Playing in the Big Leagues

A northern tourist community steps up collection system performance with a CMOM program, GIS, and in-house inspection and cleaning
Playing in the Big Leagues
Crew members John Metcalf II, left, and Keith Metcalf jet a sewer line using a Vactor 2100 combination truck. (Photography by James Netz)

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A giant muskellunge made of concrete, steel and fiberglass presides over the northwest Wisconsin city of Hayward at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum. And real muskies and other fish in the area’s streams and lakes swim in cleaner water thanks to the efforts of the city public works department.

In fact, if you ask staff members from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Hayward might well belong in the hall of fame of small communities that manage their wastewater collection systems in exemplary fashion.

Public Works director John McCue heads a staff of eight people who take care of 34.8 miles of gravity sewers and force mains in this Northwoods tourist community of 2,300. Diana Lewis, administrative assistant and lead operator of the city’s 300,000 gpd wastewater treatment plant, created a collection system management plan built around the U.S. EPA Capacity, Management, Operation & Maintenance (CMOM) program.

It helps make sure the city stays up to date with regular inspections, cleaning and repairs. Starting in 2010, the city equipped itself to handle nearly all inspection and cleaning in-house. As a result, emergencies have been reduced significantly and the city is able to identify needs for repairs and schedule them efficiently.

“It is commendable that even a small community like Hayward can develop a CMOM program and do such a good job of managing, operating and maintaining a sewer system,” says Jack Saltes, M.S., P.E., wastewater operations engineer with the DNR Bureau of Watershed Management. “CMOM isn’t just something for big communities. The Haywards can do a great job, as well — and do.”


A little research

McCue and Lewis joined the Public Works staff on the same day nearly 11 years ago. McCue became director in 2004, and Lewis was promoted to lead operator at the treatment plant in 2005. Together, they and their team have made a substantial impact.

The sewer system, consisting mainly of 6- and 8-inch mains, is relatively old, and large sections of the city are served by clay pipe. “It’s been in there long enough so that tree roots have followed the pipe and worked their way into the joints,” says McCue. In addition, groundwater depth ranges from 4 to 8 feet in most of the city, and that makes infiltration a constant concern.

Major pipe rehabilitation projects in the downtown area in 2005 and 2007 put a dent in I&I. Ongoing rehabilitation — almost all of it by open-cut replacement — helps keep I&I in check. Wastewater flows average about 400,000 gpd in the peak summer tourist season and about 275,000 gpd for the rest of the year.

Lewis started working on a CMOM-based program in 2008, with the aim of improving the system and achieving better grades on the Compliance and Maintenance Annual Reports (CMAR) the city must file with the DNR. The CMAR questionnaire asks whether a community has a CMOM program — and Hayward wanted to answer: Yes.

“I looked at the EPA website and they had a CMOM guide, but it was 126 pages long and very complicated,” Lewis recalls. Using the CMAR checklist itself and taking the best from a few simple templates she found on the Internet, she developed a CMOM guide that fit the city’s needs.

The guide documents the city’s operation and maintenance procedures, system design and performance standards, emergency overflow response plan, capacity assurance review, annual self-audit and special studies such as I&I analysis and lift station evaluation, and other essentials of operating a collection system.

Not long after Lewis completed her project, the DNR published a simple 26-page Wisconsin CMOM guide designed specifically to help small communities develop CMOM programs. Lewis found the program outline in the booklet closely mirrored her own, which she still follows.


Getting a handle

Hayward’s efforts to improve the collection system began before the CMOM program. A treatment plant upgrade in 2005 that included better flow monitoring enabled the city to quantify I&I more closely. Also in 2005, with help from Cedar Corp. of Menomonie, Wis., the city built a geographic information system for tracking assets.

“When I took over in 2004, we did not have a good functional map of the system,” says McCue. “Diana and I sat down one day and laid the map out, and I was surprised at how many manholes that I knew were there were not on the map. We knew we needed to do something. We found a lot of errors on the old paper maps and made a lot of changes. Now everything is more modernized.”

The city is now on a program of inspecting one-fourth of the system each year, and inspecting and cleaning known problem areas more often as needed. In addition, crew members open all manholes on a two-year cycle, visually inspect, and record observations for entry to the GIS.

Collection system duties are shared among the entire staff, which in addition to McCue and Lewis includes foreman Steve Regenauer, crew members/certified operators Keith Metcalf and John Metcalf II, crew members Brent Kuczenski and John Hutchison, and administrative assistant and certified operator Sari Marks.

Team members rotate taking one week on call around the clock to deal with emergencies as needed. There are far fewer of those now — perhaps a dozen a year — than several years ago, McCue observes.


Buying the tools

The city took a major step forward in 2010 by investing in a mainline camera system and a combination cleaning truck and training the crew to operate both. Previously, the city contracted for pipe inspection and vacuum truck services and used an older cable rodder to clear blockages.

Taking the work in-house was easy to cost-justify. “We televised about 7,000 feet of gravity mains last year, and the cost to contract for that was about half the price of the camera,” says McCue. “It probably paid for itself in just the first year we’ve had it.

“With the vacuum truck, in the past, every time we had an issue and hired a contractor for a few days to clean some lines I had specified, it cost about $10,000. If we use our own truck at the rate of a couple days a week for a few weeks a year, we’ll have it paid for in a hurry. It’s an awesome tool.” Besides pipe cleaning, the Hayward crew uses the truck for hydroexcavating to expose utilities, for water valve box and stormwater catch basin cleaning, and even to clean catch basins in the city garage.

The camera and truck were supplied by Envirotech Equipment Co. of Pewaukee, Wis. The camera is a refurbished Saturn III pan-tilt-zoom unit from Aries Industries, mounted by the city staff in a 5- by 8-foot single-axle enclosed trailer with a desk, control panel and monitor, all powered by a 2 kW Honda gasoline-fueled generator.

The combination truck is a 1995 Vactor 2100 with a 10-cubic-yard debris body, 1,000-gallon water tank, and 80 gpm/2,500 psi water system. The nozzle package includes a Model 906 hydraulic root cutter unit from Shamrock Pipe Tools purchased in 2011.

Envirotech president David Bogie spent a day with the crew demonstrating the equipment and training the crew in its use. He also provided ongoing support by telephone as the staff got adjusted.


Keeping constant tabs

The city’s CMOM program helps guide all collection system work. Lewis updates the program in May or June while completing the annual CMAR report to the state.

She estimates that collecting all the information for the program on the front end took about two months, and that the annual updates take from two or three days to a week.

She considers the time spent developing and sustaining the program well worthwhile. “This way, everything is very organized and put together,” she says. “All the information is there in case there are questions from anyone who is new. It’s good to keep a complete asset inventory so you know what you have. It’s an easy way to have your maintenance schedule ready to go, so you can see where you’re at and take a proactive approach, rather than wait until something breaks.”

McCue adds, “I think it’s having a great impact on our performance. It’s making sure we get out there and check everything regularly. If you have an issue with a certain party, say for example a sewer backup, you have the maintenance report to fall back on and say, ‘Yes, we did maintain that line — it was cleaned on this day.’ It helps with your liability to have that kind of documentation.

“It’s also helpful in case of an emergency like an overflow, to be able to go quickly to the GIS map, and pull up a manhole and say, ‘There it is. Here’s the next one, the flow is in this direction, here’s the pipe size.’ With that information we can make sure we’ve got the right tools for the job before we get there.

“It’s a lot easier to take care of everything when you have a plan and the information is all in one place.”


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