Training Operators for Future Indirect Potable Reuse
Now is the Time to Determine the Need
The time has come where utilities and municipalities have turned to reuse as a potable water source. The growing scarcity of potable water supplies is among the most important issues facing many cities using single sources of water such as aquifers or surface water which makes turning to augmentation of drinking water supplies with advanced treated recycled water an option. For the folks that haven’t heard of Indirect potable reuse (IPR) it is one of the water recycling applications that has been developed, largely because of advances in treatment technology that enables the production of high quality recycled water at increasingly reasonable costs and reduced energy inputs. IPR is highly treated and discharged directly into groundwater or surface water sources with the intent of augmenting drinking water supplies. Indirect potable reuse allows for a longer retention time due to the injection point being downstream and of the raw water source. By injecting downstream into the aquifers or surface waters remaining contaminants can be degraded by natural physical or biological processes. In California, they are already using IPR in Orange County and San Diego is in the process of going to direct use and getting the public to buy into “toilet to tap” has been a hard sale. Projects are in varying stages in Florida from design, construction, and so on for IPR and now is the time for us along with FDEP to work together to determine to correct training and licensing needed for these systems.
Current licensing is in place for both water and wastewater treatment and many of the same processes are covered in the courses provided by FW&PCOA. Operator certification and training programs are used to provide a minimum standard of operational skill and knowledge for the operations of wastewater treatment plants, water treatment plants, and the management of drinking water distribution systems. While this covers a some of important elements for potable reuse, there currently remain gaps for both some of the technologies applied, as well as some of the operational tasks and methodologies. The water and wastewater training has been developed to cover the requirements for most water and wastewater treatment operators. Recycled water is currently produced by a small percentage of utilities overall, and while rapidly increasing in its application, IPR and DPR remain a relatively small enterprise in comparison to the vast number of water and wastewater treatment plants. Thus, IPR and DPR has not seen significant coverage in existing operator training curriculum or examinations. Direct potable reuse necessitates the application of a variety of relatively advanced water treatment technologies to meet water quality requirements. Some of these technologies are covered to an extent in the existing curriculum. For example, reverse osmosis is applied not only in reuse applications but also for groundwater desalting and seawater desalination for drinking water applications and thus it has some, albeit limited, coverage in the existing drinking water certification training. Similarly, microfiltration and UV disinfection are relatively minor components of the course. Other technologies however, such as advanced oxidation, are not currently covered at all. IPR and in particular DPR are perceived as a higher risk to public health relative to normal drinking water production, due to the nature of the source water employed. In addition to the gaps in training for specific technologies employed, a key focus on the management of this higher risk to health (whether perceived or real) is imperative to the success of operations. More intensive requirements for water quality sampling and analysis; specific requirements for instrument calibration and verification; critical operational monitoring, reporting, and effective operational responses must all be considered in the development of a training and certification process to meet the requirements of DPR. Another area that needs to be integrated into the training is customer relations and compliance due to the publics apprehension to the use of reuse water whether it is IPR or DPR because one system failure will destroy public confidence in any utility providing quality water to the community. Ask anyone that works in Flint, Michigan’s utility how hard has it been to gain the public’s trust again.
The difference between IPR/DPR future licensing and the water distribution system operator license issue is simple. There was a voluntary certification program in place for years’ vs a relatively new process that requires a hybrid of existing treatment operators to perform the daily operations. Currently utilities will leverage from existing operator’s to run these processes and we need to update our certification programs for water and wastewater and plus attention can be focused on developing the additional curriculum that is required, rather than another license. Another option maybe to require AWT as a supplement to existing higher level wastewater or water treatment licenses rather than a dual license requirement. It is also recommended that consideration be given to a competency-based approach to the experience portion of certification required. A competency based approach will provide some certainty that operations staff not only have the knowledge, but are truly competent at specific, required tasks. We should start these conversations and review our current training before we wait too long and have to rush t catch up.
Online Institute – Tim McVeigh
The Online Institute presently has 97 active courses and 411 registered students (82.2% of capacity).
For the 2017 license renewal cycle, the FW&PCOA has sold an average of 79 online courses per month, which is less than the monthly average of 83 courses sold during the 2015 cycle. The average monthly revenue for the 2017 renewal cycle is lower than the 2015 cycle: $3,360 per month versus $3,605 per month, respectively.
There was a staggering decrease in revenue for March 2017 when compared with March 2015: $8,370 versus $15,015, respectively. This month continues a disturbing trend of declining revenue that started in January.
Please continue to advise your members of the availability of the FW&PCOA Online Institute in your newsletters and at your membership meetings. There is less than one month remaining in the 2017 license renewal cycle, so encourage operators to finish earning their CEU.
Be advised that April 30th falls on a Sunday. The last upload of continuing education courses to FDEP for the 2017 license renewal cycle will occur on Friday, April 28, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.
Please publicize the availability of the online short courses: Stormwater C, Utility Customer Relations I, Wastewater Collection C, and Water Distribution Levels 2 and 3.
Don't forget to mention the Class B Drinking Water Treatment Plant Operator and the Class C Treatment Plant Operator courses also.