Another high risk of fires today
April 1, 2010

Most of Iowa and Nebraska are under heightened risk of wildfires today -- with an unusual fire danger threat even for central Iowa in addition to critical fire weather conditions for much of Nebraska. The fire threat is a result of high winds, low dewpoints, rising temperatures, and lots of dry fuel out in the open. It cannot be overlooked that the situation seems paradoxical, since Iowa still has a long list of flood warnings, but the flooding was largely the result of snowmelt, and there has been little precipitation in the last two weeks. We still have portable pumps for fire protection available for quick shipment, as well as parts for a wide range of firefighting pumps. It's best to test firefighting equipment now, before it's needed, than to wait until an emergency and discover that parts aren't working.

Some jobs are really, really dirty
April 2, 2010

If it weren't for reality television, there's probably little chance that many people would know even the first thing about anything that happens to water once it goes down the drain. So perhaps we in the water and wastewater industries should be excited that the upcoming episode of "Undercover Boss" features the CEO of Roto-Rooter draining sewer lines. But it's hard to make sure that stories like these (or a similar recent episode of the same show, which showed the CEO of Waste Management pumping out portable toilets) don't take the pitfall of patronizing their subjects, rather than acknowledging that lots of difficult (and sometimes dangerous) work is required of people who have some pretty sophisticated technical skills, just to keep flowing the long list of conveniences we associate with modern society. Mike Rowe does one of the finest jobs of showing respect to his subjects , as he did when he went to a San Francisco wastewater treatment plant. Anyone who's ever wondered why we think self-priming pumps are incomparably better than submersible pumps should just watch how repulsive it really is to deal with submersible pumps (serving as the main lift pumps at a wastewater plant). All else being equal, a self-priming pump will be cleaner, safer, and easier to work with than any comparable submersible pump.

Severe storms could cause new flooding
April 5, 2010

The National Weather Service notes that there is a considerable risk of severe weather in Iowa and eastern Nebraska today. A significant risk of hail exists, along with chances for tornadoes -- but the heavy rain that could fall might cause saturated soils to build runoff and lead to both flash flooding and river flooding.

The time to prepare for flood risks is long before the actual storm. Municipalities should check their flood-control pumps to make sure they're working, exercise their flood-control gates to make sure they'll close when needed, and ensure that flood-control measures like portable water-filled dams are ready to deploy on short notice.

Special note: We're offering some very special discounts in our online store through late June. This presents a unique opportunity for utilities looking to make tight budgets go a little farther. See what we have on sale right now and act before this unusual opportunity closes.

Land application might need to wait a few days
April 6, 2010

It's common practice in the Midwest for farmers to apply animal manure to their fields to enhance the growth of crops. Manure from hogs and cattle especially tends to be high in valuable nutrients like nitrogen. However, the Iowa DNR is suggesting that farmers wait for fields to dry out after spring snowmelt and new precipitation (like what's fallen in the last 24 hours) before applying the manure, since saturated soil can't hold the nutrients. Instead, manure applied to wet soils can end up running off directly into streams. That, in the words of the DNR, "can mean the difference between dollars in the bank and pollutants in the stream". Non-point-source pollution is one of the most significant issues in water quality throughout the Midwest today.

We can help you with products for a variety of uses on the farm, including portable diaphragm pumps and manure pumps. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

90 seconds that will have you thinking all day
April 7, 2010

The charity has released a video (they call it a "trailer", but it's not clear for what) showing the 30-minute walk that some Ethiopian women have to take twice a day every day to collect from the water well closest to their homes. The video shows the walk in time-lapse format, so the 30-minute hike only takes about 90 seconds to watch. But even those 90 seconds are longer than it takes most Americans to reach the nearest clean-water tap, thanks to safe municipal water supplies and systems like pressure-booster stations that provide the pressure required to keep those systems delivering everything from drinking water to fire protection. Watch the video and gain a better appreciation for just how much we take our clean water for granted.

