Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Can you believe winter is here already? Whether or not we’re ready for the bitter cold and mounds of snow, the next season has arrived with a bang! Besides breaking out your winter jacket, snow shovel and ice scraper, there is one way you need to prepare your home.

If not properly winterized, pipes in the winter can be very damaging to your home and property. Minnesota homes are typically built with water pipes located on the inside of the building insulation, which protects the pipes from freezing weather. However, when weather becomes extremely cold or there are holes in the building that allow a flow of cold air to come into contact with pipes, it can lead to freezing – which may lead to busted pipes. Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are the most vulnerable to freezing.
The first thing you should always remember to do is to wrap any pipes located in exposed or unheated areas to prevent them from freezing. Ask an associate at a local hardware store for the best materials to use.

Another way to prepare your home and protect your pipes is to seal off any openings. Be sure to cover up any doors, open cracks and air vents not used during the winter months. You can also install an electric fan on the furnace and direct it to blow hot air onto exposed basement water pipes.

Finally, always be mindful of your home’s temperature. This is especially important if you leave for a vacation. Turning thermostat down may save on a heating bill but be sure to leave it a reasonable temperature. We recommend no lower than 55 degrees.

If you suspect that you may have a frozen pipe, don’t take any chances- call a plumber immediately. If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and leave all faucets open. We highly recommend you do not try and fix this issue yourself for it may only cause more problems in the end.

Do you have any other winter tips for keeping your pipes in tip-top shape? Comment and share them below!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Celebrate Water - 2014 MN AWWA Conference

Considering we proclaim proudly that we are the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it goes without saying that we Minnesotans take water very seriously. Here at the Minnesota AWWA, we’re gearing up for our annual Minnesota Section of the American Water Works Association conference...and we couldn’t be more excited!

Why? Because this September, over 1,000 drinking water professionals will make the trek to Duluth for three days of educational presentations and social events centered around Minnesota’s - and planet’s - most precious and essential resource...WATER. (Some people may say children are our most precious resource, but they need clean fresh drinking water, so I am going with water).

Of course, the main purpose for gathering our great State’s water professionals together is to learn and share important information about the latest technology, trends and concerns within the drinking water industry.

Ideally, each attendee will leave far more informed and enthusiastic about the wide world of water than they arrived. But, the calendar is also stacked with numerous social events like a golf outing, trap shooting, and even the legendary Lake Superior fishing trip. All these events raise money for the worthy Water for People charity.

If you’re attending this year’s event, we’re certain you’re well-aware of the fact that each day is teeming with workshops, and you will meet your goal of learning something new. This year we hope along with the education and networking opportunities, you extend your stay in order to spend some time checking out Duluth/Superior to take in the great lakeside sightseeing, dining and shopping.

So, without further ado, here’s our short list of great places to catch the flavor of Duluth.

Formerly an industrial, warehousing section of the port city, Canal Park is now home to a wide array of restaurants, bars, shops and attractions, all within a lovely Lake Superior neighborhood. The area includes four miles of lakeside walking and biking paths, the impressively huge and intricate William Irving floating museum, the DeWitt Seitz Marketplace (with more little shops and restaurants than can be listed here) and a favorite of this particular blogger, the Portland Malt Shoppe. Pick a starting point and let your feet guide you!; no car needed!

Another popular attraction in Canal Park is the famous Canal Park Brewery. Stop by for a pint made with fresh, local ingredients and stay for a tour. Don’t forget to try a NorthCoaster Burger! This year the brewery is donating 20% of all proceeds from Tuesday night to Water for People and check out their latest beer that will be named in honor of Minnesota AWWA. Any guess as to what they’ll name it?

This ornate gem, atop a hill overlooking Lake Superior, boasts a complex and twisted history. The Glensheen Mansion, now owned by the University of Minnesota - Duluth, is not only the most lavish historic home in the region, but was also the scene of a brutal, high-profile double-murder in the late 1970s. This tale and more are the foundation of daily mansion tours; if you have some free time, consider a visit and leave town with a richer understanding of regional history!

Another lakeside haunt, Fitger’s is just an awesome place for a fine meal, a delicious appetizer, and/or a pint of seriously good beer. Added bonus - the historic, harborside building includes a hotel (frequently booked solid) and unique shopping. Definitely put this on the short list of places to check out.

Duluth is a vibrant place, and this is only a short list; check this out for even more Duluth sightseeing options.

Have a favorite Duluth haunt? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

See you at the convention in September!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Career Spotlight - Water Treatment Plant Operators

Turn your faucet on….Water comes out and unused “waste” water runs down the drain. This process occurs numerous times per day whether we are at home, at work or we are out running errands. This service is automatic and most of us have come to expect this service to be available 24/7/365. Safe, plentiful drinking water doesn’t magically appear in our cup, so how do we get it?

