Drink the Water

May 12, 2008
Don’t drink the water. It’s one of those vacation half-jokes you hear when you’re thinking about visiting tropical resorts.

At least…it’s a joke to everyone but the business owners and other members of the community who rely on tourism for their livelihood.

When preparing for Y2K, Pinellas County Utilities (PCU) in Florida—which supplies fresh potable water and wastewater treatment to the area’s one million residents and estimated 4.2 million tourists each year—conducted an audit of its outdated SCADA system and found that it fell short in several areas. Excessive labor was required to monitor the process and the system needed constant maintenance and adjustments.

PCU also found it lacked efficient process and production reporting and analysis for its management, which could only review critical data at specific stations at the plant. It turned to Lake Forest, Calif.-based Wonderware for a solution that would help it accomplish these goals and help it continue to meet or surpass rigorous federal and state drinking water-quality regulations.

The reclaimed water operations at PCU utilize a four-step treatment and disinfection process. The first step eliminates large solid material. Next, microorganisms break down smaller solids. This is followed by removing fine suspended particles and the final step adds chlorine to eliminate disease-causing organisms. Wastewater takes 10-12 days to be treated and, on average, four houses of wastewater are needed to supply one house with reclaimed water. PCU supplies an average of 66 million gallons of drinking water and treats 30 million gallons of wastewater at its facilities every day.

Built on Microsoft's .Net technology for application integration, the Wonderware system rolled out PCU includes Wonderware Application Server, which provides a unified environment for visualization, plant history, device communications and automation application integration; InTouch human-machine interface (HMI); Wonderware Historian, a high-performance real-time and historical database; and ActiveFactory, a data trending, analysis and reporting tool for accessing information stored in Wonderware Historian.

“Wonderware InTouch HMI software for visualization and industrial process control was installed to allow workers at PCU to quickly create and deploy customized applications that connect and deliver real-time information,” said Ken Osborne, SCADA systems coordinator at Pinellas County.

In addition, workers can access data from any location 24/7 via handheld and portable devices, enabling management to view vital plant and business information, such as downtime and statistical process control analysis. By streamlining data collection and providing process monitoring, reporting and analysis tools, Wonderware software has enabled PCU to meet its Y2K compliance, reduce its labor, maintenance and engineering costs, and provide access to important plant and business information. As a result, the public utility has been able to successfully maintain its bottom line and reports that it has already achieved its return on the new technology investment.

“Pinellas County also implemented the Wonderware Application Server, which has probably saved us 30 to 40 percent in time for editing and changing our screens,” Osborne added. “With Wonderware software, Pinellas County has boosted its engineering productivity and also streamlined engineering time. Wonderware ActiveFactory software provides the water utility with data trend analysis, sophisticated numerical data analysis and comprehensive data reporting. The combination of these tools enables PCU to publish valuable real-time and historical plant information to the Web or company intranet, permitting authorized management to review plant operations.”

Published reports and trends can be modified ad hoc by plant knowledge workers and managers to quickly troubleshoot problems, study potential process inefficiencies and eliminate the time-consuming process of locating data. Web access to historical and real-time information at PCU facilities is simplified by the Wonderware Information Server production and performance management portal.

“We use ActiveFactory for a lot of our trending and ad hoc trending to look for problems and processes,” Osborne said. “A lot of our reporting is custom built in-house by our SCADA department using Visual Basic and XL. The Wonderware Historian, from day one, has been easy to use and Wonderware improvements to this application over the years have made it even simpler, yet very robust.”

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