Ensuring Efficient Operations
Planning ahead for regulatory changes & infrastructure challenges
With ever-changing regulations and increasing pressure to stay cost-effective these days, facilities are tasked with finding new ways to meet performance targets—or recalibrating those targets altogether. Here Jason Tincu, wastewater treatment administrator for the city of Dayton, Ohio, shares his tips for planning ahead.
Elizabeth Lisican: What does your division do to ensure efficient operations?
Jason Tincu: The city of Dayton utilizes a detailed process control program (PCP) complemented with regular budgetary reviews and performance assessments. The PCP is designed to evaluate real-time critical plant performance criteria while also doing historical trending and reporting. It is Microsoft Excel based, was developed in house and has many customized features aimed at meeting the needs of the administrative staff while also serving as a training and process tracking tool for operators.
Regular budgetary reviews also allow managers to evaluate cost relative to historical trends and market analysis of similar-sized utilities. Performance measures are a great way to ensure that individual treatment trains, initiatives and/or staffing levels are meeting the system’s needs and organization’s expectations. Practices such as these have supported an operation carrying 18 straight months of 100% compliance (as of November 2012), while also maintaining the most competitive sewer rate in the region.
Lisican: How can other facilities gain a better understanding of their own efficiency, and ways to improve it?
Tincu: For larger utilities, maintaining a current facilities master plan and financial model relative to the coming decade or so is always recommended. Master plans identify the most feasible alternatives for both present and future conditions, help prioritize and plan plant improvements, help achieve stakeholder consensus and approval, and can result in significant cost savings. In more general terms (and for the smaller municipalities), it is vital to have a road map of where you currently are and where you aim to be in the coming years. Do you have a significant regulatory issue? What is driving the noncompliance and do you have plans to mitigate it? Do you have infrastructure issues that need to be planned and implemented? Where are your operational costs relative to similar sized and permitted facilities within your region? Have you assessed your practices to ensure that they meet the needs of your facility today, and are not just carryover tasks from yesteryear? And, lastly, have these issues been compiled into one document for promotion and education of all related stakeholders?
Lisican: What plans are in place at your facility to ensure effective, efficient operations for the long term?
Tincu: Dayton’s Wastewater Treatment Div. plans to ensure long-term stability in its initiatives by investing in facility infrastructure through [its] Capital Improvement Program, elevating individual performance through its staff development and recruiting initiatives, focusing on sustainable solutions such as biosolids and digester gas recovery and reuse, and implementing proper maintenance schedules and activities.
Lisican: What challenges do you expect down the road?
Tincu: One of Dayton’s major challenges is maintaining an aging facility and an abundance of available capacity. The economic downturn has forced decreasing flow (and subsequent revenues) to the plant. This has driven the need for a major recalibration of performance targets.
In addition to this, Dayton expects a series of regulatory hurdles across the coming years. Nutrients continue to be an area of focus in the Ohio River drainage basin, as regulators attempt to mitigate the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone with permit limits on phosphorus expected in the near term and nitrogen on the horizon. The land application of biosolids also continues to be an area of scrutiny and focus with standard “perception issues,” in addition to land application banning periods and nutrient loading rate issues.