We can thank Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators for providing safe, clean water. Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators have extensive responsibilities and lead rewarding and fulfilling careers.

What do they do?
As an Treatment Plant Operator, responsibilities include operating of equipment in the water and wastewater treatment facilities in order to purify drinking water, remove pollutants from water, and return clean water and biosolids back to the environment. Having safe and clean drinking water is essential for life and good health. They are also in charge of maintaining the pumps, motors, chemical feed systems, computer process that control remote water storage facilities and wastewater pump stations that convey wastewater through the sewer system. As an operator, it is critical to abide by the guidelines of the Federal Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act as well as comply with Minnesota Department of Health and Pollution Control Agency requirements.

Hours and Earnings
Treatment Plant Operators usually work 8-12 hours a day and 40 or more hours per week. Because many treatment facilities operate 24 hours a day, Operators may be required to work different shifts. Earnings vary depending on the size of the facility and its locations, the skill of the operator, education, experience, and certification. Most operators receive “overtime” pay, paid vacations, and benefits. The average national salary for a Treatment Plant Operator is $42,760.

Education and Training
With the complex instrumentation and computer-controlled equipment now in use in many water treatment facilities, employers seek applicants with at minimum, a high school diploma. Education requirements are increasing as plants become more complex. Each plant has a formal training process that employees must complete.

Certification and Licenses
All water and wastewater systems are required to meet state and national standards as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In every state, Operators must pass a certification examination to show they are capable of overseeing a wide variety of treatment processes. There are classes of certification for different size treatment plants. Some states, such as Minnesota, have their own certification program.

Public perception may be that with improvements in technology and the increase use of automation and remote access control, the need for water professionals may be decreasing. The new tools available have helped reduce the need for some work tasks, but the increase regulatory requirements, demands for the highest quality water and consumer expectations require more water system professionals than ever before.

Mike Rowe and the crew for Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs at the Moorhead water treatment plant 2011.

Available Jobs
Water and Wastewater Treatment Facilities and systems operators held over 111,000 jobs throughout the United States and it is expected to grow at an 8% rate. Most work for local governments, but State and Federal positions are also available. Others work for private water, wastewater, and sanitary utilities and services companies, which increasingly provide operation and management services to local governments on a contract basis. There are many fulfilling career choices in the water quality profession including Treatment Plant Operator, Laboratory Technician, Maintenance Mechanic, Civil Engineer, Chemist and Biologist; just to name a few. Which career are you most interested in? Share below!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Surface Water Treatment Workshop 2014

Starting Tuesday, April 29, 2014, Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota American Water Works Association chapters gather in Fargo to kick-off the 2014 Surface Water Treatment Workshop (SWTW).

The SWTW is a three-day workshop that covers current and future issues surrounding all things water. Industry professionals, scientists, and operators alike gather to discuss issues that range from optimization and treatment to technology and case studies. 

Surface water is becoming an alarming issue due to rooftops, roads, parking lots, driveways and other impenetrable surfaces no longer allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground; rainfall becomes a dangerous runoff. Elements such as trash, chemicals, oil, fertilizers and animal waste all have effects on the quality of water, and once these are exposed will affect the quality of water. These elements all contribute to the degradation of water quality all over the world.

To effectively prevent surface water degradation and pollution, it is critical to come up with advanced solutions and systems to prevent further harm to waterways. This event will cover strategies, case studies, effects of impact and advancements that deal with surface water-related concerns and issues.

Members and employees of AE2S will act as the event’s keynote speakers. AE2S is an environmental and civil engineering consulting firm based out of North Dakota that specializes in electrical, structural and water services. AE2S’ CEO Steve Burian just recently participated in, and won “Dancing with the Special Stars,” to help support North Dakota Special Olympics. 

On Tuesday, April 9, as part of the SWTW '14 event, k-12 students submitted posters were featured along with the three selected winners of the poster contest. The poster contest’s key message this year was “Trust the Tap,” educating younger generations of the safety and convenience of tap water over bottled, and learning more about public and private water issues. Over 900 submissions were submitted by students of all ages throughout the state of Minnesota.

The three-day event will conclude with a facility tour of Fargo’s Ground Storage Reservoir, Moorhead Public Service Red River Pumping Station and Industrial Treatment Facility (Fargo Brewing Company). Pre-registration is required to attend tours and a lunch will be provided.

AWWA gives you the information and resources you need to deliver safe water to the world. Since its inception in 1881, AWWA has provided the information and leadership needed to advance policies that protect the public’s health. Becoming a member of AWWA is easy and has many benefits. As a member, you will enjoy access to technical resources, networking opportunities, advocacy efforts, career development resources, and more!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March Review: Tips to Save Water All Year Long

March was a busy time for the water industry. The Clean Water Act turned 40-years-old, the U.S. EPA hunted down loose faucets and leaks for a week, and March 22nd was World Water Day.

