Newsletter - Winter 2007

This is the text version. Download a pdf of our printed newsletter.

Fair Haven's Energy-Saving Success

Motor controls cut electricity use in half, save $17,000 per year

by Amy Rubin, Efficiency Vermont

In the summer of 2006, Fair Haven wastewater plant Head Operator Peter Laramie was faced with a challenge. The facility's oxidation canal pH was too acidic and the process of adding soda ash had become costly. What Laramie did to solve the problem not only balanced canal pH and eliminated soda ash expenses, but also reduced the facility's electricity costs by nearly a quarter.

Inspired by these results, Laramie and his staff went on to find other ways to reduce electrical use. Today, after completing energy-saving upgrades, the plant will use 50% less electricity and will pay $17,000 less in annual energy costs.

It all began when Laramie consulted with Vermont DEC process engineer Paul Olander about the canal's pH imbalance. At Olander's suggestion, Laramie and Assistant Operators Peter Root and James Heller started experimenting with run times on the canal's aerators, which typically had been running around-the-clock.

Knowing that the canal could naturally restore its pH balance while aerators were off, the team put formerly idle timers into service on the canal's six 15-horsepower aerator motors.

In the end, by setting timers to cycle on every three hours in winter months and every 90 minutes in summer months, the team restored pH balance. They also found that they could drastically reduce the amount of alum they needed to remove phosphorous. And, because the motors now ran half as often, Laramie saw the plant's electricity bills drop.

"They didn't stop there," says George Lawrence of Efficiency Vermont. "This was a facility that had steadily increasing electricity use prior to these changes. When they saw the reduction in their electric bills after using the timers, they gave us a call to investigate further opportunities. We took a look at their operations and agreed with their assumption that the most cost-effective energy-saving investment would be in variable frequency drives for their aerator motors."

By the end of July 2007, the facility had installed variable frequency drives (vfds) to work in conjunction with the timers. By matching motor speed to oxygen needs in the canal, the vfds maintain a dissolved oxygen level of two milligrams per liter.

Prior to vfd installation, the canal's dissolved oxygen levels varied. With a financial incentive of $3,000 from Efficiency Vermont, plant operators expect the new $9,745 worth of vfd equipment to pay for itself in energy savings in less than a year.

As a result of the timer and vfd projects combined, the plant is expected to lower its facility-wide electricity costs by $17,000 per year ($8,000 from timer use and $9,000 from vfd savings). Compared to the final full year of operation without energy-saving motor controls, the plant's 2008 electricity use is expected to be reduced by 50%.

"We didn't know if we'd save any energy initially," says Peter Laramie. "It wasn't the reason we started working with timers. The energy savings were just a wonderful surprise."

To learn about energy-saving opportunities in your treatment facility, contact Efficiency Vermont, toll-free, at 888-921-5990.

Water System Audits: Accounting for Lost Water

by Paula Jackson, VRWA

Due to aging infrastructure, water loss from distribution system leakage is a common occurrence in Vermont. By conducting an audit of your water system, you can determine how much water is lost due to leakage in your system's distribution piping.

AWWA standards say that 10% leakage is normal in water systems. What percentage of the water in your system is unaccounted for? 20-30%?

By first identifying and then fixing the causes of the missing water, water systems can lower electricity bills and other operating costs, lower the risk of contamination hazards and backflow into the system, reduce wear on equipment, and set a good example of water conservation for consumers.

What is a water audit? A water audit is like balancing a check book; you measure the amount of water produced by your master meter and subtract the total of customer meter readings to reveal the amount of unaccounted for water.

Audits must also take into account unmetered water such as that used for firefighting and water main flushing, leaks that have been repaired, and unmetered service connections such as town offices and schools.

Meter inaccuracy is another area that should be addressed for a more accurate audit.

A typical water audit includes these steps:

  • Collect source meter readings for a one year period
  • Collect and add up customer meter readings for the year
  • Test master and customer meter accuracy
  • Calculate the volume and cost of unaccounted for water
  • Analyze the data and develop a leak detection plan

For more information about water audits or for technical assistance with audits and leak detection, contact VRWA at 800-556-3792.

Maintaining Water Quality in Private Wells

by Liz Royer, VRWA

Many of us work with public water systems and drinking water sources on a regular basis, but how often do we think about private water sources? Whether at our own home or those of relatives, friends, or small local businesses, private wells are the source of drinking water for many households and communities throughout Vermont.

Private water sources include drilled wells, dug wells and springs. Drilled wells draw water from deep below the ground and are the most common. Dug wells draw from shallow water tables and are generally more vulnerable than drilled wells to surface water contamination. However, a properly constructed dug well in a good location can produce high-quality water.

