"Consumer Reports" for Treatment Plants

The Instrument Testing Assn. (www.instrument.org) is a non-profit association of water & wastewater treatment facility operators, suppliers, and engineering and consulting firms established in 1984 to provide its members with independent appraisals of instrumentation products, especially water analyzers. Headquartered in Henderson, Nev., it's near Las Vegas as well as Hoover Dam and its low-cost hydroelectric power. In the 1950s, when titanium metal was a crucial material in the fabrication of the first supersonic jet aircraft, one of the world's largest titanium reduction plants was sited in Henderson. Tony Palmer, ITA's executive director, tells me the plant is still working.


Originally formed by water & wastewater treatment facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada to cooperatively conduct objective testing of environmental instrumentation, its goals include improved reliability and performance of instrumentation and automation systems. ITA's mission includes advancing the theory and practice of instrumentation and automation through the understanding, selection, improvement and cost-effective use of instrumentation and automation applications for monitoring and controlling water, wastewater and industrial systems.


Although ITA's membership has broadened to include instrument suppliers and other related firms, the leadership roles (board of governors) are restricted to end-user members.


A representative ITA field test report (released in 2001) concerned online ammonia analyzers for water & wastewater treatment applications. Conducted at the City of Houston's Beltway Wastewater Treatment Plant over a three-month period, the report rates nine online ammonia analyzers using three different analytical technologies (ion-selective electrodes, colorimetric, and UV absorbance). The test bed consisted of a wastewater secondary activated sludge aeration basin, mixed liquor suspended solids environment. The Beltway facility handles an average flow of 5 million gallons/day.


Average throughput characteristic included:


                                BOD                                                 500-1,500 mg/L

                                Total Suspended Solids                      3,220 mg/L

                                Total Dissolved Solids                        340 mg/L

                                Dissolved Oxygen                              2.1 mg/L

                                pH                                                    6.7

                                Ammonia (NH3-N)                              2.1 mg/L
Nitrate (NO3-N)                                  3.2 mg/L

                                Seasonal Temperature                        50-75? F


The report provides an overview of the performance evaluation procedures (test protocol) as well as detailed ammonia analyzer specification and cost information. It, of course, presents the performance evaluation data and associated analysis results. These analyses allow member firms to gauge lifetime ownership costs as well as to identify preferred suppliers.


Other recent ITA evaluation reports cover :

  • Area/velocity flowmeters for water & wastewater treatment applications
  • Flowmeters for system applications
  • Residual chlorine analyzers for water & wastewater treatment
  • Total and free chlorine analyzers,?maintenance benchmarking
  • Instrumentation, control, and automation staffing,?maintenance benchmarking
  • pH analyzers,?maintenance benchmarking
  • Dissolved oxygen analyzers for water & wastewater treatment

An evaluation of interface/sludge blanket level analyzers is currently under way at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant (District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority). Suppliers of both ultrasonic and light dispersion technologies are participating in this test protocol. To encourage greater supplier participation, some projects will only accept bids with instrumentation that has been evaluated.


Prior to joining ITA five years ago, Tony Palmer (tpalmer@instrument.org), was employed by the Sacramento Regional Sanitation District (Elk Grove facility). In 18 years with the district, he reached the rank of Control Systems Supervisor.


Steve Gluck, technical leader for environmental analytical services at Dow,?Texas Div. and a longtime ITA booster, says: "Installing the most accurate and reliable instruments helps us to narrow supplier choices and provide the lowest cost of ownership. ITA offers a valuable leveraged capability to offset continuing cutbacks in technical staffing and training."



Terrence K. McMahon

McMahon Technology Associates

135 Fort Lee Road

Leonia, NJ 07605

Tel: 201-585-2050

Fax: 201-585-1968


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