The Safe Drinking Water Act, established in 1974, helped to establish a set of national standards and regulations for all public water suppliers. The federal government provided leadership and funding to help states nationwide to help meet these standards. These nationwide standards help regulate states by meeting federal standards. Minnesota has always had strict water standards even before the federal mandate was issued. This act ensures safety procedures carried out by water suppliers and water treatment facilities. The water has been tested, it is safe to drink, and it has met the standards of the SWDA. 

Walter Mondale, who was U.S. Vice President when the act was passed, said, “Safe drinking water is almost the first requirement of a prosperous community.”

More than 97% of Minnesota water supplies meet all Safe Water Drinking Act standards.

The U.S. EPA, partnering with Water Sense, chased household water-wasters down for a week to reduce annual household waste in its “Fix a Leak Week”. 
The focus was to reduce household leaks that annually contribute to over one trillion gallons of water wasted nationwide. By fixing or repairing simple maintenances, for instance, a dripping faucet, a running toilet and other leaky valves, it will reduce the cost of water consumption while promoting sustainability.

Tips to Help Save Water Year-round 
· Take a look at your water usage during a colder month, such as January or February. If a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, there are serious leaks.
· Check your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.
· Identify toilet leaks by placing a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 15 minutes, you have a leak. (Be sure to flush immediately after the experiment to avoid staining the tank.)
· Examine faucet gaskets and pipe fittings for any water on the outside of the pipe to check for surface leaks.
The UN System raised awareness of the inter-dependency between water and energy on March 22, titled World Water Day. This awareness event reached over 700 million worldwide, highlighting the importance and necessity of clean sources of drinking water in areas that need it most. 

Without water, there would be no life. That is why it is essential for our industry to keep growing, thriving from new innovations, to provide a healthy and dependable resource to those who matter most: you.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Bullert Wins Honorary Member Award

Having over 35-plus years of experience in the water industry, it’s no wonder Mr. Bernie Bullert was recently honored by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) with an Honorary Member Award.

This annual award is presented to three individuals whose knowledge and accomplishments in the field of water supply entitle him or her to special recognition. Candidates must have knowledge and accomplishments in water supplies at international, government, association, and section levels.

Steve Scheinder (left), Manager of St. Paul Regional Water Services, and Bernie Bullert (right), Honorary Member Award Winner

Bullert is currently the Director of Water Treatment and Distribution Services for the City of Minneapolis, where he has improved the division’s performance both fiscally and operationally. As a long-time AWWA member, he has significantly contributed to the water industry as a consultant and long-time public servant.

Bullert’s devotion to improving drinking water standards while eliminating taste and odor issues has positively impacted potable water as a primary public service. He has served over a million customers by leading the two largest water supplies in Minnesota, the City of St. Paul and its counterpart, Minneapolis. He has also assisted numerous communities as and Engineering Consultant.

Bullert attributes his success to his dedication, persistence, and love of and commitment to the water business, both from a professional and volunteer perspective. “It’s good to enjoy what you do, when you enjoy what you do, you’re successful,” says Bullert. “It’s not just work, it’s fun.” His membership in multiple professional water organizations shows the breadth of his passion and knowledge for sustainable water systems and their importance to communities.

Bullert exemplifies what it means to be an honorary member of AWWA; constantly seeking solutions to improve public health, protecting the environment, strengthening the economy, and enhancing the quality of life deserves such recognition.

Opportunities for a career in the water industry should be considered by individuals who understand the importance of sustainable water and the impact it has on both locally and internationally. Bullert states, “It’s a very good business, it’s always there, and it’s always needed. It takes a certain amount of work, but it’s a very reliable career.” He believes the public takes water for granted to a certain degree, but it is an invaluable resource and that those who maintain it should be devoted. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Minnesota's Most Established Water Systems

Major cities began developing around major water systems before today’s easy methods of transportation were ever even invented. Water systems provided a trade route, mode of travel, and provided small cities and farms with an abundance of fresh water for agricultural usage and consumption. Humans never strayed too far from fresh water sources, because it was integral to their survival. Here’s a look at five of the most established water systems in Minnesota.

Minneapolis, MN

Established as the Minneapolis Water Treatment & Distribution Services in 1867, it wasn’t until 1872 when the city of Minneapolis utilized the Mississippi as a primary resource outside of providing water to firefighters. It is currently the largest water system in the upper Midwest.

Quick Facts:
· The average annual withdrawal is 21 billion gallons.
· The Minneapolis Water Treatment & Distribution Services averages 57 million gallons per day.
· Filtration, disinfection and sedimentation are all processes undergone to purify drinking water.
· It’s one of few cities to soften water at a centralized softening plant-removing 65k pounds of hardness a day.
· The network of water mains responsible for providing tap water approximates at 1,000 miles.

