BY Andrew Chastain-Howley

How to Optimize Operations and Remain Predictably Compliant  

In addition to understanding all the environmental regulations and requirements as they apply to your facility, we have three suggestions to help you stay ahead of the curve to avoid permit violations and fines.

Maintaining compliance with state or federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines can be complex and demanding. The aim is to ensure operations are running predictably without releasing too many pollutants. Unfortunately, many water and wastewater treatment facilities don’t realize they’re exceeding pollutant limits until after the lab samples are recorded and validated. This process can take up to five days, depending on the quality parameter in question. By then, your facility could be facing fines and a long list of maintenance to-dos. 

The trick is to identify and solve issues before the reporting or compliance audit. In many water and wastewater treatment plants, proactive planning is not entirely possible with Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) alone. While SCADA can measure and trend performance against a metric or set point, determining what those metrics should be can be a guessing game. And with aging equipment, there’s a fine line between degradation and failure.

The solution is integrating an Asset Performance Management (APM) tool with Laboratory Information Management (LIMS), SCADA and other relevant data. Doing so allows you to 1) Proactively monitor all assets and process performance; 2) Identify issues; and 3) Resolve issues before it’s too late.


1. Proactive Asset Monitoring

Proactive monitoring starts with collecting the right data and making the most use of it. You can collect relevant data with real-time sensors or design information with run-time and lab data. Real-time sensors are ideal, as they provide more detail, but they are not always necessary if the right calculations are in place. Once your data collection mechanism is setup, then an APM tool can offer automated plant-wide operational visibility, which, in-turn, enables greater communication, efficiency and operational excellence.

With traditional SCADA systems, only a select number of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) have access to critical performance data. With APM, any SME (with permission) from within or outside the organization can access the cloud-based data analytics platform. APM automation, combined with SME oversight, creates a holistic and active monitoring solution.


2. Early Diagnostic

APM identifies equipment and process performance anomalies early on, which allows SMEs to take a proactive maintenance approach and avoid costly emergency failures.

Consider this real example.

An APM solution detected a performance anomaly with an aging blower. The automated system alerted the client to take a deeper look. Because the SCADA didn’t indicate that the blower was anywhere near the alert limits, this utility felt that the issue was invalid. A month later, the blower went down, and they had an emergency outage that lasted 10 days. Their SCADA system and its static set points wasn’t granular enough to identify the issue. APM detects granular data abnormalities as they begin to manifest themselves, which triggers proactive maintenance.


3. Rapid Issue Resolution

Full-scale APM combines a precise blend of industry expertise and machine learning to actively monitor and map asset performance, identify issues, and provide a proactive solution. Once an issue is detected within the APM solution, the SMEs can work consultatively with operators to resolve issues quickly. Alternatively, the reporting alone can empower plant operators to work alongside the SMEs, solutions designers or preferred partner to proactively resolve the issue.


Achieve a Spotless Compliance Record

With APM solutions, it’s possible to monitor assets, diagnose issues and resolve potential compliance violations long before an audit. Get in touch with us to learn how wastewater plants across the country are using APM to maintain EPA compliance and keep their communities and our ecosystems safe.


Andrew Chastain-Howley

Andrew Chastain-Howley leads data analytics solution development for water and wastewater systems at Atonix Digital. He has more than 27 years’ experience in the fields of water resources and asset management including: smart integrated infrastructure, treatment plant monitoring, distribution system optimization, and advanced metering infrastructure. In addition to formal training at the University of St. Andrews, and Cranfield University, his professional background includes work in the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and North America, for numerous government agencies, and private concerns.

Read more blogs by Andrew Chastain-Howley