News Briefs: Indiana Legislature Starts to Tackle Infrastructure Problem

In this week’s news briefs, bills are moving through the Indiana Senate and House aimed at addressing the state’s costly water infrastructure issues, and the city of Edmonton begins a comprehensive review of the safety culture for its municipal workers.
News Briefs: Indiana Legislature Starts to Tackle Infrastructure Problem

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This week, the Indiana Senate unanimously passed legislation that would help assess the state’s current water capacity and future need, as well as determine how to go about rebuilding aging water infrastructure.

The bill’s provisions include putting the Indiana Finance Authority in charge of various water studies, requiring agencies evaluating rate hike proposals to consider long-term infrastructure replacement costs, and requiring water quality tests before a public utility changes water sources.

The bill is now in the House.

Another bill still being considered by the Senate would establish an infrastructure assistance fund under the Indiana Finance Authority for providing grants and loans for the repair and expansion of public water systems. A recent study by the Indiana Finance Authority concluded that the state’s water infrastructure needs $2.3 billion in immediate repairs and $815 million in additional annual maintenance.

Sen. Ed Charbonneau, the sponsor of the two bills, told the Northwest Indiana Times that while the legislation doesn’t appropriate any money for the infrastructure assistance fund, it at least puts the structure in place so that money can be disbursed more quickly if federal funds or other revenues become available.

Source: Northwest Indiana Times

Research Team Creates More Effective, Less Costly Solar-Powered Water Purifier
A team of researchers has developed a solar-powered water purifier they say could benefit small communities needing new ways to get potable water, especially developing areas or regions affected by natural disasters, according to an article on Engineering.com.

“Using extremely low-cost materials, we have been able to create a system that makes near maximum use of the solar energy during evaporation. At the same time, we are minimizing the amount of heat loss during this process,” says lead researcher Qiaoqiang Gan, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The team built a small-scale solar still, which cleans or desalinates water using heat converted from sunlight. The sun evaporates water, during which salt, bacteria and other contaminants are left behind as the liquid moves into a gaseous state. After it cools and returns to a liquid state, it is collected in a separate container without the contaminants.

“People lacking adequate drinking water have employed solar stills for years, however, these devices are inefficient,” says Haomin Song, one of the other researchers. “For example, many devices lose valuable heat energy due to heating the bulk liquid during the evaporation process. Meanwhile, systems that require optical concentrators, such as mirrors and lenses, to concentrate the sunlight are costly.”

According to Engineering.com, the team addressed those issues by creating a solar still made of expanded polystyrene foam and porous paper coated in carbon black. The paper absorbs water while the carbon black absorbs sunlight and transforms the solar energy into heat used during evaporation. The team reported that only 12 percent of the available energy was lost during evaporation, and believe that the still is capable of producing as much as twice the amount of water of other commercial solar stills.

Source: Engineering.com

Edmonton Begins City-Wide Review of Workplace Safety
The city of Edmonton, Alberta, is conducting a comprehensive review of municipal safety culture, nearly three months after the death of a sewer worker, according to a report in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine.

However, Doug Jones, Edmonton’s deputy city manager of operations, says the review isn’t a direct response to that incident or any other incident.

“The initiative was started before that was going on,” he told Occupational Health & Safety. “Certainly when you have a tragic incident like that, it gets your attention. We have to learn from them.”

A 44-year-old city employee died when he became trapped between the tunnel wall and a conveyor while working underground on a sewer project last November. A stop-work order from Alberta’s Ministry of Labour was issued to allow for an investigation, and the city also voluntarily suspended all tunneling work in Edmonton. That shutdown was lifted on Jan. 16.

“The city of Edmonton leads in so many areas. We decided we wanted to be a leader in safety in the municipal area. And so what does that mean? It’s saying, ‘How do we train our people to be safe? How do we train our leaders in the organization at all levels to exhibit the right safety-leadership behaviors? How do we promote all the right things about safety?’”

The city has hired a consulting firm to conduct the review, which will focus on three areas: people, processes and technology.

“Technology’s changing so rapidly. Are there other things out there that we could use that maybe weren’t available five years ago?” says Jones.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety Magazine



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