Mitigating Risk through Proactive Inspection
Water treatment facilities are extremely elaborate systems. These systems are designed to take the most unimaginably filthy water and make it crystal clear and drinkable, with no mistakes perpetually. The problem with this model is that when issues are discovered in the system and they need to be fixed, you cannot just turn off the taps for a few hours without causing major problems with the public who use the water.
This is a problem that the small Canadian city Regina's water treatment plant at Buffalo Pound Lake has fallen into this past week. High levels of algae in the water have slowed the filtration process to half the regular capacity (CTV Regina 2015). The exact issue would be much easier to locate if the water treatment process were to shut down for a day, but that would leave thousands of people with no clean water and many businesses with no means of operation. Now they must find the issue without disrupting the hurting cycle.
The solution is more of a "hindsight is 20/20" type of situation, but is very true to water treatment plants. The planning process upon construction must include a specific manual for inspections, including where, when and how the inspections are carried out. The inspections and initial construction must take into account the surrounding environment associated with the facility, not just the facility itself. The algae blooms are more likely to prosper in water sources with an overabundance of sunlight and plant nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. These conditions are not generally present in a stainless steel encased water treatment cycle.
The monitoring does not stop at the direct water source that the treatment plant is pulling from; evaluations of the sources that feed the main source have to be taken into account. Areas of concern for storm runoff, nearby agriculture, etc. are areas that if monitored properly for spikes in problem chemicals or marine growth, then preventative actions can be taken to protect the treatment process itself.
Easier said than done. These things still happen, marine growth still finds its way into the tanks. The next line of defense is regular inspection of these tanks, made easy by the Deep Trekker DTG2. Test drive the mini ROV at AWWA's ACE 2015 Conference June 8th to 10th in Anaheim, California.