New on the Lakeshore

A multi-faceted training program helps a veteran staff in East Chicago make the shift from conventional treatment to membrane technology and SCADA
New on the Lakeshore

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Most staff members at the Nathaniel “Ned” Ruff Water Treatment Facility in East Chicago (Ind.) had spent 20 or more years working with a conventional sand filtration process, in place since 1964.

A new water treatment plant, commissioned earlier this year, uses membrane ultrafiltration, brand new to the entire team. Pete Baranyai, utilities director for the city, knew the switch would be difficult unless his people were prepared.

So Baranyai worked with the new plant’s engineering consultants and equipment vendors to create training programs for operators and the maintenance staff. The training combined classroom sessions with hands-on instruction on the equipment.

When the plant went into full operation in April 2012, the team was ready. And any new employees will be able to come up to speed quickly, because the city’s multimedia department filmed the training sessions and created a video library.

“It’s a completely different system of water treatment than what we used previously,” Baranyai says. “Our operating and mechanical staffs were faced with a whole new mechanism, and my reading was that maintenance on the membranes had to start from day one. We were able to develop a comprehensive training program, get the plant off to a good start, and lay a foundation for years of reliable performance.”


Built for growth

The old 24 mgd treatment plant, which used aluminum sulfate coagulation and sand filtration, was reaching the end of its useful life. Its location in a redevelopment zone on the shore of Lake Michigan (see sidebar) made it a candidate for replacement. To serve the city’s 32,000 residents and industrial and commercial customers, a preliminary design report recommended construction of a new membrane plant.

The project team of American Structurepoint, Black & Veatch, and Amtech provided value engineering, preliminary and final design, resident engineering and inspection, SCADA configuration, and construction administration for the $35.7 million, 17.3 mgd filtration facility. The plant is expandable to 30 mgd to meet 30-year projected demand.

“Everything is piped and flanged off and space is available for expansion,” says Baranyai. “We also made provision for in-pipe UV disinfection, should that become desirable or necessary in the future.” The project includes:

• A raw-water pumping station with traveling water screens (Siemens), vertical turbine pumps (Fairbanks Morse), automatic self-cleaning strainers (R.P. Adams) and a powdered activated carbon feed system (EnPro).

• An operations building with bulk chemical storage, chemical feed systems (ProMinent USA); Memcor CP pressure membrane filters (Siemens); mechanical, electrical, office and laboratory rooms, a high-service pumping station (Fairbanks Morse), and a package plate settler for the filter backwash water (Meurer Research).

• A membrane backwash equalization tank.

• A 2 MW diesel-fueled backup power supply (Caterpillar).

• A 4-million-gallon finished water storage reservoir (with space on-site allotted for an additional 3-million-gallon reservoir).

The city retained its Lake Michigan intake structure but extended the raw water tunnel to the new site on the south side of Cline Avenue using a slurry microtunneling installation method. The pre-engineered membrane filtration system has a modular configuration that simplified design, installation, and operation.

Hollow-fiber technology (0.4 micron pore size) provides a positive barrier against viruses, turbidity, suspended solids, and pathogens while providing 97 percent overall system recovery. The system includes fully automated backwashing, air-scouring and in-place chemical cleaning for the membranes. Filtrate is disinfected with sodium hypochlorite, fluoridated, and delivered to the finished water storage reservoir.


Significant change

The plant staff includes eight operators, eight maintenance personnel and a clerical staff under director of water operations Brian Marciniak and assistant plant manager Richard Carr. The team members were all accustomed to the conventional treatment system, and Baranyai feared a major change would be hard on them.

“They had all been doing the same thing for a long time,” he says. “Before, we were using settling tanks, alum coagulation, and dual-media filtration. We had already made the switch from gaseous chlorine to sodium hypochlorite for disinfection, but other than that it was a whole new system.

“We have the membranes, new pumping systems, a traveling water screen for removal of large debris, and a new straining system. We had distribution pumps at the old plant that were engine-driven, and now we have pumps with variable-frequency drives and soft starts, plus a whole new electrical system.

“We also went to an elaborate SCADA system that was designed and configured by Black & Veatch using Wonderware software (Invensys). The old water treatment plant didn’t have a SCADA system to control the entire plant. Mostly it was a case of local stations to turn things on and off. Now everything is done off a keyboard. So it was a major learning process.”