Mudslides in Brazil have probably killed hundreds
April 8, 2010

Brazilians are dealing with a series of mudslides that have displaced thousands of people and probably killed hundreds after intense rainfall hit the city. We often take for granted here in the United States that the ground we build upon is stable and secure, but that security is the result of decades of practical engineering knowledge and experience having been built up. We use geotextiles to hold soil in place and buttress slopes with concrete walls and other stabilizers to keep things from falling apart. The effective management of stormwater remains one of the great engineering challenges of this century, even in developed countries. And in places hit hard by natural disasters, like Haiti, the need to keep contaminated runoff from reaching and poisoning clean water supplies is extremely important.

The value of a good lagoon cover
April 9, 2010

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources noted last November that heavy late-season rains had interfered with farmers' ability to land-apply manure to their fields, which combined with additional rainfall made for a lot of trouble with full manure-storage facilities. One of the benefits of lagoon covers is that they can keep rainfall from adding volume to an already-full lagoon. Every inch of rainfall over a one-acre lagoon displaces about 30,000 gallons of storage. Moreover, lagoon covers offer additional benefits by capturing odors and even (when properly outfitted) capturing valuable biogas which can be burned for energy and heat.

Understanding and overcoming water shortages
April 12, 2010

It's estimated that a billion people around the world live without reliable access to safe drinking water. This situation compounds the effects of other kinds of poverty, since time and energy expended to retrieve and purify water end up detracting from other productive activities -- and because the additional time lost to illnesses due to contaminated water magnifies and compounds the trouble. We are rarely reminded just how much is done on a daily basis to protect life and health in the United States by the work of basic tools like chlorination systems and more advanced ones like particle counters, but their behind-the-scenes work at thousands of municipal water-treatment plants all over the country save millions of hours of labor which can then be put to more productive use.

Old warships battling the environment
April 13, 2010

An effort is underway to preserve the USS Iowa as a tourist attraction, but it's going to cost an estimated $20 to $25 million by the time the project is complete. The reason so much money is needed is because the ship requires considerable renovations to keep it from rusting away. The main proposal underway at present would move the ship to Vallejo, California. The USS Iowa and other warships are currently sitting in an estuary near the San Francisco Bay, where they are thought to be "leaking" tons of heavy metals into the water, and some locals are happy to see the ships leave. As an Iowa company, we're hopeful that our namesake ship will find a long-term home where it will be preserved well. As environmental-equipment suppliers, we recognize just how corrosive salt water can be (that's why marine pumps have to be specially constructed), and we understand just how dangerous heavy metals can be to the natural environment.

Barn fire takes seven tanker trips to put down
April 14, 2010

A farmer burning some trash near Anamosa, Iowa, walked away when he mistakenly thought the pile was done burning, and returned to find that it had ignited a barn fire. The fire consumed enough water to require seven tanker trips into town. Wildfires outside the reach of municipal water service often require considerable effort to deliver enough firefighting water -- and though we supply a wide range of engine-driven pumps and PTO-driven pumps for firefighting, we'd much rather see as many people as possible protected by reliable water sources from municipal supplies and rural water systems.

Des Moines is an energy-efficient town
April 15, 2010

The EPA has named named Des Moines #24 on its list of the 25 cities with the most Energy Star-labeled buildings. Considering that the metro area is only #91 in the country for total population, the ranking suggests the area is disproportionately committed to energy-efficient buildings. We have had considerable success in our own experience with energy savings using LED light bulbs. We've seen that switching over a handful of primary household lights can decrease total household electric use by about 20%.

Nebraska state stamp features irrigation equipment
April 16, 2010

The US Postal Service is releasing a series of state-themed stamps, and Nebraska is among the latest states to be featured. The Cornhusker State stamp prominently features center-pivot irrigation, which reflects its status as the state with the most irrigated acres in the entire country. While we do supply a range of pumps and other products for agriculture, our interest in irrigation is driven more by its relationship to municipal water supplies. Irrigation consumes the lion's share of Nebraska's groundwater -- more than 20 times the amount used for public, domestic, and industrial applications combined.

Spring sale continues
Find great offers in our online store

Significant discounts to portable firefighting pumps and portable trash pumps. Take advantage now before they run out.

