NYC-DEP Wastewater Treatment Plants Eliminate Excess Waste

April 8, 2004
Document management system allows rapid, accurate upgrade and refurbishment of New York Wastewater Treatment facilities

About the author: Jeremy Smith is an environmental freelance writer and lab manager for Severn Trent Services. He can be reached by phone at 617/536-8887 or at [email protected].

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s (NYC-DEP) Bureau of Wastewater Treatment manages a comprehensive program to improve water quality in the New York City area.

The city’s 14 wastewater treatment plants, including the North River facility, play a crucial role in NYC’s efforts to improve water quality. Also called sewage treatment or water pollution control plants, these facilities remove most pollutants from used water before it is discharged into local waterways. NYC’s plants treat about 1.4 billion gallons of wastewater from homes, businesses, schools and streets in the five boroughs every day, with water running through hundreds of pump stations and miles of sewers.

In addition, there are drinking water pump stations and extensive water distribution piping. Some of these facilities are over 100 years old and much of the design, engineering and documented information associated with them is at least that old.

The NYC-DEP has a mapping and modeling unit that contains thousands of documents, such as maps of the city showing the drainage areas serviced by the 14 water pollution control plants.

The challenge NYC-DEP faced was that they needed access to documents such as the quad sheets showing the area between watersheds, the geographic region of NYC aqueducts and tunnels, at their finger tips as well as being able to access these sheets from multiple locations.

The NYC-DEP wanted to find a solution that would provide them with a useable repository of thousands of drawings on all these facilities. They needed a scalable, multi-user, Windows server solution, one that would work well for municipalities. The NYC-DEP also wanted a system where they would be able to easily add client licenses to handle increased data volume if needed.

Easy access

In response to NYC-DEP requests to have easy access to drawings and building plans, tenders and contracts, reports, project files and operating manuals, they turned to one of their consultants, Hazen and Sawyer, to assist them in finding a solution to fulfill this need. Hazen and Sawyer evaluated the NYC-DEP requirements and recommended that they collect, scan and build databases of the documentation, drawings and engineering information via Alchemy—a document management system by Information Management Research (IMR)—because it was the only document management software they found that met all of the functionality requirements specified by the NYC-DEP.

After much investigation, Alchemy was chosen because it could provide a straightforward interface to the archive. Its capabilities include database queries, display of search results and downloading of plans.

The application was up and running in just a couple of days, and very little training was needed which was important because several users were not well versed with computers. The software is now managing thousands of NYC-DEP documents, where every document is indexed for fast retrieval—including the full text inside documents.

The NYC-DEP particularly liked that Alchemy’s search engine can resolve index field and full text queries within seconds, regardless of the repository’s size or the age of the documents. The software’s audit logging component also keeps track of document access and use.

Another component the NYC-DEP uses is web functionality to do Internet publishing and to have access to their document repositories, which they are able to do from multiple locations.

“The ability to incorporate vast amounts of data in different formats, in an electronic, searchable database has greatly increased the efficiency of information retrieval and utilization,” said Harold Kohlmann, senior associate of Hazen and Sawyer. “Centralized storage of the data makes it available to the various bureaus and departments throughout NYC-DEP. In addition, storage requirements have the potential of being reduced considerably.”

The system allows old drawings and documents to be scanned and managed directly within NYC-DEP’s network. This data is then collected and organized together with new information, new designs, video files, photos, etc., so that all data can be rapidly retrieved, viewed, used and distributed. NYC-DEP can then take possession of these data sets via CD or DVD and can organize, archive and store the data in easily readable and retrievable formats.

In addition, any work being put out for bid, can be collected and put on a CD and sent to prospective bidders. As any project can have at least 1,000 documents, the software helps to relieve duplication problems, reduce cost and eliminate paper waste.

“The market has been craving an affordable document and records management solution that is easy to use and does not require the integration of software from several vendors,” said Steven Grandchamp, IMR president and CEO. “Our goal with Alchemy is to deliver this…the type of immediate ROI that organizations are looking for—quick-to-deploy software with minimal dollar investment, both upfront and over time.”

About the Author

Jeremy Smith

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