Up to speed

The training program, led by American Structurepoint and Black & Veatch, ran for eight weeks and, all told, each operations and maintenance team member received about 80 hours of instruction.

Classes were held every work day, with morning and afternoon sessions to accommodate different shifts. Content included classroom lectures supported by slide programs, videos and eraser-board work, as well as hands-on practice.

“The operators received training on each piece of equipment separately as well as an overall plant operations session,” says Heather Cheslek, P.E., engineering manager with Black & Veatch. “We had quite a bit of vendor-specific equipment training with two to four hours of classroom time, plus hands-on work.”

The major pieces covered included the raw-water and high-service pumps, the traveling water screen, valves, the plate settler, the chemical feed systems, the membrane filtration system, and the SCADA system.

The operations and maintenance teams both took essentially the same training. “Many of the vendors broke their training into sections with operations focus and maintenance focus, but the city chose to have all its people attend all of the classes,” says Webb Bernhardt, P.E., major projects construction administrator for American Structurepoint.

Baranyai notes that the maintenance staff from the city’s wastewater division also took the water plant training for cross-training purposes, so that they are prepared to assist with troubleshooting and problem-solving, if needed.

Siemens’ contract included extensive training on the membrane filtration system. “When the Siemens team changed out membrane modules that displayed leaks during initial testing, city operations and maintenance personnel were there with them, assisting, so they would learn how to do that,” says Bernhardt.

“The membrane control system is programmed to automatically test the membranes on a regular basis and will detect changes in pressure that can indicate when there are leaks or tears in membranes. When an alarm condition is reached, the operators need to know how to isolate a membrane cartridge and take it out of service, and they also need to know how to replace that cartridge. So they went through both of those procedures.”

In addition, although the filter backwash, air scouring and cleaning processes are fully automated, operators needed to be trained to understand and respond to indications on the control panel.


The bigger picture

SCADA training was extensive. “They never had a SCADA system before, and now they had highly sophisticated control systems and PLCs, so it was essential to get the operators feeling comfortable with it,” says Cheslek. “We had meetings with the operations team as early as January 2010 to get them used to seeing the screens and to ask what they thought about the screens.

“Once the system was configured and up and running, we concentrated on each of the screens — how to log in, how to check setpoints, how to check and acknowledge alarms, how to fix things, how to navigate from screen to screen. We taught them what everything means in the HMI (human-machine interface), how the HMI works with the servers, how it backs up, and how reports are generated.”

For SCADA viewing in the operations room, the city installed a wide-screen flat-panel TV. “It makes eminent sense, and it creates an excellent impression when people walk in and see something like that,” says Baranyai.

Besides training on individual devices, the engineers taught the team how to operate each of the plant’s systems and optimize overall performance.

The team made sure that as much of the training as possible was approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management so that it could be applied toward operators’ continuing education requirements for licensing.

“We submitted several of the classes for CEUs,” says Cheslek. “Since the operators were spending so many hours in the classroom or on the floor learning about these new pieces of equipment, we thought CEU credit was very appropriate.”

Bernhardt notes that nearly all classroom and hands-on sessions were videotaped and catalogued by the city’s multimedia team. “They have some talented videographers,” he says. “They were in the right place at the right time to capture the essence of the training. I think it will be very useful. For example, if the maintenance team needs to repair a pump or other equipment, they can review the video as well as the vendor-provided manuals and have a solid understanding of what needs to be done.”

The multimedia department also videotaped walking tours of the facility for presentation on the city’s local-access cable station to help give the public a basic understanding of the new plant and treatment process.


Looking ahead

Now that the new water plant is fully online, Baranyai sees a modern facility with a well-trained team strongly positioned for the future. Knowing the city faces a wave of retirements in the not-too-distant future, Baranyai plans to work with the Indiana Vocational College in East Chicago toward establishing a water and wastewater program. “We need to get an infusion of younger people in here,” he says.

Meanwhile, he sees possibilities for expanding the treatment process and selling water to neighboring communities — a source of revenue that would help the city in a time when budgets are under stress.

He is pleased with the water plant staff and the results of the training: “I have to give a lot of credit to the trainers — they’ve done a good job. Our staff has responded extremely well. They’ve taken the training to heart and I am confident that they will run this plant in a way that takes full advantage of the new technology.”


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