EXECUTIVE SUMMARY When Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati needed to comply with an...
Combined Sewer Overflow in Middletown, Ohio
Middletown, Ohio is home to almost 50,000 residents and over 300 miles of sewer pipes. Established in the 1800s, this historic town uses a Combined Sewer Overflow system to drain both sewage and rainwater. This aging system of pipes was frequently overwhelmed when confronted with heavy rainfall causing untreated sewage spilled onto the streets, draining into the Great Miami River then flowing on to the Ohio River.
Combined sewer overflows severely polluted the water and resulted in the US Environmental Protection Agency issuing a consent decree. Changes had to be implemented that would eliminate, or at least severely reduce, overflows by 2034.
As part of the process to clean up this wastewater spillage, the utility enlisted a new plant manager in 2011. This manager prioritized transferring as much as possible from manual to digital processes. Mountains of paper gradually became small hills as the water utility moved its work online. But some activities were disconnected from the digitization progress.
First Try at a Solution
“I am a wastewater systems supervisor, but I felt like a firefighter. Every morning I arrived to work ready to put out fires, the urgent and important problems needing repair. I never knew what problem was waiting for me. But something was wrong every morning.”
Throughout Middletown’s sewer system bulky cabinets housed Programmable Logic Controllers, or PLCs, connected to sensors that measured overflow. Data from the PLCs was transmitted over a radio network, requiring a direct line of sight between the PLC and receiving transmitter in the plant. Anytime a storm moved the antenna a few inches or nearby construction shifted the heavy equipment, transmission was lost until a field team repaired the complicated setup.
The old PLCs frequently broke down. An IT professional only repaired the system when multiple PLCs needed fixing. While the PLCs were down, Middletown wastewater employees stood in the rain to manually track overflows using chalk markings to measure level.
The Ayyeka Solution
Middletown needed a reliable technology to consistently track and gather overflow data. “With only 5 guys, my small crew couldn’t handle another big task,” said Barker, Supervisor at Middletown’s Water Reclamation Facility.
The Ayyeka solution was deployed to track level changes and monitor overflows. The Ayyeka Wavelet edge devices operate fully autonomously on battery and is deployed throughout Middletown’s sewage collection network. Every 10 minutes, the Wavelet measures sewage levels. Every hour, those measurements are securely transmitted to Ayyeka’s Field Assets Intelligence (FAI) software platform.
If the Wavelet detects a slightly abnormal measurement of level, it transmits the data to the FAI software every 30 minutes. If an overflow event occurs – as defined by a severe level change – Barker and his team receive an immediate text, email, or automated phone call notification and the data is transmitted every 10 minutes.
With 8 Wavelets monitoring level throughout Middletown, Lance and his team know where and when overflows occur. With a click of a button, the detailed data is exported from Ayyeka’s FAI software for simple compliance reporting.
“Ayyeka works really well for us because it’s simple,” said Barker. “It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to install – it’s truly a plug-and-play solution.”
“My team makes less trips to the field because the Wavelet devices are a lot more durable than the old PLCs,” said Barker. “And, if anything goes stops working, instead of waiting for an IT guy to come fix it, my guys can easily switch the Wavelet device.”
Now that Barker’s team spends less time manually measuring overflow events in the field, there is time for preventative maintenance… “Now we aren’t busy putting out fires and fixing something every day. When there’s time for proper maintenance, there are less problems overall.”