EPA approves Iowa's new water-quality standards
June 1, 2009

After months of review, the EPA has approved changes to Iowa's water-quality standards, which are intended to increase the level of protection required for many of the state's lakes, rivers, and streams. The new standards include new designations for classes of water use, some of which will require considerably more effort to achieve than prior standards. Meeting the new standards will require work from the municipal, industrial, and agricultural sectors.

A call to action amid technicians
June 2, 2009

The state of the nation's infrastructure has probably received more attention as a result of the ARRA ("economic stimulus") package than at any time since the water industry boom of the 1970s. Yet most of what the public appears to know is that the "stimulus" money is being spent in order to increase the number of construction jobs. A real technical understanding of the atrocious state of the nation's civil infrastructure is almost completely lacking. At least one writer thinks we can trace the disjoint between the technology that makes modern life possible and a real understanding of that technology to the failure to make technology a cornerstone of a "liberal arts" education -- and the failure of technical-minded folks like engineers to speak up in the political sphere. The piece is decidedly worth the read.

Crops are off to a good start
June 3, 2009

Good weather has allowed farmers in Nebraska to get a very good start to the year, with both corn and soybean planting well ahead of the normal schedule. The agricultural situation bears heavily upon the water environment in our region, particularly west of the Missouri River. The vast preponderance of all water use in Nebraska is for agricultural irrigation -- a relationship that is mirrored on a global scale as well -- though the difference between irrigation demand in Iowa and irrigation demand in Nebraska is stark: In 2000, Iowa used 21.5 million gallons of water per day to irrigate 84,500 acres; Nebraska used 8.79 billion gallons of water per day to irrigate 4.11 million acres. The states share the same latitude, but differences in weather patterns and soil quality make an enormous difference. We serve the agricultural water industry with products ranging from water-quality monitors to canal gates to portable pumps.

How to select the right pump
June 4, 2009

Often, the entire process of selecting a pump consists of nothing more than trying to meet a condition point. Unfortunately, by cutting the pump-selection process short, operators can find themselves wasting lots of effort when things go wrong. The chief of engineering at Gorman-Rupp has prepared a brief guide to pump selection, which highlights several frequently-overlooked factors that can make an enormous difference to a pumping system's long-term reliability. Among those factors are the pump materials' resistance to abrasion, the availability of OEM repair parts, the ease of service, and the quality of the pump's mechanical seal. With literally hundreds of pumps and packaged pumping stations in operation throughout Iowa and Nebraska, we have developed considerable in-house proprietary knowledge about best practices in pump selection and operation. We can help you with with your questions; please feel free to contact us and let us know what we can do to assist you.

Membrane material advancements could mean safer water
June 5, 2009

Many conventional mechanical wastewater treatment plants rely upon aeration systems to add oxygen to the water, enhancing the aerobic digestion of sludge and resulting in safer effluent to be returned to rivers and streams. In the past, many wastewater aeration diffusers were made of ceramic, which required extremely labor-intensive and often dangerous cleaning, using lots of chlorine gas in addition to hand-scrubbing. EPDM rubber membranes have emerged as a vastly more efficient and fouling-resistant alternative to ceramics. The switch to EPDM membranes has saved huge amounts of cleaning labor in many plants. But even further improvements are possible. Take, for instance, the introduction of a special material called fEPDM. Developed in 2007 and launched only last year, fEPDM membranes are now being shown in testing to retain substantially more of its plasticizer content than other membrane materials. This means that the diffuser is likely to last measurably longer -- with even less fouling -- than its standard EPDM cousins. In the end, better-performing, cleaner, and longer-lasting diffusers result in better wastewater treatment, which in turn means safer water for everyone.

Muscatine begins sewer separation
June 8, 2009

The city of Muscatine, Iowa, is starting a storm sewer separation project -- one of many that will be taking place across Iowa over the next 20 years. The EPA's orders to separate storm sewers from sanitary sewers are going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars across several Iowa communities, and the process will take time as everything from new pump stations to outfall flap gates are installed in places like Muscatine, Ottumwa, and Des Moines. We can help with several components of these projects, including some sophisticated CSO equipment.

