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6 tips to optimize cold-weather wastewater treatment

February 16, 2016

Loss of nitrification, poor floc formation and freezing are just a few of the challenges that wastewater treatment plants face during the cold winter months. "Experience, preparation and careful record keeping are critical factors to ensure consistent compliance with discharge standards and avoiding unplanned outages," says Jim Nardi, OCWA Wastewater Systems Manager - South Peel Facilities.

"If operators don't have sufficient experience and in-depth understanding of their plants, cold weather will likely cause some issues for them," he says. Regardless of plant's size, treatment process or wastewater characteristics, Jim says there are several best practices that OCWA operators consistently employ to maximize the efficiency of their plants and achieve trouble-free operation over the winter.

1) Maintain detailed operational records. Collect and archive all data in a searchable, electronic format that can be accessed easily, especially in a crisis situation. All OCWA facilities collect process data, troubleshooting strategies, process control narratives, and more, which helps operators use plant history and their combined experiences to optimize treatment control during tough winter conditions.

2) Increase your mixed liquor concentrations slowly in preparation for cold weather, have additional supplies on hand.

3) Select and maintain a vendor of record that can be quickly mobilized to assist with emergency situations such as line breaks or pump failures.

4) Assign an Overall Responsible Operator to ensure that a highly trained and experienced operator is available at all times to respond to an emergency.

5) Develop a strong peer network that offers a broad range of operational know-how and can help diagnose and resolve situations that are beyond your expertise.

6) Be ready for spring. "Most operators aren't worried about the coldest days of the year," Jim says. "It's the warm days that follow-when frozen pipes thaw and leaks start." Detailed knowledge of your plant can help you predict and cope with spring surprises.