Early Warning Detection System: PA Drinking Water

By on August 17, 2010


Project Overview

Drinking water supplies in the U.S. are an extremely valuable national asset and are vital to the country’s survival. During the past few years, these resources have been thrust into the national spotlight as government agencies across the nation have placed an increased emphasis on the surveillance and protection of these important treasures.

It was with this initiative in mind that the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) recently completed the design and implementation of an early warning detection system for the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in Pennsylvania. These two rivers supply drinking water for approximately 1.3 million residents throughout western Pennsylvania and are critically important to the State’s well being.

As the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers creates the Ohio River, it was imperative that a system be developed with the capability to detect and track any possible contamination in either of the two rivers. To achieve this, ORSANCO created a system that combines both human and automated efforts to establish effective water quality monitoring programs on the rivers.

These combined efforts resulted in the creation of the Allegheny and Monongahela Early Warning Detection System (AMEWDS). AMEWDS utilizes a variety of water quality instrumentation installed in automatic monitoring stations at water utilities located along the two rivers. During planning meetings, many participants expressed a strong desire to access real-time water quality data from all monitoring sites over the Internet. This added component took the project to an entirely new level, enabling water utilities, researchers, and scientists to automate data collection and coordinate early warning detection efforts

Early Warning System Description

Fondriest Environmental was contacted to supply equipment, install, and provide support for the AMEWDS project. Using NexSens real-time environmental monitoring systems consisting of iSIC data loggers and PCs running iChart software, operators at the various water facilities on the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers are automatically notified of possible contamination event as soon as it occurs on either river.

Fondriest installed NexSens iSIC data loggers at every water utility to serve as a remote data collection unit and sensor communication hub. The data loggers record measurements from various sensing devices and transmit them back to operators via landline telephone modems for further analysis. This capability to integrate diverse sensors from different manufacturers into one system was both an important objective and the reason for ORSANCO’s selection of the NexSens system.

All automated data processing is performed by PCs running NexSens iChart software at each water utility. Scheduled data downloads provide users with a real-time picture of river water quality conditions by displaying the information on the PC’s monitor. The system also notifies operators whenever a change in water quality occurs by triggering a software alarm that sends a message to pagers. Multiple users can receive this notification and coordinate their cleanup and tracking programs with increased effectiveness.

iChart software includes a web-based, graphical user interface that gives water plant operators access to environmental data collected at monitoring sites. Operators use this website to view current sensor readings and generate customized historical data reports. By simply clicking the desired water utility location on a map, the web interface automatically detects the type of sensors and parameters deployed at each location. Operators can then download their data to a PC for further analysis, or view it quickly through a Web browser.

YSI multi-parameter sondes were installed at seven sites along the rivers and provide continuous monitoring of water temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, and chlorophyll. Other sensing systems installed were Turner Designs fluorometers and ISCO on-line TOC analyzers, and Inficon Sentex gas chromatographs. Operators use the instruments to watch for changes in water quality conditions that may indicate an event such as a spill, leak, or contamination. All of the data is transmitted remotely by a NexSens telemetry system and can be accessed in real-time on the Internet.

The AMEWDS system remains an invaluable tool that continues to protect drinking water resources in western Pennsylvania. The combination of multiple sensor and communication technologies with a simplified user interface and data sharing over the Internet has provided water facility operators with one of the most advanced water monitoring systems in the nation.

Base Station Equipment List
1001iChart Software
WQData-12Annual data hosting package for up to 12 field sites, additional site expansion available
Harrison Site Equipment List
2100-iSICField Modem with iSIC
A11Battery charger, 800 mA
6600-00YSI 6600 sonde with temperature/conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity & chlorophyll sensors
TOCISCO total organic compound analyzer
Tricounty Site Equipment List
3100-iSICField modem with iSIC
A11Battery charger, 800 mA
TD-4100Turner Designs on-line continuous hydrocarbon monitor
Hatfield Site Equipment List
3100-iSICField modem with iSIC
A11Battery charger, 800 mA
6600-00YSI 6600 sonde with temperature/conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity & chlorophyll sensors
GCSentex GC scentograph

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