Posts Tagged ‘Water treatment’

All in a day’s — or night’s — work

On the shortest day of the year, the sun sets early, but you still need water. We’ll be there.

By Kristi Delynko

Dec. 21 is the winter solstice, the shortest day — and longest night — of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. And while many of us use an early sunset as an excuse to curl up on the couch with a good book or movie, some Denver Water employees will be hard at work — no matter how short the daylight hours.

Ensuring 1.4 million people receive high-quality drinking water is a 24/7 operation. Here’s a glimpse at what some of our employees will be doing long after the sun sets.

Emergency services conducts night work to repair a leak

A customer calls the emergency services dispatcher to report water bubbling up in the middle of a busy intersection. Even in the dark, members of the Emergency Services team are Denver Water’s first responders. They handle anything from shutting off water so crews can repair pipe breaks, to supporting Denver firefighters during multi-alarm blazes, to assisting customers with water quality complaints.

 

Daniel Ruvalcaba, senior utility technician, works on repairing an underground leak

Water mains burst when they want to, and usually at inopportune times, like when it’s dark and chilly. After Emergency Services responds to a call, a Water Distribution crew — including senior utility technician Daniel Ruvalcaba — fix the problem so customers can have water service restored as soon as possible.

 

Water treatment plant supervisor David Brancio

Long after many of us have gone to bed, staff at our four water treatment plants are hard at work. They gear up overnight when water use is low, to ensure the plants can meet customers’ needs during the day, when demand is higher. Our three drinking water plants and recycling plant are staffed around-the-clock by operators and maintenance personnel like water treatment plant supervisor David Brancio, who monitor the treatment processes and run lab tests to ensure the water we deliver (sometimes at the rate of 350,000 gallons a minute) meets all the federal and state regulations, and even tighter Denver Water standards.

 

Distribution operator Albert Geist monitors our complex water system

Coffee percolates and the dark room glows from monitors that cover entire walls in Systems Operations (also known as Load Control). Distribution operators like Albert Geist work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, scanning various computer screens to make sure our 30 treated water reservoirs, more than 3,000 miles of pipe, 160 pressure zones and 22 pump stations are ready for the morning load as our customers wake and prepare for their day. With a water system as large and complex as ours, pumps, facilities, even entire pipelines occasionally go down for service, maintenance or repair. Operators must constantly respond to alarms that signal potential real-time problems with everything from equipment and instrumentation to water quality and pressure.

We provide customers an average of 64 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water and 2 billion gallons of treated recycled water every year. No small task, but it’s all in a day’s — or night’s — work at Denver Water.

Labor Day the Denver Water way

Employees work 24/7 to keep the water flowing.

By Denver Water staff

The need for water doesn’t shut off on weekends or holidays — including Labor Day. So while many folks are enjoying a day off from work Monday, employees from disciplines across Denver Water will be on the clock.

Whether responding to a main break or performing daily tasks that can’t skip a day, we have many employees who cover shifts 24/7 to ensure our customers always have clean, safe water to drink.

Learn who they are.

Note: This slideshow may not work depending on the type and configuration of your Web browser. If that’s the case, click here to view it.

Extreme treatment

In his lime green kayak, water treatment technician Casey Tango takes on Colorado’s toughest rapids.

By Kristi Delynko

Casey Tango racing down Rigormortis on Clear Creek, a few miles west of Golden, along Highway 6.

Casey Tango races down Rigormortis on Clear Creek, a few miles west of Golden, along Highway 6.

Every year, Casey Tango eagerly awaits the first signs of spring — not just for the warmer temperatures, but for the mountain snowmelt that fills Colorado’s rivers and streams. When runoff is at its highest, so begins Tango’s obsession with racing down Colorado’s toughest rapids in his lime green Dagger kayak.

As a water treatment technician at Foothills Water Treatment Plant — one of Denver Water’s three drinking water treatment plants — Tango works with water every day, running tests and monitoring plant operations to ensure safe water is delivered to 1.4 million people in the Denver metro area. But when it’s quitting time, he hops in his Subaru and races to Clear Creek to experience water in a more exciting fashion — whitewater kayaking.

