Rob Scott and his team make sure the UConn Reclaimed Water Facility lives up to its role in sustainable water use on a fast-growing campus.
The Reclaimed Water Facility at the University of Connecticut sits right between two other critical utility plants on the campus.
It receives secondary effluent from the university’s Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) and it delivers reclaimed water to the Central Utilities Plant (CUP) for use in the cooling towers and boilers. About 20 to 60 percent of water used there returns to the WPCF.
Rob Scott, project manager with Woodard & Curran, leads a staff of four in fulfilling the Reclaimed Water Facility’s role in the university’s semi-closed water loop. “Close communication and cooperation among the three facilities is essential,” says Scott. “Any operational change or issue at one facility has potential to affect water quality and operations at the other two.”
There is little question that Scott and his team have held up their end of the bargain since the reclaim plant went online in 2013. One testament to their success is a 2015 Asset Management Achievement Award from the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA).
“We’re a very close-knit team,” Scott says. “We hold joint meetings. We work very hard to promote the assignment of responsibility, with the expectation of accountability. There’s a lot of mentoring and training. We have standard operating procedures in place. We develop operating guidelines. We’re always looking to be as efficient as possible.”
Scott didn’t land at the UConn reclaim plant by accident. He applied for the job when Woodard & Curran advertised it three years ago and came on board with ample experience and qualifications. Born and bred in Montreal, Quebec, Scott spent summers in northern Vermont, where his parents owned a campground. He moved to the United States after high school graduation in 1984.
His first job was as a maintenance assistant for three Vermont state park campgrounds. In 1988, his role evolved into operation of the parks’ water and wastewater systems. He did that for three years while attending technical college courses for licensing. He then moved on to operate a lagoon wastewater treatment system serving the Vermont towns of Troy and Jay, where the major customers included a cheese plant and a ski resort.
In 1993, he moved to Connecticut as a circuit rider in the wastewater technical assistance program for the Atlantic States Rural Water & Wastewater Association. Seven years later he hired on with a private developer who owned multiple properties and a large resort in Westbrook, Connecticut. In that role, he handled project management and environmental compliance for the company’s water and wastewater operations.
“When I saw that UConn was building the Reclaimed Water Facility, I felt it was a great opportunity to make a change in what I was doing,” Scott recalls. “I lived fairly close to the university and was following the project through the newspapers. When the project manager job was posted, I applied.”
By that time, Scott held multiple certifications, including Level 3 Wastewater Treatment Operator, Level 1 Water Treatment Operator, and Small Water System Operator in Connecticut; Grade 2 Collections Systems Operator from NEWEA; Grade 5 Wastewater Treatment Operator and Class 2 Public Water System Operator in Vermont; and Grade 6 Wastewater Treatment Operator in Massachusetts.
“When I came on, the project was in the construction and commissioning phase,” Scott recalls. “CDM was contracted to do the commissioning; Woodard & Curran was the university’s representative during the commissioning process. After commissioning, we did the facility startup and optimization.”
The Reclaimed Water Facility is designed to treat an average of 1 mgd and to handle peaks up to 1.5 mgd. Average flow at present is about 0.5 mgd. “We have three redundant treatment trains, each capable of treating 0.5 mgd,” Scott says. “Each treatment train includes a Goulds vertical turbine pump with an ABB variable-frequency drive.
“The water is pumped through a 500-micron Eliminator (Fluid Engineering) self-cleaning auto-strainer before delivery to Pall 0.1-micron microfiltration membranes. The membrane permeate goes through a two-pass TrojanUVFit disinfection system before being stored in a 1-million-gallon tank. Water from the storage tank is sent to the CUP, again using Goulds vertical turbine pumps with ABB variable-frequency drives.”
The treated water is dosed with chlorine or chloramines throughout the process to prevent pathogen growth in the treatment, distribution and storage systems.
The CUP provides electricity, air conditioning and heat to campus buildings. It previously used 250,000 and 450,000 gallons of potable water daily; reclaimed water has replaced most of that demand. The university is exploring use of the water for campus irrigation.
Since startup, the reclaim plant has produced extremely high-quality effluent. “We’ve recorded zero fecal coliform colonies,” says Scott. “BOD and TSS average less than 1 mg/L. Turbidity is less than 1 NTU. It’s really clean. The utility plant incorporates reverse osmosis treatment for water used to produce high-pressure boiler steam.”