St. Paul, MN

Water distributed through a system consisting of 1.1k miles of water mains provides fresh tap water to the City of St. Paul and surrounding communities. Due to the topography of the city, nicknamed ‘The City of Seven Hills’, water in the distribution requires to be pumped twice to maintain sufficient pressure to high-lying areas.

Quick Facts:
· The original piping was made out of lead, which have since been converted to copper pipes.
· ‘Reduced pressure’ service areas require pressure-reducing valves to reduce dangerously high pressures cause by downhill flow.

St. Cloud, MN

The St. Cloud Water Treatment Facility was established in 1907, when nineteen wells were sunk in Hester Park using a pump house and filtration plant to provide for the City Water Works. Proving to supply an inadequate service, the wells were capped. In 1954, the city constructed a new water works system by refurbishing the previous building, which was expanded and completed in 1994.

Mississippi River, St. Cloud, MN

Quick Facts:
· The expansion in 1994 increased water treatment from nine to 16 million gallons per day.
· A well that sunk in 1907 flowed until the early 1990’s until it was capped.

Duluth, MN

Lake Superior serves as the primary source of drinking water via the City Water Treatment Plant. The Plant sends the water through a filter, disinfects it with chlorine, which is then pumped to reservoirs throughout the city. The Public Works and Utilities Department was formed out of a 1999 merger, designed to increase operational efficiency while decreasing overall costs.

Quick Facts:
· The Department is responsible for water, natural gas, sanitary sewage and storm water services; infrastructure is also a responsibility.

Rochester, MN
Candice and Hemlock lakes have supplied the town with drinking water since 1876. Lake Ontario water is purchased from the Monroe County Water Authority (MCWA) as a supply supplement, where it is treated at MCWA’s Shoremont Treatment Plant. Both Hemlock and Shoremont treatment plants use similar processes including coagulation, filtration, and disinfection. 

Hemlock Lake, Rochester, MN
Quick Facts:
· Three 100-year-old pipelines provide the city with water treated from the Hemlock Filtration Plant via gravity.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The 5 Cleanest Lakes in Minnesota

Water is one of the most abundant resources on earth and is more than plentiful in Minnesota. Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, but there are actually 11,842 lakes that are larger than 10 acres. These lakes were created by the movement and thawing of glaciers that went through Minnesota. At one point in time all these bodies of water were clean, but this is not the case anymore. Our list covers the five cleanest lakes in Minnesota today and why they are unique from other lakes in the state.

Deer Lake
#1 Deer Lake, Itasca County
Deer Lake is located in Itasca County and covers 4,156 acres, reaching about five miles long and 1.5 miles wide. What is truly amazing about Deer Lake is that the water is crystal clear up to 11 feet, making for a truly scenic view. Another feature that makes Deer Lake unique is the mineral-content in the lake. On bright summer days the lake appears to turn a bright blue-green color, giving it its nickname the lake of changing colors.

Lake Vermillion
#2 Lake Vermillion, Tower
Lake number two hails from Tower, Minn. and is great if you want to visit an island a day for the next year. Located 85 miles north of Duluth, Lake Vermillion is known as the Crown Jewel of the North. It features over 1200 miles of shoreline, decorated with resorts and lodges, along with a champion golf course, some of the best fishing in Minnesota and a top-notch casino.

Lake Minnetonka
#3 Lake Minnetonka, Hennepin County
Just southwest of St. Paul, Lake Minnetonka reaches 14,000 acres and is best known for the ample amount of fish in the lake. This lake is truly a fisherman’s paradise and will not disappoint its reputation. Northern Pike, Muskies, Largemouth Bass and Walleye are just a few examples of the different species that call Lake Minnetonka home. Lake Vermillion has something to offer to the non-fisher too. The long winding road around Lake Vermillion has breathtaking views that draw a lot of attention to the lake.

Lake of the Woods 

#4 Lake of the Woods, Baudette
Lake of the Woods in Baudette and has been called one of the most scenic lakes in the country. A uniqueness about Lake of the Woods is that it has the best beaches in northern Minnesota with over 65,000 miles of shoreline and more than 14,000 islands, making the trip to Baudette well worth the ride. Spend some time at Zippel Bay State park for some inspiring views and enjoy yourself with the numerous water activities. These include canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, wake boarding and jet skiing to name a few.

Lake of the Isles
#5 Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis
Lake of the Isles is known as “the best lake in your backyard”, which is due to the fact that it is located in the heart of a neighborhood. Reaching just 120 acres, Lake of the Isles has everything from canoeing in the summer to ice skating in the winter. Swimming is not suggested for this lake but you can easily spend your time with a picnic on the water, a game of frisbee, or a walk with your dog in the dog park.