“You’ll find me out kayaking at least five days a week in the spring and summer,” Tango said. “When I’m not out on the water, I’m reading kayak articles, doing research, watching videos and planning kayak trips. It’s really kind of an obsession.”

Tango, a longtime outdoor enthusiast, worked as a river guide for 10 years, taking groups down major rivers in Colorado, Arkansas, West Virginia and even Chile. So learning to kayak seemed like a natural fit. In 2004, Tango began teaching himself the ins and outs of kayaking, picking up some tips from a few friends who were also into the sport.

Casey Tango checks a sample at Denver Water’s Foothills Treatment Plant.

Casey Tango checks a sample at Denver Water’s Foothills Treatment Plant.

After more than a decade of kayaking, Tango can still remember his first time was out on the water. “I flipped for the first time and was able to turn myself back upright, so I was pretty excited. But, right after that, I flipped again and had to swim out of my kayak. You never can tell what’s going to happen.

“In the moment, you’re just focused on your technique and what you need to do to get back up. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t — that’s just the way it goes,” he said.

Tango recalls a particularly rough ride on Daisy Creek near Crested Butte, where he flew down a waterfall and crashed into a rock. “I was really shaken up, and when I got out I realized I had sprained both of my ankles.”

Despite his injuries, Tango wasn’t discouraged from taking on Daisy Creek again. “After a mistake, you learn what you need to do the next time. I know what to do in that spot now,” he said.

The more challenging the rapids, the better. Tango loves to take on tough rapids and waterfalls, exploring remote canyons and quiet coves, and discovering the world’s best whitewater. While the thrill of the ride is what keeps him going back for more — even after a nasty spill — safety is always on his mind.

“When the river’s high, we scout out the routes beforehand, so we know where the dangerous spots are and what we can do to get through them. It’s easier to see the tricky spots from up above than when you’re cruising down the river at full speed,” he said.

Near the end of the summer, when runoff starts to slow, Tango travels further into the mountains to find rivers and creeks suitable for kayaking. Thanks to stream flow information provided by the USGS, he can find the best spots for late-summer kayaking. “A lot of the water I paddle on is managed by Denver Water, and it’s actually thanks, in part, to Denver Water that I am informed about where to find out about streamflow, which helps me locate the best spots for late summer kayaking, when the rivers are low.”

“For instance, I know that after runoff season, I can head up to the North Fork of the South Platte near Bailey, Colo. to find deeper waters,” he said.

Should you find yourself hiking or fishing one of Denver Water’s streams or rivers this summer, keep your eyes open for Tango — he’ll be the one speeding by in the lime green kayak.

Casey Tango and his trusty lime green Dagger kayak.

Casey Tango and his trusty lime green Dagger kayak.

Fair treatment: Busting the myth of recycled water

It’s a lot cleaner than you think. And that means more drinking water for drinking.    

By Kim Unger

Recycled water sometimes gets a bad rap for its unsavory image.

Rest assured, we treat recycled water with the same loving care we give our drinking water. This infographic breaks it all down.

Water is a fickle resource. Some years we have full reservoirs, while other years we face drought. To weather the mood swings of nature, water providers have to consider a variety of options to serve their customers, from cooling towers to golf courses.

New 46-foot tower makes a big splash at Marston

‘Giant blender’ pulls water from different depths of the reservoir, sending the highest-quality mix to the treatment plant — and your home.

By Jay Adams

The water went down and a new tower went up. And now a nearly 100-year-old reservoir has a modern way of delivering water.

Over the past 18 months, Marston Reservoir has undergone a $13 million makeover. The centerpiece of the project is a new 46-foot tall outlet tower on the northeast shore. Marston is considered one of Denver Water’s terminal reservoirs, which means it’s the last stop for mountain water before it heads to the treatment process.