Scott shares credit for the plant’s success with Sean Hetherington and Ray Mott, lead operations and maintenance technicians, and Landon Kendricks and Lawrence Woznicki, operations and maintenance technicians. They take care of facility assets using a computerized maintenance management system.
“Everything is electronic,” says Scott. “There are daily facility inspections that include performance confirmation of the online analyzers. We use an electronic inventory system. There is an operations and maintenance manual for each piece of equipment. We’ve pulled numerous operational elements together to give the university staff exactly what they wanted.”
Communication is critical. While the key point of contact is the university’s facility director, multiple parties need to be kept informed. “We work extremely hard to provide anyone and everyone with the information they request in a timely manner,” says Scott. “It was essential to develop a strong client relationship, and I believe we have done that. Our initial contract was for three years, and they’ve already extended us for two more years.”
Communication among the three critical facilities is especially important. “To keep continuity and consistency in service, staff members from all three facilities and the related university departments meet as needed for coordination meetings,” says Scott. “We have viewing access to each other’s SCADA systems. That provides instant feedback about actual operating parameters and water use requirements.”
Furthermore, water-quality sample results from all three facilities are placed in a Hach Water Information Management Solution (WIMS) database, where all parties can track and trend parameters. “All facility operational information is placed on a shared university network, to which all affected parties have access,” Scott says. “When operational issues or maintenance tasks arise that might affect others, we discuss them clearly. We schedule responses so that all parties can act appropriately without unnecessary problems.”
The facilities make efforts not just to improve their own performance but to help the other facilities as well. For example, Scott and his team have taken measures to reduce conductivity in the reclaimed water, enabling the central utilities plant to increase yield and reduce reject water in its RO process.
Engaging with students
The reclaim plant team also engages with university students, faculty members and surrounding communities. “We do literally hundreds of tours, from middle school all the way up to university engineering students, sustainability classes and instructors,” Scott says. “It’s very eye-opening to the people who come through. It’s a state-of-the-art reclaim facility, and we maintain it as such. Everyone who visits is enlightened about how much goes into the water cycle, how nice the plant is, and the career opportunities in the water field.
Woodard & Curran also offers an intern program at the facility — that is part of the contract with the university. “We’ve already had one intern become a full-time operator at a wastewater treatment facility we operate,” Scott says. “Two have become full-time engineers with the company. Another got a good job in the field back in her home state of Minnesota.
“We also co-sponsor senior design projects with the university. Senior engineering students pick a topic and assess how they think they can make improvements in real-life scenarios.”
Scott’s supervisor, Frank Cavaleri, senior area manager for operations and maintenance with Woodard & Curran, calls Scott “a trusted adviser” to the university staff. “They come to Rob for myriad reasons,” Cavaleri says. “We do engineering work for UConn as well as operations. Rob is involved in many of those meetings and in discussions on how to get things accomplished. He helps derive solutions by engaging many disciplines and services.
“He’s excellent in terms of involving his staff in decision-making. He takes excellent notes and documentation and communicates that back so that I can see what is happening on the project. What really sets Rob apart, along with his experience, is his ability to listen. He listens to the client, to his team and to company leaders, and he comes up with plans that work well.
“That’s why he has been able to implement Woodard & Curran’s management tools and help the university implement its programs, as well. He is a great asset to have on our side.”
The University of Connecticut consistently ranks with the greenest schools in the country. Among its sustainability initiatives, UConn works to limit water use on campus and protect the flow in the Fenton and Willimantic rivers during seasonal dry periods while still meeting its water needs. The UConn Reclaimed Water Facility is a key part of that endeavor.
The university operates the only public water supply within a five-mile radius, providing water for its campus and for more than 100 other users, including a town hall, a high school and the growing downtown Storrs Center. The two main water sources are the Fenton and Willimantic River wellfields.
During a drought in 2005, part of the Fenton River ran dry, and the cause was attributed partly to the university’s withdrawals from the Fenton wellfield. New management protocols were put in place requiring the university to reduce its potable water usage by about one-third, or 1 mgd. Needing an alternative strategy to meet its water needs and preserve local water resources, the university built the Reclaimed Water Facility.
Now, instead of sending all of its effluent to Willimantic River, the Water Pollution Control Facility can divert up to 1 mgd to the Reclaimed Water Facility. Water reclamation expands and makes better use of the water supply; it extends drinking water resources by about 20 percent.
On top of that, the university follows sustainable practices in construction and renovation projects to conserve water. That includes installing low-flow showerheads and low-flush toilets. The university has also moved aggressively to find and repair water main leaks.