Does A Condition Based Maintenance Program Have A Role at Water and Waste Water Treatment Plants?
What would life be like if your local Water Company or Waste Water Treatment Plant lost power due to a major failure of their power distribution equipment? Water supports life and an uninterrupted water supply requires reliable electrical equipment that supplies power to pumps and filters. A power loss at a waste water treatment plan could result in untreated water being released into the environment causing algae blooms that are toxic to aquatic animals and even the spread of disease in the community. We cannot forget the government fines that could be levied should this type of event occur. Can the plant’s reliability team predict when a critical electrical system is deteriorating and fix it before it fails? The answer is YES!
An extended power loss can have devastating impacts on drinking water and wastewater utilities and the communities they serve. Inoperable pumps at a water utility plant can impact firefighting capabilities or force businesses like health care facilities or restaurants to close. A loss in pressure can result in contaminants, from soil and groundwater, to enter the drinking water supply. For wastewater utilities, losing power to pumps may lead to direct discharge of untreated sewage into rivers and streams and even cause sewage to backup into homes and businesses.
Water and wastewater treatment companies should conduct a power distribution asset condition assessment to understand the relative health of their essential infrastructure. Some companies will have backup generators to keep the power flowing. However, those backup generators need to be inspected and maintained to insure proper functionality should the need arise and may not protect from all types of equipment failure. An interesting fact: During Superstorm Sandy, many generators failed after 24 to 48 hours because they were not properly maintained!* Other companies may install on-site power generation systems known as Distributed Energy Resources (DER); however, these systems will require routine maintenance as well.
These industries recognize the criticality of establishing and performing condition based maintenance programs on their electrical assets. Routine inspections enable personnel to monitor the health status of critical electrical components and systems. Innovative products and services, called Electrical Maintenance Safety Devices (EMSDs), enable personnel to perform routine electrical inspections of energized assets safely and efficiently. Common types of EMSDs include Maintenance Inspection Windows with Infrared or Infrared and Ultrasound capabilities, Ultrasound Ports and handheld measuring devices, Wireless Temperature Monitoring Systems and Intelligent Asset Tagging Systems. Utilizing these tools within a condition based maintenance program allows the reliability team to routinely and safely perform inspections, collect data, monitor data over time and determine if an electrical asset is starting to deteriorate. These programs allow companies to schedule downtime to fix the asset versus experiencing an unplanned outage and disrupting the lives and safety of thousands of people.
Water and waste water treatment plants cannot tolerate an internal electrical failure that impacts the safety and comfort of their personnel or their end-user customer base. Improved operational reliability and productivity can be achieved by implementing a condition based maintenance program using EMSDs to monitor, maintain and anticipate problems on their generators or on-site power distribution and power generation systems before an actual electrical component fails.
*Source: Power Resilience, EPA.gov/waterresiliency; EPA 800-R-15-004, December 2015