The new outlet tower at Marston Reservoir is part of a $13 million renovation project.

The new outlet tower at Marston Reservoir is part of a $13 million renovation project.

“This is a huge project for Denver Water,” said Eric Swanson, Denver Water construction project inspector. And he should know. Swanson watched the tower grow every step of the way. “It’s really been a big team effort for the past year.”

The new tower uses modern technology and has a bridge to connect it with the dam. It was built not only to move water out of the reservoir, but also to improve the water treatment process.

“It’s a misconception that our water goes straight from the mountains to the tap. There’s actually a lot more to it,” said Patty Brubaker, manager of the Marston Treatment Plant.

The water in the reservoir can reach 68-feet deep at full capacity and has various characteristics at different depths, depending on the time of year. In the summer, for example, the water is warm at the surface and cool at the bottom. Oxygen levels, temperature, algae levels and turbidity (a measure of water clarity), among other factors, all change at different levels of the reservoir.

The new tower acts like a big blender, pulling water from different levels through three slide gates and sending the best mix to the adjacent treatment plant.

“We’re blending or selecting the best water so it’s easier for us to treat in the plant,” Brubaker said. “It saves us time, it saves us energy, it saves us in chemical costs, and in the end, we provide higher-quality water for our customers.”

The old outlet tower was built in the 1960s.

Marston’s old outlet tower was built in the 1960s.

The new tower replaces an old outlet pipe that was built in the 1920s and an outlet tower built in the 1960s. The old tower had slide gates that did not function properly and couldn’t capture low-level water in drought years.

And one other drawback: The old tower was in the middle of the lake, making it accessible only by boat.

The $13 million project included nearly draining the reservoir, breaching the dam, constructing a new 84-inch connection pipe and building a new emergency drain line to bring the dam up to state engineering standards.

“There’s a lot of hard work that happened over the last year to make this all happen,” Swanson said. “It’s too bad, a lot of the infrastructure we built is underwater, so no one will be able to see it unless they take a look at all the photographs I took.”

The new tower will come online this fall after a series of tests.

The impact of the project will be felt for years to come, Brubaker said. “Since the last drought, we realized that we really needed to have the ability to use this reservoir’s full capacity.”

And, she added, the project will benefit the entire system. “It allows us to provide the highest-quality and quantity water to our system and to our customers.”

 

 

Learning the value of water: A childhood story from Liberia

Mac Noah working to make a positive change.

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Mac Noah, water treatment tech operator at Denver Water’s Recycling Plant, was born in Liberia, and is determined to one day put his skills to use in Africa to improve lives.

By Dave Gaylinn

Like his childhood football role model Barry Sanders, Mac Noah is a man on the move. He’s fast on his feet and keeps his balance handling many responsibilities.

Whether cleaning the injectors at the Denver Water Recycling Plant or attending classes at the University of Colorado Denver, the 38-year-old Noah is quick to flash a bright smile and ask a question about any new acquaintance.

“Everybody is like a book,” said Noah, a water treatment tech operator at Denver Water since late 2014. “You get to meet a new person and hear their story of where they’ve been and where they’re coming from.”

Noah’s book reads like an unlikely fairy tale.

He was born in Liberia, an impoverished country in West Africa. He frequently visited the countryside with his grandmother, where he would swing on tires suspended from trees and play in the river. When he wasn’t outside, Noah was planted in front of martial arts movies.

It wasn’t until years later that Noah noticed the poverty all around him.

“We don’t really have a water system in Liberia,” Noah said. “You can find places where sewage is running down the street.”

Frustration in Liberia boiled over in the late 1980s, and Noah’s homeland was torn apart. More than 200,000 people, including several members of his extended family, were killed during Liberia’s first civil war, which spanned a bloody seven years, 1989-96.

Trying to protect his family, Noah’s father put his wife and seven children on a plane that left Liberia in the nick of time. Mac and his father were reunited with their family in Hamburg, Germany, before immigrating to the United States.

