This Technology Can Help Operators Stay on the Right Side of the Compliance Line

Software tools give water and wastewater utilities a centralized place for all functions related to staying on the right side of regulations.

This Technology Can Help Operators Stay on the Right Side of the Compliance Line

Compliance tools from NJBSoft help operators create and modify schedules for sample collection based on permit requirements.

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Keeping a clean-water or drinking water plant in compliance is a daily operating challenge — and also a matter of logistics.

A sound compliance program includes knowing the regulations and the testing requirements, collecting the right samples at the right time, analyzing and compiling the data, creating correct and timely reports to the regulatory agencies and more. The process can be exacting, complicated and time consuming.

NJBSoft aims to help utilities simplify and improve their compliance programs by providing technically advanced software designed for the municipal market. Offerings include SAMSWater and SAMSWastewater regulatory compliance tools, along with needs-specific software development, training and integrated asset management.

The software tools are designed to provide continuous advice and alerts, help create and modify schedules for sample collection based on permit requirements, and simplify monitoring and reporting functions. Pranam Joshi, NJBSoft president, talked about the tools in an interview with Treatment Plant Operator.

What was the motivation for bringing these tools to the market?

Joshi: The intention was to give utilities a common place for compliance management and data management, which in many utilities are not consolidated. We have been described as the TurboTax of water quality. We enable them to have all the data in a single place and all the technologies working together. If they already have technology in place for certain aspects of compliance and are happy with that, we can use the data generated by that technology. Our tools bring everything together and then provide information about their state of compliance.

What does a typical compliance program look like without tools such as you offer?

Joshi: Typically the system would consist of Excel files. A SCADA system would give them one area of information. The GIS would look at locations where their assets are physically listed. They would reach out to their laboratories, internal and external, to send files or to look at the data and type it into a spreadsheet. Then they would to go to state, federal and agency websites to learn what the regulatory requirements are. Finally, they would have to take action.  

What does the compliance program look like for a utility that uses your tools?

Joshi: Our offering has all the schedules built in, which means it will continuously remind them what they need to do. They don’t have to look up anything. The tools can send emails and text messages. They integrate with lab data. Whenever the data comes in, the tool runs through the regulations and tells them what they need to do next. It has built-in connections to SCADA and GIS. Everything is in one place, so they can see the full picture.

How do the tools help with required reporting to regulatory agencies?

Joshi: We have reporting functions that take all the data, combine it and format it into reports that are ready to be submitted physically, via email or electronically into the agencies’ reporting systems. The individual states’ rules and regulations are built into the tools.

How would you characterize the key benefits of the software?

Joshi: It frees compliance officers from the tedious job of entering data from PDF files into spreadsheets, so they can focus on managing compliance. The benefit of the tools should be looked at in terms of how they make a compliance program better. In order to properly manage compliance, utilities need tools that work as effectively as the most capable person. It’s like an insurance policy. On perhaps 95% of the required tasks, they don’t necessarily need to be reminded that something is missing. The problem is that 5% or even 1% that can be missed. Because they can’t afford to miss anything on compliance.

What are some common compliance problems that these tools help users avoid?

Joshi: Monitoring is one of the biggest ones. They’re required to perform a certain level of testing to make sure the water is good, and often the testing requirements are not very straightforward. A testing requirement could have several scenarios: If there are certain triggers, utilities may need to collect additional samples or respond to other agencies. Some utilities may not be aware of all the implications of the sampling results, so they run into problems.

Can you give an example?

Joshi: A very large water utility was required to collect several samples within 24 hours of getting a positive coliform reading. Their volume was so huge that the regulator said they could not manage it manually — they needed to have a system in place. They set up the program in SAMSWater, and it tracks every compliance sample. It sends text-based notifications and reminders and enables back-and-forth communication so that they never miss a sample they have to take because of a positive coliform test.

How are these tools offered for sale?

Joshi: We offer a subscription-based service and perpetual licenses.

Is there any size of organization for which these tools are an especially good fit?

Joshi: Our clients range from very large to very small utilities. For the smallest organizations, the cost may be difficult to justify because they have a limited number of samples to collect. Some of our clients are very small utilities that have experienced being on the wrong side of compliance or have seen similar utilities get into trouble. But midsize to large companies are our prime candidates; they do not need any convincing that they need something like this. 

How would you describe the usability of the tools?

Joshi: It is a cloud-based platform that enables users to access their information remotely. Our app is completely customizable. They are not limited to a standard layout. They can say, “I want to have these 20 fields. I want them arranged this way. I want them in these colors.” Anything that helps them understand the compliance requirements can be designed within a desktop-based application without the need to know any programming. The tools are built on a robust platform so that they can scale at any level.  


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