Clorox to stop using chlorine at manufacturing plants
December 1, 2009

The Clorox Company says it's going to start using high-strength bleach instead of chlorine as a raw material for bleach at seven plants in the US. Bleach is made from sodium hypochlorite and water, produced by dosing sodium hydroxide and water with chlorine. (Sodium hypochlorite, by the way, is similar to the calcium hypochlorite found in chlorination tablets used for disinfecting drinking water.) Clorox is undoubtedly making the change in order to reduce its burden of compliance with new safety regulations likely to be imposed soon by the Federal government involving the storage and use of hazardous chemicals like chlorine. Whether Clorox will continue to manufacture bleach through the conventional means at one plant and simply ship the high-strength bleach for dilution to other plants isn't entirely clear, but since the cost of shipping gas and liquid chlorine is likely to continue to rise as new regulations are imposed, the decision to start changing prior to the imposition of new rules will probably end up saving the company money.

Safety recommendation: Any water or wastewater treatment plants using chlorine ought to have toxic-gas detection equipment in place for detecting chlorine leaks.

EPA offers mixed reviews for Iowa's water-quality standards
December 2, 2009

The EPA has issued a letter to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources approving 79 water-use designation changes and disapproving 71, in response to the state's efforts to revise water-quality standards in order to come into compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act. In the long list of designation changes disapproved by the EPA, the agency says the state didn't adequately prove that recreational uses weren't occurring or couldn't occur, and that as a result, the water bodies and streams involved needed to be held to a higher standard of cleanliness.

Product insight: We have been working for more than a quarter of a century to serve both the municipal water and wastewater sectors in Iowa and Nebraska, both of which are directly affected by efforts to manage the quality of the state's natural water resources. For example, wastewater plants frequently use our dissolved-oxygen monitors and turbidity monitors to determine the quality of the effluent they deliver back to the natural environment.

Testing recommendations for toxic-gas detectors
December 3, 2009

We have long represented Analytical Technology, Inc. (ATI) and their wide range of fixed-point toxic-gas detection systems. In a recent bulletin, ATI notes that many sites fail to test their gas-detection systems frequently enough to ensure the health and safety of the people around. While there's no single testing frequency that suits all situations (ATI recommends conducting a risk assessment to determine the right frequency for any particular site), the unfortunate fact is that many places only notice that their gas-detection systems are out of order well after the sensor has outlived its useful service life. Routine checks of toxic-gas detection systems should be considered a matter of priority maintenance, since their effective operation and performance is critical to the welfare of the people around. Even the most-reliable gas-detection systems around (like ATI's) need regular checking.

Board approves 4% rate increase for Omaha water
December 4, 2009

The board of directors at Omaha's Metropolitan Utilities district has approved a rate increase of 4% for water customers in 2010, but voted down an increase in natural-gas rates at a meeting this week. The higher rates reflect with the costs of inflation as well as considerable expenses being undertaken by MUD related to the separation of Omaha's stormwater and santary sewers. The sewer-separation project will cost the city more than a billion and a half dollars over the coming decade (a project lasting until 2024, according to current estimates), in addition to the expenses borne by MUD to adjust their water service lines for compatibility with the sewer reconstruction.

Product insight: We can do a lot to serve communities looking for help with CSO improvements. We have sluice, slide, and flap gates, which are all used widely throughout sewer-collection systems, as well as products like rotary drum screens and CSO bar screens for high-volume screening of solids from stormwater systems. If you have questions or comments, please let us know.

Cleaner hospitals and hotels
December 7, 2009

The EPA is trumpeting grants of $56,000 for an Iowa program to reduce solid waste at hospitals and health-care facilities and $101,000 for a Nebraska program to promote pollution reduction in hotels and throughout the hospitality industry. While heavy industry often produces a lot of wastewater and air pollutants, hospitals and hospitality centers produce concentrated types of some wastes that need special attention. Hotels often have pools and aquatic centers that require lots of chlorine for safe use, which can put a heavy demand on dechlorination systems at wastewater plants in small systems. Hospitals obviously have a range of biological hazards to deal with, many of which are incinerated so that they cannot escape the hospital facility and reach the broader environment.