The family lived in Houston, then Savannah, Georgia, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, before finally settling on Chicago’s South Side. Noah attended Bolingbrook High School where he stood out as a running back and cornerback on the football team.

“I didn’t want to get hit,” Noah chuckled. “Which is crazy because when I was on defense, I would throw myself around.”

After high school, Noah sought to make his own mark. While his parents were vacationing in Denver, his father called and encouraged him to consider moving to the Mile High City.

“The only pictures I saw of Colorado were of snow, mountains and cowboys. I really was under the impression that there were horse-drawn carriages in downtown Denver,” he said.

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After starting as an intern, Mac Noah is now a water treatment tech at Denver Water.

Noah moved to Colorado in 1996 and enrolled at Red Rocks Community College. He pursued an associate degree in water quality while working a full-time internship at the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District.

“I really, really had to be disciplined with my time,” Noah said. “I pulled a lot of things in and just set myself on a schedule. I couldn’t just be on the phone for an hour talking to somebody about nothing.”

His classroom acumen and time management impressed his water chemistry teacher, Chance Green, who also worked at Denver Water. Green encouraged Noah to apply for an internship. He landed the position, and after four years, ascended to his current role at the recycled plant.

Given his background, it would be easy to draw a correlation between Noah’s childhood in Liberia and his work at Denver Water. It’s purely coincidental, he said.

But he’s quite aware of the difference that clean, safe drinking water can have on a society.

The World Health Organization reports 2 million deaths annually from unsafe water, poor sanitation conditions and hygiene. Listed among the world’s poorest countries, only one in four Liberians has access to safe drinking water.

Noah said those statistics “light a fire” in his heart to make a positive change in Africa. He is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering at CU Denver, determined to one day put his skills to use in Africa to improve lives there. One of his brothers still lives in Liberia, but Noah has not been back to see him — yet.

“I definitely want to go back,” he said.

Starting small, thinking big

Ezzie Sauter Baca, water treatment technician (left), and Andrea Song, water treatment engineer (right), discuss an experiment using the pilot treatment plant’s replica filters. The filter tubes are filled with anthracite and granular activated carbon to strain out particles from the water.

Ezzie Sauter Baca, water treatment technician (left), and Andrea Song, water treatment engineer (right), discuss an experiment using the pilot treatment plant’s replica filters. The filter tubes are filled with anthracite and granular activated carbon to strain out particles from the water.

Starting small, thinking big

Miniature treatment plant helps engineers reduce cost, footprint of new facility

By Jay Adams

How do you design a new water treatment plant that will cost several hundred million dollars and last more than 50 years — and make sure you get it right?

Start small.

One of Denver Water’s most important construction projects in three decades begins in a small room tucked away inside the 78-year-old Moffat Water Treatment Plant.

There, in a storage room 18 feet wide and 37 feet long, engineers and plant operators are running tests on a miniature version of a treatment facility that will eventually be the prototype for the real thing.

The results of those tests will be used to design the North System Renewal Water Treatment Plant at Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir site near Golden, Colo. The new facility is expected to be built in the next 10 years.

The scaled-down version of the plant consists of two main components: a large tank that replicates the pretreatment process and four large tubes that filter the water.

“It really is a cutting-edge system,” said Andrea Song, pilot plant manager and water treatment engineer.

The pilot treatment plant replicates the processes used by a full-size water treatment plant. The pilot plant consists of two main components that replicate the pretreatment and filtering processes.

The pilot treatment plant replicates the processes used by a full-size water treatment plant. The pilot plant consists of two main components that replicate the pretreatment and filtering processes.

Song, along with water treatment technician Ezzie Sauter Baca, are among the engineers and operators running the tests. “It’s neat to see the treatment process happen before your eyes — usually it’s all underground,” Sauter Baca said. The pretreatment and filtering processes take about 3.5 hours in the pilot plant compared to 10 to 16 hours in the actual plant.

Song has designed water treatment plants across the country and is passionate about doing it right. “We want the most cost-effective design, but a design that also will stand the test of time,” she said.

