Hach Completes Evaluation of New Water Monitoring Security Platforms

Feb. 28, 2002
The Hach Company successfully demonstrated and evaluated a real-time monitoring platform designed to help water utilities protect against criminal contamination of drinking water systems.

Deployed in two Utah cities hosting the recent Olympic Winter Games competitions, this platform gives water managers the ability to continuously monitor for sudden changes in water chemistry anywhere within their water distribution network.

The Loveland, Colorado-based Hach Company, which has been active in water monitoring equipment for more than 50 years, worked with the Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah water utilities in designing and deploying new platforms for monitoring throughout the two municipalities' distribution networks.

Since September 11, federal and local governments have been reassessing the safety of the nation's drinking water supply systems with an eye toward identifying security weaknesses in the systems.

The most glaring vulnerability experts have identified is the distribution system post-treatment: the miles and miles of pipelines that carry drinking water "downstream" from reservoirs and treatment centers before delivering the water to homes and businesses. Beginning last year, Hach worked with municipal water officials in Salt Lake City and Park City to devise strategies to identify chemical changes in water quality that may have been caused by intentional contamination of the drinking water supply in the post-treatment parts of the distribution system.

"The challenge was to design and deploy state-of-the-art water testing technologies which can detect water quality changes that might indicate contaminants introduced anywhere along the unprotected segments of the system," Hach vice president Jon Chamberlain said. "Using our technology, we created something to help meet the security needs of cities preparing to host major public events that could be the target of criminal acts."

Hach and the municipal officials put in place more than a dozen continuous monitoring platforms that for the first time ever had the ability to measure multiple parameters of water and transmit the data for remote retrieval.

The platforms were placed at confidential locations throughout the distribution networks in Salt Lake City and Park City. The testing equipment was then connected, via unbroken cellular telephone data transfer with built-in redundancy features or directly to SCADA systems.

This data was monitored on an ongoing basis through the Internet, allowing local water officials to monitor for potential contamination of the distribution network on an around-the-clock basis.

The communications abilities of the units were designed in partnership with Wireless Systems Inc. of Evergreen, Colo. That company's "Data Door" is a wireless Modbus Interface specifically designed to communicate with remote process instruments, and operates by enabling the transfer of Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) that is available in most metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Besides being capable of connecting platforms in easy-to-reach locations, the technology can also enable water managers to monitor remote wells and tanks and other hard-to-reach locations within a water distribution system.

"The monitoring devices, in effect, phoned home," said Terry Engelhardt, Hach's senior drinking water specialist. "The ability to use this recent advance in cellular telephone technology enhanced the entire project tremendously. Because absent a way to constantly monitor the data from the instruments on the platform in real-time, the approach would have been difficult to implement in a cost-effective manner." Where SCADA connections were possible, the system provided online monitoring with alarm capabilities directly intyo the main control center.

Hach's findings from the tests will be provided to select water utility industry leaders in late spring.

Their work with the cities hosting the major sporting events, combined with an independent assessment by a renowned water security expert, will be shared with other experts in the field as well as with experts from the Sandia National Laboratories, who visited the project sites to study the platforms. Sandia is a multi-program engineering and science laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We're very pleased with the progress our research and development team has made on this effort," Chamberlain said. "We've demonstrated that you can deploy real-time monitoring throughout any drinking water distribution network, and that there is great value in doing so. We have evaluated the problems and challenges associated with correlating baseline-monitoring data with day-to-day operations activities and chemistry trends. We've explored using a variety of different monitoring technology configurations, and we've identified the appropriateness and usefulness of a multitude of parameters. We are in very good shape to be able to bring this product to the market in a reasonable timeframe." The company, he said, will announce product availability and shipping dates later this year.

Source: Business Wire

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