Product spotlight: We offer products like pumps for hotel pools and spas and ultraviolet-disinfection systems for hospitals. We also have a range of toxic-gas sensors available for use in hazardous locations, including those that may protect workers near incineration units.

Static mixers are now available
December 8, 2009

New product announcement: We have added our line of Sulzer static mixers to our website for convenient access to more information about these efficient and innovative products for adding solids, liquids, and gases to existing fluid flows. We also offer a convenient inquiry form for static mixers, to help get any project started with ease.

Still open during the blizzard
December 9, 2009

We are still open during this remarkable blizzard that has landed in Iowa and Nebraska. As always, we are also open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through this website. And our products are working across the Midwest, enduring the harshest of weather conditions. Today is definitely the kind of day when having a reliable system in place offers considerable peace of mind.

Slick roadways...unnatural causes
December 10, 2009

We're fighting slick roadways across Iowa and Nebraska today due to a significant blizzard that dumped heavy snow on us, then brutalized us with powerful winds that cause any kind of snowmelt to turn right back into ice. But in New Zealand, a truck spilled a 10-mile-long trail of offal down a highway, in some places almost a foot thick, causing several cars to spin out of control. For those who might not recognize the term, offal is a word for all of the leftover waste from a butchering process. Not exactly the kind of thing a driver might expect to encounter on the roads.

Why are we mentioning this? American meatpacking facilities are pretty efficient -- finding uses for "everything but the squeal", as it is sometimes said. But there are certain wastes that result from animal-processing facilities, and those wastes are treated, pumped, and recovered every day by products like Gorman-Rupp self-priming pumps, Krofta DAF clarifiers, and SSI fine-bubble aeration systems. This professional-grade industrial wastewater treatment keeps waste products off the roads and out of the Midwest's waters.

Clear snow from fire hydrants
December 11, 2009

As we return to a winterized version of "normal" in the Midwest following this week's powerful blizzard, homeowners and business owners alike should make sure that snow has been cleared from around the fire hydrants on and near their properties. When a foot of snow or more builds up on sidewalks and roads, much of it gets shoveled and plowed onto parkways -- and that means that fire hydrants are covered indiscriminately. Municipal water distribution systems are extremely reliable, even in extremely cold weather, and that means that plenty of water is available for firefighting wherever it's needed. But if firefighters have to search for hydrants and clear them of snow, valuable time can be lost in fighting a fire. As a matter of public safety, clearing excess snow from around fire hydrants can be just as important as ensuring that sidewalks and roads are safe for travel.

Product spotlight: We serve America's fire departments from coast to coast with products like portable fire pumps and PTO-driven fire pumps. We also help keep municipal water supplies flowing with pressure-booster stations. If we can do anything to help with your needs, let us know.

Is the Baltimore water main break a sign of things to come?
December 18, 2009

A 42-inch-diameter water main broke in Baltimore on Thursday, causing a huge disruption to the city's water supply -- not to mention lots of damage to the surrounding street. The Baltimore Sun quotes a representative of the city's department of public works as saying, "People can expect more of these because this is part of a national infrastructure crisis." The Baltimore main was reportedly 70 years old -- and that's not uncharacteristic of water supply systems in large cities. Omaha, for instance, has been battling water main breaks in parts of the city where the water infrastructure is more than a century old.

It's not cheap to maintain a modern water-infrastructure system, but it's often even more costly to deal with catastrophic failures like a break in a 42" main. Some water-main failures are caused by air pressure that builds and isn't properly released. The air pressure can exceed the strength of the old metal in the main, causing dramatic failures. That's why we recommend the use of air-release valves to help relieve the pressure within water (and sewer) mains, preventing surges from leading to ruptures.

EPA says the air is safe at Roland-Story HS
December 21, 2009

The EPA has been conducting special air-quality monitoring at Roland-Story High School in central Iowa, out of concern that polyurethane production nearby may have been exposing students and staff to diisocyanates, which could pose a health risk. The results of the EPA's monitoring tests suggest that there's no risk present, which should provide reassuring news to the community.

Product spotlight: We offer ambient air-quality monitors for sites where continuous monitoring of ozone, VOC's, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, or other common pollutants is required.