They’re using the test model to determine the right size and flow rate for the new treatment plant’s filters. Filters are large concrete structures filled with sand and anthracite coal or granular activated carbon. The materials strain particles from the water, a critical final step in producing high-quality water.

The biggest challenge: trying to demonstrate how much water per square foot the filters can process in a minute. The current treatment plant has 28 filters. Determining the correct flow rate and filter material is essential in designing the number and size of the filters in the new plant, according to Zack Alabbasi, Moffat Water Treatment Plant supervisor.

“If we can build filters that can process more water, we won’t have to build as many. That means the footprint of the new plant will be smaller and cheaper to build,” Alabbasi said.

Moffat Water Treatment Plant has 28 filters. The tests using the pilot plant will determine the size and number of filters needed in the new North System Renewal Treatment Plant.

Moffat Water Treatment Plant has 28 filters. The tests using the pilot plant will determine the size and number of filters needed in the new North System Renewal Treatment Plant.

Denver Water purchased the pilot plant for $368,000, but Alabbasi said that building fewer filters could end up saving tens of millions of dollars in construction costs at the new facility.

Once the experiments at Moffat are complete, engineers and operators will use the pilot plant to test various water treatment strategies at all four of Denver Water’s treatment facilities.

The experiments will make the new facility more flexible for future regulations and better equipped to handle changes in water quality.

“The impact of climate change, pine beetles, floods and wildfires is changing our water supply, and we need to be ready for those changes,” Song said. “When people look back in 50 years at what we did today, we want them to say we made the right decisions. Our customers depend on us for great water, and we intend to keep it that way.”

Take a virtual tour of Denver Water’s treatment process.

 

Youth and water – clean, safe drinking water

Denver Water's teacher resource packet describes how Denver Water treats our water.

Denver Water’s Teacher Resource Packet highlights the Denver Water treatment process.

In honor of Drinking Water Week we are highlighting Denver Water’s work to provide clean, safe drinking water every day and recognizing the important role clean drinking water plays in our daily lives.

Week four: Water quality and water treatment

The first post in the Youth Education blog series covered watersheds, where our water quality work begins. Denver Water recognizes the importance of healthy watersheds, and has partnered with the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, to accelerate our mutual efforts to improve forest and watershed conditions.

We also learned about Denver’s water cycle. Denver Water monitors water quality every step of the journey from source to tap. In 2013, we collected more than 16,000 samples and conducted more than 60,000 tests to ensure our water is as clean and safe as possible.

Last week, we discussed the importance of conserving this precious resource that keeps our community vibrant and healthy, which is made possible by the many dedicated professionals at Denver Water who work around the clock to provide safe, clean drinking water every time you turn on the tap.

Online resources

  • Denver Water operates and maintains three treatment plants – Foothills, Marston and Moffat. Learn about the five steps of the water treatment process.
  • Drinking water is subject to very stringent regulations, like the Safe Drinking Water Act, that set standards for drinking water to protect against potential contaminants.
  • Visit Denver Water’s Frequently Asked Questions about Water Quality.
  • See the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Water Quality Protection for a statewide look at water quality.There are many things we can do indoors and outdoors to reduce the chances of contaminants getting into our water supply and water supplies downstream – such as cleaning up pet waste, never putting anything down the storm drain, and using fertilizers sparingly.

Charts, graphs & maps

Denver Water’s 2014 Water Quality Report talks about the water system, the treatment process, and what is and is not in your water. Above, the table “Regulated Water Contaminants: What is in the water?” (from page 7 of the report) shows the results of water quality tests over the last year. See page 4 for a glossary of terms.

Denver Water’s 2014 Water Quality Report talks about the water system, the treatment process, and what is and is not in your water. Above, the table “Regulated Water Contaminants: What is in the water?” (from page 7 of the report) shows the results of water quality tests over the last year. See page 4 for a glossary of terms.

Online activities

Recent water news

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