Thankless tasks in city infrastructure
June 9, 2009

When some torrential rains fell on Waterloo, Iowa, at the end of April, some residents got water in their basements as infiltration from the storm worked its way into the sanitary sewers. Among the homeowners affected: The city's mayor. The event gave the mayor an opportunity to implore the city council to back him on future projects to control storm water, saying, "Keep this in mind for the potential to do things better." Storm sewers -- and repairs to existing sanitary sewers to prevent infiltration and inflow (or "I&I") by stormwater -- are far from being as eye-catching or easy to campaign for as new pedestrian bridges and convention centers, but some places are fortunate enough to have municipal leaders who can sell their communities on the need for water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure improvements before their need becomes obvious.

Cleanup and repair continue a year after Iowa's natural disasters
June 10, 2009

The EF-5 tornado that hit Parkersburg, Iowa, and the flooding that affected much of the state of Iowa last year are still having significant effects on the state, even as FEMA and other agencies mark the anniversary period. The state has received billions of dollars in recovery funding from the Federal government. While the dignitaries conduct their obligatory photo-ops, the people living in the affected areas are continuing to do their cleanup and repair work, and the work that's needed is sometimes quite unexpected. We recently shipped pump repair parts to the city of Parkersburg. It turns out that the massive tornado was powerful enough to blast the manhole covers right off of the city's sewer lines, in addition to all the other damage it created. As a result, debris was washed into the sewers and eventually into (and through) the city's pump stations.

"Huge gap" in funding still slows flood recovery
June 11, 2009

The head of the Rebuild Iowa Office says that about $2 billion has been committed to flood recovery in Iowa, but that leaves an $8 billion gap to the overall damage total. Fortunately, the estimated damage was less than half of the inflation-adjusted total damage from the Floods of 1993, but the two events together confirm the importance of adequate flood mitigation and protection. We have assisted a growing list of communities with portable pumping stations for flood mitigation, among many other useful products.

Summertime reasons for ammonia monitoring
June 12, 2009

Ammonia content is one of the parameters often used to measure effluent quality in wastewater systems, since it helps measure the success of the treatment process for the nitrogen cycle. But ammonia can also play a role in clean-water systems as well -- specifically, in places where chloramines are used for disinfection. During the warmer summer months, systems that use chloramines to provide disinfection need to monitor their ammonia levels closely due to the hazard of thermal layers which can cause chloramines to break down. The new technology inside the automatic ammonia monitor from ATI can help improve the quality of ammonia measurement while keeping operator intervention to a minimum. If you have questions about these new ammonia monitors, we invite you to contact us for more information.

The history of water tells us about the future of cell phones
June 15, 2009

The start of modern municipal water treatment can be traced to an outbreak of cholera in London in 1854. John Snow determined that the disease was being spread by a water pump on Broad Street that was drawing contaminated water from immediately beneath a sewer. The Broad Street pump case is renowned for demonstrating the value of epidemiology and for initiating a drive towards improving municipal drinking water. Today, the very same lessons that helped Snow determine what had caused the outbreak and how to stop it are being applied to the spread of "infections" through mobile-phone systems. The lessons of the Broad Street outbreak are still being applied today, since millions of people still don't have access to safe drinking water. Most Americans are probably unaware of just how much effort goes into delivering safe drinking water to their homes and workplaces, or of how much is required to safely treat wastewater so it can be returned to the natural environment.

Helping the economy in our own little way
June 16, 2009

Among the top stories in the news today is the latest report on the Producer Price Index, which is up by two tenths of a percent over last month. While the economy may still be trying to find its way out of a recession, we're doing our small part to help by offering a whole bunch of new items in our special sale section of our online store. These limited-time clearance offers currently include pumps, ultraviolet disinfection systems, and hoses, all selling at discounts to their normal prices. We recognize that there's unusual interest in saving money in the current economic climate, and we're pleased to offer a few limted-time opportunities to get great deals on water products while supplies last.