A spring is a place where ground water emerges naturally from the earth's surface, usually along hillsides, at the base of slopes, or in low areas. Springs should be constructed in a way that protects against surface water contamination and prevents rodents and insects from entering.

In contrast to the regulations which govern public drinking water sources, the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) has no requirements for testing private residential wells. However, to ensure that drinking water is safe, the Vermont Department of Health recommends the following testing schedule:

  • Total coliform bacterial test every year
  • Inorganic chemical test every five years
  • Gross alpha radiation screening test every five years
  • Fluoride test if young children or infants regularly drink the water

The Vermont Department of Health Lab, along with several private certified labs, provides information and analysis for testing private residential wells. For more information, including a list of certified labs, please refer to the VDH website at

The table on page 7 provides information on individual parameters included in the VDH private well testing recommendations. This may include the recommended Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), the source of the contaminant, the health effects of the contaminant, and recommendations for further testing and/or investigation.


VDH Safe Water Guide

NSF Drinking Water Website

For more information

EPA Private Drinking Water Wells

NGWA Well Owner

News on Tap

Are You Selling the Value of Your System?

by Shaun Fielder, Executive Director, VRWA

At the Vermont League of Cities and Towns Town Fair this October, we spoke with many Vermont community officials at our display booth. These individuals included many managers, selectboard members, superintendents, and operators of water and wastewater systems.

The conversations at these events are a constant reminder of the importance of the industry we support. Many cities and towns were represented and it was evident that VRWA has offered some type of service, whether technical assistance or continuing education, to many in attendance.

In addition, a key theme discussed with many was the value of a properly functioning public water and wastewater system. I spoke briefly with an elderly lady from a northwestern Vermont town. She put it well: "We have nothing to offer in our community if we don't have a properly functioning water and wastewater system. These systems serve as the foundation for our towns."

In order to keep these foundations in good order, we need to keep investing in them. This is quite a challenge with the ever-increasing financial hurdles our country and state face. The belt is getting tighter for all of us.

That being said, we all need to continue to promote the value of public water and wastewater service. Safe potable water and a properly functioning wastewater system are key to a given community's vitality.

I well know that many working in our industry are very humble and take great pride in keeping a low profile, but don't be afraid to promote your system and good work when you have an opportunity. You continue to keep up with very stringent federal and state regulations to ensure that both public health and the environment are protected. There is no doubt you are a significant part of the foundation that holds your community together.

I prepare this article in late October and we are into a nice period of Indian summer. I am sure the snowflakes will be in the air as you receive this issue of News Leaks. Best wishes to all of you, and have a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

Nominations Sought

The Tony Torchia VRWA Special Recognition Award honors a person affiliated with the water-wastewater industry for extraordinary effort or accomplishment during the previous year or over the course of a career. All members are invited to submit nominations.

VRWA will also have one seat on the Board of Directors up for election this spring. Our all-volunteer board meets quarterly to direct and oversee the association.

Directors are representatives of VRWA-member water/wastewater systems and they are elected to the board for three-year terms by the membership. Self nominations are common.

Nominations for the 2008 Tony Torchia Award or a board seat must be received by January 31, 2008. For a nomination form, visit or call the office at 800-556-3792.


The Proctor Water and Wastewater Departments have gone through a difficult transition this summer. The Chief Operator for both the water and wastewater departments resigned in June 2007. From June 2007 until mid-September 2007 both departments were operated by a single assistant operator-in-training.

Despite our staffing constraints, the water department needed to complete a special data collection effort as part of a Comprehensive Preliminary Engineering Study designed to determine the most effective ways to address disinfection byproducts in our drinking water. Our engineer required that the sampling be completed during the summer months. It involved collecting over 70 samples at eight different sampling locations throughout our public drinking water system. It also required that the samples be hand-delivered to the Endyne Laboratory in Williston due to the 24-hour hold time on some of the samples. This is a minimum 4-hour trip from Proctor.

Nearing the end of the summer, we were very concerned about how this project was going to get completed. Coincidentally, in early September, Paula Jackson stopped by the Town Office to inform us of her new position with VRWA and to ask if there was anything going on in the water and/or wastewater departments that she could help with. I immediately asked if she could help us complete this special data collection effort. On September 10, 2007, Ms. Jackson made herself available for the entire day to help with collecting the samples and completing the lab paperwork, and then she hand-delivered the samples to the Endyne Laboratory in Williston.

On behalf of the Proctor Water Department, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Ms. Jackson for assisting us with this project. I am doubtful that it would have been completed on time without her help. Thank you to Ms. Jackson and VRWA for really helping us in a pinch!

Sincerely yours,

Steffanie Bourque
Administrative Assistant, Town of Proctor

Back to Top