Broken sensor causes big wastewater spill in Seattle
December 22, 2009

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that a faulty flowmeter signaled a false overflow condition at a wastewater plant near Seattle, causing a spill of about 9 million gallons of untreated wastewater into a bay of the Puget Sound. The plant was experiencing high flows due to stormwater at the time of the activation, but they weren't enough to ordinarily lead to the automatic override feature that opened the gate. The environmental impact is expected to be minimal, as is frequently the case with stormwater overflows, but it does highlight the need to ensure that flowmeters are carefully checked and maintained for accurate service.

Omaha defends its water quality
December 23, 2009

The Environmental Working Group, an environmentalist charity and lobbying organization, has issued a report that ranks Omaha's Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) 94th among the nation's 100 largest water utilities (Des Moines wasn't ranked). MUD says that the analysis doesn't reflect the quality of treated water distributed to its customers and overstates "contamination" by things like minerals that don't affect human health.

Product spotlight: Patterson horizontal split-case pumps are in service at MUD's newest plant, providing pressure to customers throughout the western portions of the water system.

House approves $2 billion for water and wastewater
December 24, 2009

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill which includes $1 billion each for wastewater and drinking-water projects, funded through the State Revolving Fund mechanism (by which states offer low- or no-interest loans to individual communities for infrastructure improvements, the returns from which are reinvested in the fund for future lending). The total package includes $48.3 billion for highways and transportation infrastructure, which may signal how much (or how little) the voting public values clean water. The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies has expressed disappointment that the funds will probably go disproportionately to small communities, but given the relatively sparse populations of Iowa and Nebraska, our portion of the country may benefit disproportionately.

Merry Christmas
December 25, 2009

Our office is closed for Christmas, but as always, we can be reached in an emergency through our emergency paging system. We wish you all the best of the season.

Cedar Rapids told to scale back flood-protection plans
December 28, 2009

The US Army Corps of Engineers has conducted a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed flood protection system for the city, and found that it will cost more than it is expected to save, in dollar terms of damage. The analysis was conducted on a proposal to build floodwalls and levees to match the June 2008 record flood levels. A complete report from the Corps is due next December, which means that the city will face the 2010 flood season without the benefit of improved protection.

Related products: We have worked on a wide range of flood-control projects, specifically including the application of water-control gates like sluice gates and flap gates, as well as high-service pumps for flood control and even portable automated pump stations.

Tougher scrutiny ahead for drinking water?
December 29, 2009

An Associated Press story suggests that the Federal government is developing tougher guidelines for the management of pharmaceuticals that could be finding their way into the nation's drinking-water supplies. The story quotes a researcher who thinks the announcements "signal a change in the regulatory and research approaches" the government will take, but it also notes that considerable uncertainty exists about whether a real human-health threat exists or whether anything can reasonably be done about what chemicals are eventually found in trace amounts in drinking-water supplies. Fundamentally, water professionals are responsible for asking two exceedingly important questions: First, will a dollar spent on managing pharmaceuticals in drinking-water supplies do at least a dollar's worth of good for public health. Second, will a dollar spent on pharmaceutical control do more to protect the public health overall than a dollar spent on other improvements that can be made to our water supplies? Water professionals who are frustrated by the lack of resources being devoted to known problems like microbial contamination of source waters and infrastructure failures -- both of which are known to create a threat to human health -- may be frustrated by political willingness to take dramatic action about unknown or uncertain hazards like trace pharmaceuticals despite unwillingness to deal with the problems we already know about.

Chloride "is pervasive in Iowa groundwater"
December 30, 2009

The Iowa DNR has released a report on the second statewide survey of rural well water, and the report concludes that 94% of samples contained chloride at levels above the minimum detection limit. The report says the "pervasiveness of chloride in Iowa groundwater was unexpected" because chlorides shouldn't naturally appear in Iowa water -- they're thought to be the result of runoff from de-icing compounds and fertilizers.

Related products: We supply a wide range of water-quality monitors to communities in Iowa and Nebraska, and we have been directly involved in projects to contain chemicals like de-icing fluids at Iowa airports with the help of stainless steel water-control gates.

Past water and wastewater news updates

last revised December 2009