Past mistakes can be costly
June 17, 2009

A jury in Minnesota has returned a verdict in favor of the 3M Company, saying that the company behaved as responsibly as the knowledge of the time allowed when it allowed perfluorochemicals to make their way into the ground around the Twin Cities until the mid-1970s. Homeowners had sued the company, saying that the presence of those chemicals in their groundwater damaged their wells and reduced their property values. Certainly the company is pleased to have avoided additional judgments against it, but it's already spent $15 million on cleanup efforts, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune -- or $50 million, according to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. Either way, cleanup costs in the millions of dollars for mistakes made 30 years ago or longer are eye-openers to any firm involved in the industrial use of water today. We have seen similar cleanup-related issues in Iowa and Nebraska, at places like army ammunition depots and former munitions plants in both states. In many circumstances, the concerns surround the contamination of groundwater via dumping and spills. Contemporary producers and users of chemicals may wish to note the value of geomembrane liners to create a long-term durable barrier against the infiltration of chemicals into the soil, where it almost inevitably seems to leach into groundwater supplies.

Coralville considers its flood-control options
June 18, 2009

The city of Coralville, Iowa, is working on plans for updated flood protections around the Iowa River as it passes along and through the city. The floods of 2008 caused serious damage to a large portion of the city, and Coralville is applying for millions in Federal funding to help improve the quality of the floodwalls around the city. One of their biggest challenges will be working around the needs of the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway that passes right next to the river. The community is looking at 5,000 feet of flood mitigation projects. The area requiring new flood protections is bordered by 1st Avenue and Highway 6. The city is looking at a variety of options, including better earthen berms (which can be improved with the use of geotextiles), portable flood walls (similar to stop logs and roller gates), and conventional concrete floodwalls. We are available to assist with questions on flood-control projects of many types. Contact us with your questions.

Iowa may soon have chloride and sulfate rules
June 19, 2009

Iowa's Environmental Protection Commission is accepting public comments from now through August 14th on plans to impose limits on chlorides and sulfates in the state's rivers and streams. These parameters can be measured using water-quality monitors. We would be happy to answer your questions about water-quality monitoring.

No state irrigates more than Nebraska
June 22, 2009

Nebraska has eclipsed California to become the state with the most irrigated acres of agricultural land in the country. Nebraska farmers irrigate an estimated 8.56 million acres of land, a figure that has been on the rise for at least the past decade. Most of that irrigation is via center-pivot technology, as opposed to the canal style of irrigation more common in California and elsewhere. It is the canal style of irrigation for which the canal gates we offer are most commonly used. We also offer a range of vertical-turbine pumps for well use and portable clean-water pumps for farm uses of many types.

Ottumwa seeks answers: Where is the pollution coming from?
June 23, 2009

The city of Ottumwa, Iowa, is under orders from the EPA to separate its storm sewers from its sanitary sewers -- a mandate handed down to several other Iowa communities, including Davenport and Des Moines, both of which are also working on separation projects. In Ottumwa, the city has asked consulting engineers to investigate whether the pollution found in the Des Moines River as it passes through and beyond the city is coming from the city's overflow sewers or whether it is mostly attributable to non-point-source pollution, which in Iowa is mainly the result of rainwater runoff from farm fields. If they can prove that even a sizeable investment in sewer separation is unlikely to yield any significant environmental benefits, the city is hoping it might be able to avoid a huge bill for the separation project. The impact of major civil-works projects in Ottumwa could be especially significant at this time, as the community attempts to cope with a large layoff event at the John Deere plant which is one of the largest employers in the area.