Iowa wastewater systems in limbo as new rules await EPA approval
April 19, 2010

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which has regulatory authority over Iowa's municipal wastewater systems, is waiting for the EPA to approve new anti-degradation rules imposed by state law on February 17th. The EPA is supposed to approve those water quality standards within 60 days or disapprove them within 90, but it hasn't yet -- which means that any plants being designed or upgraded to meet the new standards have no guarantee at present that they're going to be allowable under the pending law. This kind of uncertainty, of course, leads to both confusion and anxiety among the water-quality professionals who are trying to ensure that Iowa's natural waterways remain safe and healthy for use.

Iowa groups plan a college program for water and wastewater operators
April 20, 2010

A group of industry organizations serving the water and wastewater needs in Iowa has come together to form an ad-hoc committee to develop a college-level curriculum to train water and wastewater operators for the state's municipal needs. The target is to get a program ready for use as a concentration within an AAS degree through DMACC and possibly through Kirkwood Community College. The need to train operators to meet the growing number of openings in the field has been the subject of considerable discussion within the industry, particularly as Iowa has more than 950 municipalities, most of which are in need of qualified operators.

Knowing that a shortage of these workers is and will likely continue to be a major challenge for many municipalities, we have helped lots of communities reduce their need for labor by installing products like Gorman-Rupp self-priming lift stations, which set the gold standard for ease of maintenance and long-term reliability.

Hail season: A reminder to enclose your valuables
April 21, 2010

The spring severe-weather season reminds us of the need for precautions against events like hailstorms. Hailstorms are virtually inevitable in the upper Midwest, and it should be noted that the two largest recorded hailstones in US history fell on Kansas and Nebraska (the one in Kansas was heavier; the one in Nebraska was bigger). While there's no guarantee that anything can safely shield equipment of any kind from damage by a 7-inch-diameter hailstone falling from the sky at highway speeds, the potential for damage even from smaller hailstones should be a reminder that equipment in our part of the country needs to be sheltered from exposure to the elements. Whether it's a pump, a grit trap, a bar screen, or any other type of equipment, we strongly endorse the use of protective shelters to prevent damage and ensure the long life of valuable equipment. We offer customized fiberglass shelters in a wide range of options for your use throughout your municipal system, industrial facility, or even your farm.

Earth Day turns 40
April 22, 2010

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, today a popular day for educational events in schools and lots of well-organized "green" activities. Today's environmental issues are decidedly not the same as those of 40 years ago; leaded gasoline is no longer prevalent in cars, and heavy spending on the nation's wastewater infrastructure throughout the 1970s means most Americans are sending well-treated effluent back into rivers and streams -- sometimes even cleaner than the waters they're entering. However, American communities on the whole haven't done enough to reinvest in that infrastructure to keep it in top working order. The shortfall is in the billions of dollars, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. The public is clearly supportive of good environmental policy in the abstract, but getting people to pay for the needed maintenance and improvements when the bills come due can be quite another story. And, in an ironic twist, one of the major new expenses for water and wastewater systems is the need for defenses against terrorism -- including attacks by eco-terrorists and others who claim to be acting in the name of nature or "green" causes.

The need for continued investment in the quality of our municipal water and sewage infrastructures is a 365-day-a-year issue, but if occasional reminders like Earth Day serve to remind people of the need to match our good intentions with fiscal investment, then here's to 40 more years of Earth Day events.

At least one 21st Century war will be fought over water
April 23, 2010

USA Today carries the story of a massive dam in southwestern China that affects the flow of water to four other countries downstream. The dam is reportedly as tall as a 66-story skyscraper, and it has the obvious power to hold back a tremendous amount of water for China's use. Whether it's intended for such purposes or not, it could undoubtedly be used as a weapon of war against China's neighbors downstream, either by withholding water resources in a time of drought, or through deliberate flooding of regions downstream. And the potential for catastrophic failure is self-evident: Construction, engineering, and manufacturing processes in China are well-known to fall far short of equivalent standards in the United States. Widespread disregard in China for standards for materials like cast iron and concrete have led to well-publicized building failures and serious doubts about products exported to the United States. Using products of questionable quality to construct a dam far larger than has been tested in countries with considerably more experience in modern dam-building seems like a recipe for trouble.

