NESC Media Room
A New Kind of Small Flows?
There is certainly no shortage of TV shows about tiny houses. And these shows do a fine job of highlighting the benefits of these structures. But, how often do you hear about wastewater issues and tiny houses? At least once, thanks to this NESC article.
SepticSmart Week 2019
September 16-20, 2019
Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) holds SepticSmart Week with outreach activities to encourage homeowners and communities to care for and maintain their septic systems.
During SepticSmart Week, EPA, with the help of organizations such as NESC, seeks to inform homeowners about proper septic system care and maintenance, assist local agencies in promoting homeowner education and awareness, and educate local decision makers about infrastructure options to improve and sustain their communities.
Learn more about SepticSmart Week by visiting: www.epa.gov/septic/septicsmart-week-2019-announcement
Following bipartisan cooperation in Congress, President Obama recently signed into law the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which sets a ban on microbeads used in personal care products. The beads--most of which are less than a millimeter in size, have been used in a variety of products including face washes, body scrubs, lip balms, and some toothpastes.
There has been growing concern about the beads because they pass through wastewater treatment systems into the aquatic environment where they are consumed by fish and other aquatic life. The legislation bans the manufacture of rinse-off cosmetics containing beads less than five millimeters in size by July 1, 2017 and the distribution of products containing microbeads by July 1, 2018.
Some U.S. states and local governments had already passed bead bans and many manufacturers were already phasing out their use.
For more information, see:
Ask water and wastewater utilities what their number one need is and you'll invariably hear "money." These days, though, an increase in funding is a tough thing to find. Many systems are looking for ways to cut costs and energy savings are a good place to start.
With the help of well-crafted advertising, disposable wet wipes--a product once used mainly for wiping baby bottoms---are now increasingly being used on adult bottoms. Although they are frequently labeled as "flushable," the problems adult wet wipes have created for municipal sewer systems are well documented." Their increasing presence in sewers has created a major surge in clogged lines and sewage pumps for municipal wastewater utilities. The effect of flushed wipes on septic systems has received less attention but problems are also being widely reported. Read the complete article.
Interest rates for Rural Development Utilities Service (RDUS) water and wastewater loans--issued quarterly at three different levels: the poverty line rate, the intermediate rate and the market rate--have been announced. The rate applied to a particular project depends on community income and the type of project being funded.
To qualify for the poverty line rate, two criteria must be met. First, the loan must primarily be used for facilities required to meet health and sanitary standards. Second, the median household income of the area being served must be below 80 percent of the state's non-metropolitan median income or fall below the federal poverty level.
To qualify for the intermediate rate, the service area's median household income cannot exceed 100 percent of the state's non-metropolitan median income.
The market rate is applied to projects that don't qualify for either the poverty or intermediate rates. The market rate is based on the average of the Bond Buyer index.
RDUS loans are administered through state Rural Development offices, which can provide specific information concerning RDUS loan requirements and applications procedures.
For the phone number of your state Rural Development office, contact the National Environmental Services Center at (304) 293-4191. The list is also available on the Rural Development website.
The small town of Fulton, Alabama, knows something about setting goals and sticking to them. It took 12 years, but their tenacity paid off and they now have a new wastewater system for residents and businesses in their small community.
Getting a new wastewater system up and running is a significant undertaking for any community. But when the town is small and the residents don't have huge incomes, the task can be daunting. This article tells the story of leaders in Reynolds, Georgia, and their eight-year effort to get a new wastewater treatment system for their town. The new system is a testament to tenacity and perseverance.
Here are two water-related surveys that maybe of interest to you. The first is looking into water sector salaries, the second at household water use.