We can help you with related products, from wastewater samplers to many of the items needed to conduct stormwater sewer separation proejcts, like pump stations. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

A dark and stormy day and night
June 24, 2009

Tuesday's massive storm system has really pounded the state of Iowa, leaving behind wind damage, street flooding, and power outages across the state -- particularly in central Iowa and in north-central Iowa. The combination of heavy rainfall and high winds leading to power outages serves as a reminder of the value of sump pumps that can operate without electricity for homeowners and businesses, and lift stations with engine backup systems for municipalities. Strong storms tend to produce the conditions under which reliable pumping systems are needed most -- from sump pumps in the basement to lift stations carrying the water away. Having a power backup system translates to peace of mind, and can free up valuable time for city employees who may have other issues to attend to -- like cleaning up debris and closing flooded roadways. Storms tend to produce lots of inflow and infiltration in many sewer systems, so even those communities that don't have combined sewers still feel the effects of heavy rainfall.

The windmill as Nebraska's state icon
June 25, 2009

A member of the board of the Nebraska State Fair thinks that the fair should adopt the windmill as its icon when it makes the move next year to Grand Island. Windmills were widely used by farmers in the past to pump water out of ground wells for irrigation. Aside from being aesthetically pleasant, the board member says that the use of the windmill as an icon serves to remind people that Nebraska's economy depends upon water. The state contains almost 20% of all irrigated cropland in the country. As it turns out, the rise of massive wind-based electrical generation in neighboring Iowa may in fact mean that, through interstate electrical transmission, many of those pumps being used to produce irrigation water may again be powered by wind. Nebraska is unique among the states in that it is served entirely by public power districts owned by their local communities. The relationship between energy and water is overlooked far more often than it is recognized, but in fact, power generation is by far the biggest category of water use in the United States.

We can help you with a wide range of products for electrical-power generation, particularly where water is involved, from chlorination tablets to toxic-gas detection equipment. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Why centralized treatment of wastewater is here to stay
June 26, 2009

Fast Company magazine features an article in its latest issue touting the innovations behind a building in Rhinebeck, NY, that will treat 5 million gallons of its own wastewater every year. The system includes a 10,000-gallon tank for collection, an artificial wetlands process for treatment, and a "green lagoon" for polishing the water. While the project is certainly innovative, the notion of managing all wastewater on-site is probably less efficient than the technology might suggest. The process itself can work, but in the real world, lots of things end up being flushed down the drain -- many which shouldn't be -- and that's part of what makes centralized treatment at a municipal wastewater treatment plant efficient in the long run. There are those who have suggested in the past that all wastewater treatment could be conducted with reed beds and wetlands -- former Vice President Al Gore made one such argument about a decade ago. But with concerns about emerging contaminants, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals in our water, it's unlikely that urban areas will ever become attractive spots for on-site treatment. On-site wastewater treatment is an obvious necessity for remote sites like parks, campgrounds, and rest stops. We serve those kinds of users with things like chlorination tablets and small pumping systems. But for municipalities of any real size, pumping the wastewater to a centralized wastewater treatment plant is really the only viable way to ensure quality wastewater treatment.

How will Omaha pay for $1.6 billion in sewer separation?
June 29, 2009

Omaha faces a massive bill -- estimated at over a billion and a half dollars over the coming decades -- to pay for separating its stormwater sewers from its sanitary sewers. The cost of the project is huge, and at such a size, finding the best funding opportunities could save the city additional millions over the long term. The city is now looking at whether to use bonds subsidized by the Federal government, issued as part of the economic-stimulus package, to help pay for the project. The city's sewer system has an average of 58 overflows a year, and the separation project is intended to reduce that number to four.

We can help you with flap gates, pump stations, and a variety of other products useful for sewer-separation projects. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Could you use 140,000 gallons of water in a month?
June 30, 2009

The water agency serving Washington, DC, sent a bill in March to a 99-year-old homeowner for $1,181, saying that she used almost 140,000 gallons of water in a month. Even after testing the meter, the officials say the bill was correct, though it's hard to imagine what kind of leak the homeowner is missing. The average household water use in the US is just 127,400 gallons per year -- so, somehow, the DC homeowner in question is losing more in leaks or some other missed usage every month than most households use in a year. Instances such as this one serve as a reminder just how little attention most people pay to their household water use from municipal water systems. It's only when something goes terribly wrong that most people even notice at all.

Past water and wastewater news updates

last revised June 2009