Even in the absence of mechanical problems, the construction of a dam like this shows just how valuable water resources really are to the nations of the world -- even in places we don't normally think of as being dry. As the world's population continues to rise, placing ever more stress on local water supplies, it is virtually certain that wars will be fought over water in our century.

When it comes to dam construction, stainless steel water-control gates from a reliable American manufacturer like Golden Harvest offer engineers, contractors, and people living downstream a degree of confidence that China's neighbors downstream in the Mekong Valley don't have.

EPA sends $291,000 to Ottumwa for sewer separation
April 26, 2010

The city of Ottumwa, Iowa, has just received a $291,000 grant from the EPA to help with an expensive sewer-separation project. Ottumwa is one of about a dozen cities in our region where the sanitary sewers and storm sewers are combined. This causes extremely high flow levels to reach the municipal wastewater treatment plants serving those communities when storms pass through, and those high flows sometimes lead to sewer overflows -- discharges of untreated wastewater directly into rivers and streams. The EPA is mandating that many of these combined sewer systems be replaced with separated sewers dedicated to each type of flow, so that stormwater can be discharged directly into the rivers and streams, and sanitary sewage can be treated normally at the plant. For those communities going through the separation process, we offer products like (and product knowledge about) flap gates, bar screens, and disinfection systems, among many other items.

Iowa DNR says the state of the water environment is poor but getting better
April 27, 2010

The Iowa DNR has issued the 2010 "State of the Environment" report, which says that although the state's water-quality index is almost at a 10-year high, it's still categorized as "poor". The number is based on monthly reports from 75 automatic monitors on Iowa rivers, with sample reports taken monthly. The DNR reports that the main problems appear to be the erosion of sediment into the rivers and streams, and the failure to manage excess stormwater runoff.

We can help you with stormwater-management products, including turbidity curtains and sediment barriers. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Iowans will vote on a watershed-protection trust fund
April 28, 2010

Governor Chet Culver has signed Senate File 2310, which creates a designated "natural resources and outdoor recreation trust fund", subject to the approval of a public vote this November. The law would amend the state constitution in part to dedicate tax funds to watershed protection and soil conservation efforts.

Cities consider monetizing their utilities
April 29, 2010

A recent article in USA Today addresses the number of communities considering selling their water systems to private companies. It's a phenomenon that tends to follow the economic cycle; as communities find themselves facing budget difficulties, they are more likely to consider monetizing their assets by selling water and sewer systems to private ownership than when those utilities are flush with cash. Private suppliers of water have been a part of American utilities for as long as municipal suppliers; the Des Moines Water Works started in 1871 as a private company, and the Metropolitan Utilities District was formed in 1913 to succeed private operators that had been in service since 1889. A public-private hybrid model is also found with some frequency in our region, in which the city continues to own the infrastructure but a private firm operates the system on a contractual basis; Davenport, Sioux City, and Fort Dodge are among the larger cities here operating under such arrangements.

Public and private operators alike are fans of products like self-priming lift stations from Gorman-Rupp because they are easy to maintain. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

EPA chips in $1.1 million for Plattsmouth sewer separation
April 30, 2010

The city of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, is receiving a $1,164,000 grant from the EPA to help with the expensive process of separating the town's storm and sanitary sewers. Plattsmouth claims to be one of the oldest communities in Nebraska, and it is partially a result of its age that the city has to conduct the sewer separation. Older communities' sewer systems often combined stormwater and sanitary sewage in the same pipes; modern standards generally do not permit this combination. The EPA has been pushing those communities with combined sewers to separate them so that stormwater can return to lakes and streams with minimal treatment, while keeping all sanitary sewage in a closed system that must pass through a municipal wastewater treatment plant before being discharged back to rivers and streams. Plattsmouth has about 7,000 residents, so the EPA grant is large enough to make a difference to the project's viability. Nearby Omaha, by comparison, faces a $1.5 billion sewer-separation bill over the next quarter-century.

We are helping communities around our territory with their sewer-separation projects, with products ranging from pumps to gates to screening systems. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Past water and wastewater news updates

last revised April 2010