The American Water Works Association asks very small and rural water utilities to participate in its first-ever compensation survey specifically focused on very small and rural water and wastewater systems. The survey results will be complied together for utilities to examine salaries, salary ranges and compensation practices of similarly sized utilities. To take part in this survey, e-mail Nicole Roach at firstname.lastname@example.org
ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, is investigating how much water households in the U.S. use. Learn more about the project and take their survey at:
More than 88 million American residents have their drinking water supplied by community systems that rely on groundwater as a primary source, while another 42 million get water from individually owned wells. Given this reality, maintaining public and private wells, and preventing groundwater contamination is of utmost importance. The latest installment in NESC's popular Tech Brief series discusses steps that can be taken to help maintain the life of both community and privately owned wells, thus ensuring that your drinking water is safe.
Download "Well Maintenance and Groundwater Protection" by clicking here. Also listed on the page are 55 other Tech Briefs on a variety of drinking water and wastewater topics.
While the chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia left 300-thousand people without access to clean water, folks in the coalfields deal with water issues every day. This West Virginia Public Broadcasting report focuses on McDowel County communities living off dated water systems that frequently go without water. Some communities have been on boil water advisories for years. Click here for Part 1. Click here for Part 2.
For many years, the National Environmental Services Center and other organizations have encouraged water conservation. Have these efforts begun to pay off? According to a U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) report, "water use across the country reached its lowest recorded level in nearly 45 years . . . " which represents a 13 percent reduction of water use from 2005." Learn more in this article by Ethan Alpern from USGS.
The National Environmental Services Center has added five new products to its Online Shopping Cart.
Buying or Selling a Home with an Onsite Septic System
This issue of Pipeline discusses the issues anyone who is buying or selling a home with a septic system may face. The newsletter includes information about inspections, system types, and typical questions a buyer or seller may need to consider. Order #SFPLNL54DL.
Minimizing Nitrogen Discharges from Onsite Wastewater Systems
Reducing the amount of nitrogen released from onsite wastewater systems has become a controversial issue in certain parts of the country. In some locales, property owners are being encouraged or even required to add nitrogen- reducing systems to new and existing septic systems. This Pipeline explores why controlling nitrogen is an issue and how the units work. Before discussing how nitrogen treatment systems work, however, it is worth- while to cover some basic information about nitrogen. Order #SFPLNL55DL.
Water Efficiency for Public Water Systems
This document introduces water efficiency for public water system identifies measures to improve water efficiency, and provides recommendations on how water systems can get started and continue making water efficiency improvements. This document is intended for small and medium sized water systems as well as technical assistance providers and state programs that support or regulate these systems. Order #DWBLMG216DL.
Strategies for Saving Energy at Public Water Systems
This document discusses energy issues facing public drinking water systems, steps systems can take to understand and reduce energy use and costs, and funding resources for energy efficiency. This document is intended for small to medium-sized water systems as well as technical assistance providers and state programs that support or regulate these systems. Order #DWBLMG217DL.
Water Availability and Variability Strategies to Public Water Systems
This document covers water availability and variability issues faced by public water systems, the potential consequences of climate change on water availability and variability, and the steps that water systems can take to address these uncertainties. This document is intended for small and medium sized public water systems as well as technical assistance providers and state programs that support or regulate these systems. Order #DWBLMG218DL.
The National Environmental Services Center (NESC) has published three new articles.
The article “Maintaining Septic Systems Can Help Community Residents Save Money and Protect Local Waters and Public Health” describes resources and strategies local officials can use to educate community residents about caring for and maintaining their septic systems.
“Is Design-Build the Future for the Water Sector?” discusses the concept of design-build, a technique widely used in large construction projects, and whether this will become more wide spread with water construction projects.
“Managing Our Water Resources for People, the Economy, and Nature” provides an overview of integrated water resource management, a holistic approach to managing water now and in the future.
These new articles join hundreds of other articles about drinking water, wastewater, stormwater and other topics available on the NESC website. Go to www.nesc.wvu.edu and use the Google site search feature to find the information that you need.
Two new articles posted on the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) website cover both of these topics. Check them out here.
If you are interested in other drinking water or wastewater topics, the NESC site has a wealth of information available to you at no charge. Use the Google site search feature on the main page to find what you need.
For much of the recent history of civilization, urine has been viewed as a waste product that must be eliminated. Increasingly, though, wastewater experts are looking at urine as a resource and devising ways to harvest it as fertilizer.
