You may have read the recent headlines about the Oldsmar Florida Water Treatment Facilities control system being hacked. Chemical feed rates for sodium hydroxide (the ingredient commonly found in drain cleaner) were increased from 100 ppm to 11,200 ppm. If not for the plant operator’s prompt reaction, those headlines would likely also include a report on corresponding catastrophic health impacts to the customers consuming the poisoned water.
It is commonplace for current-day Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) Systems at treatment facilities to offer remote access control features, and it is essential to have highly trained operators that know how to utilize these systems. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of water and wastewater operators in the United States, and typical recruitment methods (websites, newspapers, etc.) can prove successful to various degrees. However, smaller utilities often find it difficult to hire experienced certified operators within their community and instead hire and train entry-level employees. This presents the utility with a “gap of service,” where a certified operator is required to oversee, train, and address Monthly Reports of Operations on behalf of the entry-level employees until they are qualified to perform these activities themselves.
Given the impending challenge and historical benefits of long-term partnerships between municipalities and their engineering consultant, Commonwealth has begun offering Operations Assistance. This new service includes:
- Backup Operator – should your Operator require sick leave, vacations, or unexpected absences.
- Operator Training – should you wish to train a local employee to assume the certified operator role but requires oversight and training.
- Plant Evaluations – whereby we will examine the facility and identify a strategy to implement cost-savings opportunities.
- Team-Based Oversight – quick access to Commonwealth’s regulatory specialist, project funding specialist, and licensed professional engineers.
If you are interested in Commonwealth’s Operations Assistance program, please contact Theresa Criss-Hartwig at (317) 888-1177.