State budget-balancing puts strain on Nebraska cities
March 7, 2011

Between them, Omaha and Lincoln are set to lose a total of $5.1 million in state aid due to a bill to cut state aid to cities by $22 million. It's an effort to balance Nebraska's state budget, but the cities naturally resent the loss of funding. Funding is, perhaps, the most important factor in deciding whether municipal projects of any type move forward -- even more important, in many cases, than the laws and regulations that are supposed to compel those projects in the first place. Finding sustainable, consumer-friendly ways of funding not only the operating costs of many utilities, but also the maintenance and upkeep of their expansive infrastructures, is a major challenge. Nobody ever seems to be rewarded -- at the ballot box or elsewhere -- for taking prudent steps to maintain what a community already has. There are no ribbon-cuttings for sewer line replacement projects. A well-maintained system of infrastructure is at its best when it is virtually invisible, since that means it's working without anyone noticing that it's gone. That, unfortunately, is difficult stuff to convince people to pay for.

EPA proposes expanded list of contaminants for water utilities to watch
March 8, 2011

The EPA is proposing a new set of rules to require many water systems to test for four metals, chlorate, a number of perfluorinated chemicals, and several hormones and pharmaceuticals. The contaminants (28 of them in all, plus two viruses) aren't regulated, but the agency wants to use the measurements to determine if there's a health-based reason for doing so. In an ideal world, of course, we would test for every possible contaminant and remove them all. But water treatment isn't free, and it's important to ensure that the amount of treatment, monitoring, and testing required remains sufficiently economical that it doesn't force small utilities to shut down their water service, leading more people to consume their water from less-treated private wells and other lower-quality supplies. Ongoing assessment of the potential harm from contaminants that haven't previously been carefully monitored can help ensure that the maximum good comes from every dollar spent in water treatment.

How clear should Iowa waters be?
March 9, 2011

The Iowa DNR is going to hold a series of meetings to determine what the state's rules should be for water clarity in our 127 public-use lakes. Proposed standards would call for the water to be clear to a depth of about 3 feet (1 meter) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The meetings are to be held March 23rd through 31st in seven locations across the state. The proposed rules certainly sound attractive for recreational water use, but it could turn out to be very expensive to achieve that level of clarity in more than ten dozen locations across a heavily agricultural state.

In Marshalltown for the IWPCA Collection Systems Conference
March 10, 2011

Marshalltown show

As we've done almost every year (except when prevented by snowstorms), we had our wares on display at the Iowa Water Environment Association (formerly IWPCA) Collection Systems Conference in Marshalltown. Of special interest to many operators were our portably bypass pumps, for which we were assured there would be considerable need this spring. We also handed out scores of our custom-made carabiners, convenient for handling keys of all sorts. If you need more information on portable bypass pumping systems (or if you'd like us to send you a carabiner), contact us with your questions anytime.

A vivid look at the tsunami waves from today's earthquake in Japan
March 11, 2011

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a model depicting the forecast tsunami wave heights resulting from today's earthquake in Japan. While it's not really directly related to the water, wastewater, or stormwater work we do in Iowa and Nebraska, it's quite remarkable evidence of just how powerful moving water can be. The videos being release show stunning energy from the quake, and it's really astonishing to see just how unstoppable the tsunami waves were, and just how far inland they reached.

How to monitor for sulfides
March 14, 2011

ATI has developed two technologies that can be helpful to municipal wastewater treatment plants seeking to manage odors caused by sulfur. One is the ATI A15/81 dissolved sulfide monitor, which can measure naturally-occurring sulfides in well water and wastewater. The other is ATI's unique Q45S wet hydrogen-sulfide gas detector, which measures for H2S reliably in conditions where high humidity levels would otherwise destroy ordinary gas detectors.

We can help you with either of these products, and many others from ATI. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Water shortages could be the real ongoing disaster in Japan
March 15, 2011

Obviously, the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami destruction in Japan is on a shocking scale. But the disaster could be compounded terribly if shortages of safe drinking water are not resolved swiftly in the affected areas. Water treatment systems are almost always found at low elevations, since that's where rivers are found and where it's easiest to drill deep wells. But that puts drinking-water systems at increased risk of damage by inundation, as obviously occurred with the massive tsunami in Japan. When a municipal water system is inundated, it can take days and even weeks to disinfect and return to service. In the meantime, though, thousands of people could be at risk of illness and even death due to water contamination. Destructive floodwaters are almost always carriers of disease, since they can carry untreated wastes, chemicals, and decaying plant and animal matter. Among the many urgent challenges ahead for Japan, getting safe drinking-water supplies back in order is one of the most important priorities. The threat of a nuclear disaster is obviously both very real and very frightening, but it should not cause anyone to take any less seriously the extreme urgency of getting drinking water to those who need it.

Some mild spring flooding is underway, but the worst is still to come
March 18, 2011

Some mild spring flooding is underway in northwestern and north-central Iowa, according to the National Weather Service. The overall seasonal prediction for flooding in the central portion of the state suggests a pretty good chance of widespread mild flooding, but the real story on which everyone is holding their breath is what's going to happen in the Mississippi River regions. The National Weather Service in LaCrosse says that flooding is going to get serious soon just upstream of most Iowa locations, and there's been no change to the forecast expecting a virtual certainty of major flooding along the Mississippi in the coming weeks.

We strongly recommend that communities that could be affected by spring flooding take the opportunity presented by the current mild weather to test their flood defenses, including portable pumps for flood control, portable dams, and portable bypass pumps for lift stations. Now is also the time to make sure that sluice gates are operating properly and will open when required in emergencies. One of the major advantages to stainless steel sluice gates is that they don't require dissimilar metals to remain in contract under water (which cast iron gates do). By eliminating metal-to-metal contact, stainless steel sluice gates prevent galvanic corrosion from occurring, meaning the gates open when they're needed.

Quad Cities may have dodged a bullet on flooding
March 29, 2011

The Quad Cities may have dodged a significant bullet when it comes to the expected river flooding. The river is expected to crest later in the week, but only about a foot over flood stage. The National Weather Service notes that temperatures cooled a lot, which slowed the melting process upstream and probably held back much of the anticipated flooding to a considerable degree.

Flooding could, of course, become a much more significant issue later this spring, since high river levels can be aggravated by new rainfall at any time. Preparation for flooding is critical, and one essential tool for managing flooding is portable pumping equipment, like the reliable engine-driven models from Gorman-Rupp. Contact us with your questions and we'll be happy to help.

Past water and wastewater news updates

last revised March 2011