Commonly known by the term "urine diversion," this harvesting involves separating urine from the wastewater stream at the point of excretion and reusing the urine as an agricultural fertilizer. The interest in this approach centers on the fact that urine makes up only about one percent of the typical residential wastewater stream but contains about 80 percent of the nitrogen, 55 percent of the phosphorus, 60 percent of the potassium, plus smaller amounts of other nutrients including sulfur, calcium, and magnesium.
Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two nutrients most responsible for the over-enrichment of freshwater and coastal waters causing the proliferation of harmful algae blooms, negative changes in aquatic plant and animal life, and loss of fisheries. Residential wastewater is not the only source of these nutrients but it is a contributor and decreasing the amount of nutrients released in wastewater is necessary to protect and rehabilitate our aquatic resources. By harvesting urine, communities can not only recover a useful organic fertilizer but also improve the quality of their rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.To learn more, read NESC's latest Emerging Issues by clicking here to download the pdf.
Are you a technical assistance provider or training professional who provides instruction about filter backwashing? Maybe you’re a new water operator who would like to learn more about this important task? Whatever the case, the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) has developed a free PowerPoint presentation that provides an overview of filter backwashing.
The PowerPoint, available via this link, includes the different steps undertaken when cleaning a sand filter and features a six-minute video of the process. The PowerPoint complements an existing Tech Brief about the topic, also available at the link above.
"Filter backwashing is one of the most important steps a system performs," says Zane Satterfield, NESC engineering scientist. "Without a properly functioning filter, a system won't be able to provide quality drinking water to the community and may fall out of compliance with health regulations."
If you have questions about filter backwashing or other drinking water or wastewater topics, call NESC's toll-free help line at (304) 293-4191. and select option "3." A complete list of Tech Briefs, four-page fact sheets providing concise, technical information about a drinking water treatment technology or issue relevant to small systems, may be found here.
On March 20, 2014, NESC Director Gerald Iwan appeared on the St. Louis PBS program Stay Tuned to discuss water issues. For those not in the Gateway City's viewing area, the Stay Tuned episode title "Water Matters" has been posted to the web click here to view.
Dr. Iwan's remarks start at about the 19:30 mark and last approximately five minutes. The entire show is just over one hour in length.
At first, West Virginia would seem to have little in common with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. But, as with nearly everywhere in the world, water resources management is a growing concern for these former Soviet republics and they have reached out, through the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia (CAREC) program, to WVU’s National Environmental Services Center (NESC) to help develop solutions. Click here to download an overview of the visit.(PDF).
Plan Now, Don’t Wait for the Emergency
The National Environmental Services Center (NESC) is based at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. The water system in Charleston, the state capital, has been in the news since January, when a chemical spill in the Elk River forced the drinking water utility to close, cutting off water to more than 300,000 people in parts of nine counties.
This disaster reminds us that the best time to plan for emergencies is ahead of time, not in the midst of the crisis. Learn more about emergency planning, source water protection, and vulnerability assessments by exploring the following resources.
In 2014, the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) celebrates 35 years of providing water information to America’s small communities. NESC traces its roots to 1979, when West Virginia University professors Willem Van Eck and Raul Zaltzman established the National Small Flows Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting the public health and environment by providing wastewater information and assistance. Since that time, NESC has grown to become a national expert, not just in wastewater, but also in drinking water, environmental training, small system management, and stormwater issues.
Learn more about NESC’s history at: www.nesc.wvu.edu/media/history.cfm
A new issue of On Tap, the National Environmental Services Center's drinking water and wastewater magazine, is now available. Formerly printed and mailed to more than 27,000 subscribers, On Tap is now available in an online format only. Click here for the latest issue.
The fall/winter 2013 issue features articles about stormwater issues, reducing water use, drinking water infrastructure, how to achieve the best rates, and infrastructure issues being faced in Baltimore.
As always, we encourage you to use the information in On Tap in your community. All we ask is that you give us credit and let us know how you used it.
