Utility Leadership, Staff Work As One

Pleasant Prairie fosters cooperation and strong asset management among utilities divisions.
Utility Leadership, Staff Work As One
Tom Hupp, manager of technical support for the Pleasant Prairie, Wis., Department of Public Works, stops to consult with Public Works analyst Justin Bain.

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The water and wastewater utility in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., is successful because of where they are and who they are.

The village draws its water from and discharges its wastewater to the neighboring city of Kenosha, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. The lake provides an unlimited supply of freshwater to support the vibrant industrial and commercial growth in Pleasant Prairie, situated along I-94 between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Moreover, the utility’s leadership and staff are creative and visionary, adopting the latest in management technology, making its work processes effective and worker friendly, and saving money by doing much of the work in-house.

“We’ve done some great things over these last few years,” says Public Works Director John Steinbrink Jr., P.E., reflecting on his utility’s progress since 2010, when its Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) permits expired and they closed two small wastewater treatment plants. “After the economic crisis of 2008, we needed to make all our processes more productive. We had to be more responsive, even though we had fewer dollars.”

The utility

The Pleasant Prairie water and wastewater utility is part of the village’s Public Works Department and has responsibility for delivering potable water to the community’s customers, and collecting wastewater and stormwater.

The village purchases about 2.3 mgd with a peak summer demand of 4.7 mgd from the City of Kenosha, which draws raw water from the lake and treats it through several processes, including the largest microfiltration system for drinking water in the United States.

The treated water flows through two 24-inch distribution mains to a 5-million-gallon capacity reservoir located within the village boundaries. This pump station then moves the water to another 5-million-gallon capacity reservoir and a series of four elevated storage tanks – two with a capacity of 750,000 gallons, one with a 500,000-gallon capacity and one capable of holding 200,000 gallons.

From there, the water is distributed to about 4,300 connections along a 118-mile-long distribution system.

Wastewater is collected and pumped back to Kenosha for treatment through a 110-mile collection system powered by 17 lift stations. Through 2010, Pleasant Prairie operated its own treatment facilities – two small package plants that were nearing the end of their useful life. Also ending was their WDNR permit that allowed them to discharge flow across the subcontinental divide into the Des Plaines River Basin. “Shutting them down was our best option at the time,” Steinbrink says.

The utility is also responsible for stormwater management. Pleasant Prairie established the Clean Water Utility in 2006 to repair and maintain stormwater infrastructure – including storm sewers and catch basins – preserve natural drainage systems such as streams and vegetative buffers, and build a capital fund to complete projects and replace existing infrastructure. The ordinance established stormwater fees for property owners, based on land use surface area.

In addition to the village’s 20,000 residents, the water and wastewater utility serves an impressive roster of businesses and industries, including Hospira, ZF Electronic Systems (formerly Cherry Electric), Rust-Oleum, ACCO Brands, Good Foods Group, Fair Oaks Farms, Sanmina and Honeywell, many located in the thriving LakeView Corporate Park. In addition, WE Energies operates the coal-fired Pleasant Prairie Power Plant within the utility’s boundaries and uses utility water to supplement its own draw from Lake Michigan. A number of companies like Meijer’s, Jelly Belly and Uline have taken advantage of the village’s location in the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor, and constructed large distribution centers in Pleasant Prairie, with plans for more.

Recently, the Niagara bottled water company announced it would locate in Pleasant Prairie and will require another 2 mgd.

Capacity is not an issue in the village because of another fortunate development 20 years ago. “A large gas-powered power plant was planned for this area back in the ‘90s,” explains Steinbrink. “The owners were going to use 14 mgd for cooling water and they built and paid for the infrastructure to deliver that flow. The plant was never built, but they paid for the infrastructure, giving us a total capacity of around 21 mgd.”

Maintaining the system

While Pleasant Prairie may differ from other water and wastewater utilities in some respects, its water main and sewer line repair and maintenance requirements are very similar.

The utility’s manager of technical support Tom Hupp explains that the village conducts annual inspection, cleaning and repair of its sewer system.

