baranowski at 202-260-5806, or you may access this Program's Internet web-page at www.epa.gov/owm/tomm.htm

REGIONAL OFFICE 104(g)(1) COORDINATORS:

Region I = Charles Conway/Mark Malone/Anthony DePalma
Region II = John Mello
Region III = Jim Kern
Region IV = Jim Adcock
Region V = Russ Martin
Region VI = Bill Black
Region VII = Rao Surampalli
Region VIII = Pauline Afshar
Region IX = Helen McKinley
Region X = Terry Moan


Attachment #1:



WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT OPERATOR
ON-SITE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TRAINING PROGRAM
104(g)(1)



"TABLE-A" TOTAL NUMBER OF FACILITIES ASSISTED IN EACH REGION
REGION 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
TOTAL 78 48 109 97 239 97 67 103 37 124

GRAND TOTAL: 999 FACILITES ASSISTED FOR FISCAL YEAR 1998.

 

"TABLE-B" FISCAL YEAR 1998 - COMPLETED TRAINING ASSISTANCE

REGION NUMBER OF
FACILITIES
THAT HAVE
ACHIEVED
COMPLIANCE
(1)
NUMBER OF
FACILITIES
THAT HAVE
MAINTAINED
COMPLIANCE
(2)
NUMBER OF
FACILITIES
THAT HAVE
IMPROVED
PERFORMANCE
(3)
NUMBER OF
FACILITIES
THAT HAVE
HAD NO
IMPROVEMENT(4)
TOTALS
1 13 9 2 8 32
2 6 3 6 0 15
3 22 4 4 1 31
4 22 3 26 1 52
5 57 72 22 5 156
6 27 5 5 12 49
7 16 2 10 6 34
8 27 38 7 0 72
9 1 2 1 0 4
10 27 2 10 1 40
TOTALS 218 140 93 34 485

See APPENDIX "A" for an explanation of footnotes 1 through 4.

"TABLE-C" FISCAL YEAR 1998 - CONTINUING TRAINING ASSISTANCE

REGION NUMBER OF
FACILITIES
THAT HAVE
ACHIEVED
COMPLIANCE
(5)
NUMBER OF
FACILITIES
THAT HAVE
MAINTAINED
COMPLIANCE
(6)
NUMBER OF
FACILITIES
THAT HAVE
IMPROVED
PERFORMANCE
(7)
NUMBER OF
FACILITIES
THAT HAVE
HAD NO
IMPROVEMENT
(8)
TOTALS
1 14 17 14 1 46
2 4 23 5 1 33
3 2 0 50 26 78
4 0 0 36 9 45
5 28 6 43 6 83
6 30 2 14 2 48
7 6 4 15 8 33
8 8 4 11 8 31
9 4 11 9 9 33
10 2 3 74 5 84
TOTALS 98 70 271 75 514


See APPENDIX "A" for an explanation of footnotes 5 through 8.

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APPENDIX "A"

1. Achieved Compliance starts with the facility out of compliance with its NPDES permit at the beginning of the compliance assistance. After the facility has completed its assistance, the facility was in compliance with its NPDES permit. In order to be rated as achieved compliance at the end of assistance, the facility needs to be in compliance with all elements of its NPDES permit for three consecutive months.

2. Maintained Compliance starts with the facility in compliance with its NPDES permit at the beginning of the compliance assistance. However, the facility is demonstrating performance problems which could lead to non-compliance with its NPDES permit. After the facility completed its assistance, the facility has halted any further deterioration in performance, improved its performance, and continued to stay in compliance with its NPDES permit. The underlying theme with compliance maintenance facilities is that there is "something wrong" with performance but it is not "wrong" enough to exceed NPDES permit levels.

  • This type of assistance continues to increase as compliance levels progress, trainers become more skilled, and monitoring and communications improve between operators and trainers.

3. Improved Performance starts with the facility out of compliance with its NPDES permit at the beginning of the compliance assistance. However, compliance assistance is leading the facility to better operation and maintenance. After the assistance has been completed at the facility, "total" compliance may have not been achieved on a consistent basis, but the facility is definitely operating better. The facility has reduced periods of non-compliance, reduced levels of pollutants discharged, or has had significant increases in efficiencies such as: lower energy usage, better (and often lower) chemical usage for proper operation, and adequate financial support enabling operators to better address problems in a more timely fashion. The facility may not be in "total" compliance with its NPDES permit, but it has "significantly" increased its performance. The facility has completed its compliance assistance training with the Program and may still be out of compliance, this is due to circumstances beyond the Program's control such as, the need for an upgrade to the treatment facility.

  • Money saved by better operation can be utilized to finance needed improvements necessary for longer term compliance.

4. No Improvement starts with the facility out of compliance with its NPDES permit at the beginning of the compliance assistance training, and continues to be out of compliance with little or no improvement. The facility has opted to discontinue its participation in the Program.

5. Achieved Compliance starts with the facility out of compliance with its NPDES permit at the beginning of the compliance assistance. Even though the facility has achieved compliance, it is continuing its assistance to ensure a permanent compliance status.

6. Maintained Compliance starts with the facility in compliance with its NPDES permit at the beginning of the compliance assistance. However, the facility is demonstrating performance problems which could lead to non-compliance with its NPDES permit. After the facility has completed its assistance, the facility has halted any further deterioration in performance, improved its performance, and has continued to stay in compliance with its NPDES permit.

7. Improved Performance starts with the facility out of compliance with its NPDES permit at the beginning of the compliance assistance. However, the assistance is leading the facility to better operation and maintenance. After the assistance has been completed at the facility, "total" compliance may have not been achieved, but the facility is definitely operating better. The facility has reduced periods of non-compliance, reduced levels of pollutants discharged, or has had significant increases in efficiencies such as; lower energy usage, better (and often lower) chemical usage for proper operation, and adequate financial support enabling operators to better address problems in a more timely fashion. The facility may not be in "total" compliance with its NPDES permit, but it has "significantly" increased its performance. The facility continuing its compliance assistance with the Program is working on bringing the facility into "total" compliance with its NPDES permit, but has not achieved this status on a consistent basis.

8. No Improvement starts with the facility out of compliance with its NPDES permit at the beginning of the compliance assistance training, and continues to be out of compliance with little or no improvement. The facility has decided to continue to work with the Program to solve its compliance problems.


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