Slowly, but surely, the Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR) is being put into place. It was finalized in February of this year with publication in the Federal Register. The effective date of compliance for public water systems is not until April 1, 2016 but water system managers and operators need to be aware of and plan for the changes.
Between now and April 2016, most of the work to be done falls on state drinking water primacy agencies, which must adopt state regulations that conform with the RTCR and crosswalk their rules with federal rules. State drinking water agencies can request extensions if submitted before February 13, 2015.
For public water systems, some of the major changes include the following:
The RTCR establishes a maximum contaminant level (MCL) and maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) of zero for E. coli. All samples that are positive for total coliforms (TC) must be analyzed for the presence of E. coli.
Although total coliforms will continue to be used for monitoring purposes, the existing MCL and MCLG for total coliforms and the public notification requirements for TC positive samples have been dropped. These have been replaced by a treatment technique that requires assessment and correction of sanitary defects.
There are two levels of assessment based on the severity or frequency of problems. Depending on the size of the system, Level 1 assessments are triggered by a threshold number of routine or repeat samples that are TC positive or the failure to take repeat samples after a TC positive sample, as required. Level 1 assessments are performed by the water system owner or operator.
Level 2 assessments are triggered by an E.coli MCL violation or a second Level 1 trigger in any rolling 12-month period. Level 2 assessments are conducted by the state or a state-approved entity. However, the public water system is responsible for seeing that the assessment is conducted.
Criteria were established that potentially allow for reduced monitoring for groundwater systems serving 1000 or fewer people.
Phosphorus discharged from onsite wastewater treatment systems is usually not considered to be a problem. However, in some locations phosphorus from these systems has contributed to undesirable algal blooms in lakes and streams.
The latest issue of Pipeline available here discusses situations where and why phosphorus may be a problem, and what the options are for controlling it.
Around the country, reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus released from onsite wastewater systems has become a growing concern. To determine how various states are dealing with this issue, the State Onsite Regulators Alliance (SORA) and the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) conducted a survey of all 50 states.
Among other findings, the survey revealed that half the states have existing rules for nitrogen reduction, while fewer address phosphorus.
NESC has other information about nitrogen and phosphorus:
A Pipeline newsletter devoted to nitrogen reduction, which may be viewed here.
The latest On Tap magazine has an article about removing phosphorus in the wastewater treatment process available here.
Although phosphorus is a naturally occurring element and a vital nutrient for plants and animals, too much can cause water quality problems.
Phosphorous (and phosphates) trigger algal blooms, through a process called eutrophication, that deplete the receiving waters of oxygen under certain conditions, killing the aquatic life. In many surface waters, algal blooms can have considerable detrimental impacts on leisure activities, tourism, and fish and other organisms. Algal blooms also impact the source water quality for drinking water utilities.
Although fertilizer runoff is a significant factor in eutrophication, domestic sewage also contributes to the problem. Therefore, removing phosphorus during the sewage treatment process has become an area of interest.
The article available here provides a brief overview of phosphorus removal during wastewater treatment. Readers are also encouraged to contact the National Environmental Services Center technical staff at (304) 293-4191 if they have question.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with drinking water and wastewater sector partners, has developed the Water Health and Economic Analysis Tool (WHEAT). The tool is designed to assist drinking water utility owners and operators in quantifying public health impacts, utility financial costs, and regional economic impacts of an adverse event, based on a variety of asset-threat combinations that pose a risk to the water sector.
Existing WHEAT modules analyze two event scenarios: the release of a hazardous gas and the loss of operating assets in a drinking water distribution system, and provide information that can be used as part of a comprehensive risk assessment. Future WHEAT modules will analyze drinking water contamination and wastewater system hazardous gas releases and loss of operating assets scenarios.
WHEAT is designed to run on Windows-based computers and generates reports in Microsoft Excel. Learn more about this tool, including specific hardware and software requirements, by visiting http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/techtools/wheat.cfm
EPA has other security and resilience resources at http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/techtools/index.cfm