“In the old section of the community, the sewer line consists of 8- to 10-inch diameter vitrified clay pipe,” he says. “We clean the clay lines every year and our PVC lines every other year.”

To accomplish that, the utility owns and operates a pair of combination jet/vac trucks: one Vactor and one Vac-Con.

In addition, the Pleasant Prairie team uses an Aries LE3265 Lateral Evaluation Lateral Evaluation Television System (LETS) to inspect its sewers. “The goal is to TV 5 percent of the system per year,” says Hupp. “We would like to do more, we just do not have the manpower.

“We monitor for flows that shouldn’t be where they are,” he says. Manholes are also inspected for integrity.

The clay pipes are being relined by Visu-Sewer, using cured-in-place pipe. Steinbrink says the utility is planning to reline laterals when the main lines are completed.

I&I is a problem anywhere it crops up but it’s especially critical in Pleasant Prairie, since the utility is paying Kenosha for every drop of water it uses, and every drop it discharges back to Kenosha for treatment. “We’re paying by the gallon whether it’s sewer water or rainwater,” explains Hupp.

Pleasant Prairie uses sonic testing equipment to find leaks in the water lines and – as part of its well inspection program – checks out sumps in basements while utility staff are on the property. “We’re looking for any connections to the sanitary system,” Hupp says.

To monitor water usage even more closely, Pleasant Prairie has embarked on an automated metering program, using Sensus Flex Pro remote-read meters. “We have 4,200 meters total, and so far we’ve upgraded 1,700 with the new meters,” Steinbrink says. “We are in the process of building a tower that will enable us to perform hourly reads – residential as well as commercial meters – and eventually give us full AMI [automated meter infrastructure] capability.”

Working city

Of all the advancements and improvements in technology, Steinbrink and Hupp are most proud of the Cityworks software program the utility has adopted.

“We get much more information, but there’s no more paperwork,” Steinbrink says. “We can track work history, locate valves, all on tablets our people have in the field. We’re not using paper maps anymore either.”

According to Cityworks, the program uses service requests, work orders, inspections and projects to track all types of activities and their associated costs. Cityworks also uses a utility’s GIS geo-database for asset inventory.

Steinbrink says the key to adopting the new software was cooperation between the utility and the village IT department. “We started out a couple of years ago and worked with our new IT department head to implement the system. The DPW set up templates, charts, workflow, and our asset management system. Normally, IT is good at IT, and we are good at what we do,” he says, explaining that Pleasant Prairie is fortunate the two departments coordinate very well.

Reflecting his background as a grain and dairy farmer, Steinbrink insisted that the utility had to be more productive, and the software program was the vital link. “We started using Cityworks in the solid waste department, doing routine route work. The work orders went right to the box; the foreman didn’t have to touch them,” he says.

Then they made the move to water and wastewater. Steinbrink says the village IT department was very helpful. “‘It’s your software,’ they said. ‘Set it up so it works for you.’”

“The workflow has to be effective,” he adds. “If it isn’t, they’ll get frustrated and they won’t use it.”

Customization and familiarity are important in the success of software like Cityworks, Steinbrink and Hupp believe, but so is training.

“We have older workers who don’t own a computer, and younger people who grew up with computers,” explains Steinbrink. “Training is critical. We do it in small bites – baby steps. In one sitting, it’s how to turn on a computer and how to turn it off. In another, it’s how to log on and log off.

“These are 15-minute sessions – no four-hour time blocks for us.

“When your employees leave the training, they need to feel like they’ve been successful.”

More Information

Aries Industries, Inc. - 800/234-7205 - www.ariesindustries.com

Cityworks - 801/523-2751 - www.cityworks.com

Sensus - 800/638-3748 - www.sensus.com

Vac-Con, Inc. - 888/491-5762 - www.vac-con.com

Vactor Manufacturing - 800/627-3171 - www.vactor.com

Visu-Sewer, Inc. - 800/876-8478 - www.visu-sewer.com


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