Brunswick-Glynn Joint Water and Sewer Commission is responsible for ensuring public health and safety through the proper handling of the water and wastewater of the city of Brunswick and Glynn County. In need of a system update and looking for both reliable hardware and reliable data acquisition, they partnered with integrator, EMC, and SEL to find an overall solution.
SEL-2411P Pump Automation Controller, SEL-3505 Automation Controller, SEL-849 Motor Management Relay, and SEL-3061 Cellular Router, SEL-2240 Axion
SEL worked with Brunswick-Glynn to identify and integrate a water/wastewater solution that would provide a seamless upgrade for their current system. They incorporated several SEL components into their system, including the SEL-2411P Pump Automation Controller, the SEL-3505 Automation Controller, the SEL-849 Motor Management Relay, and the SEL-3061 Cellular Router, and the SEL-2240 Axion.
“Water is something we can’t live without,” says Kirk Young, superintendent of systems pumping and maintenance, the largest division within Brunswick-Glynn Joint Water & Sewer Commission. While this may not seem like a new idea, water and wastewater systems are often taken for granted in daily life. Whether for fire hydrants, for businesses to thrive, or for general health and consumption, water and wastewater systems work together to provide safe water for the public and to protect the local environment.
“When electricity goes off—it’s a big deal—but when was the last time your water didn’t work?” asks Max Ryan, engineering manager at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL).
While most electric companies run at a profit, many water and wastewater facilities operate at a loss, all while maintaining a responsibility and an accountability to taxpayers.
“Water systems are a public service to us all—an often-unnoticed piece of critical infrastructure,” says Ryan.
It’s a good feeling to know at the end of the day everything is working correctly and we are being as responsive and reliable as we can be.
One such public service is Brunswick-Glynn Joint Water & Sewer Commission, located on the southeast coast of Georgia, USA. Topographically flat land surrounded by rivers, ocean, and marshland, the area is subject to frequent thunderstorms. These storms can lead to loss of electronics due to lightning strikes, power surges, and drops in voltage. Brunswick-Glynn was replacing as many as twelve pump controllers after one storm event, sometimes at thousands of dollars a controller. Pump controllers are necessary for monitoring and controlling liquid levels in pump-up and pump-down systems, such as water wells, lift stations, and storage tanks.
“We have approximately 350 miles of gravity sewer, over 200 miles of force main, 8,000 manholes, and over 160 lift stations,” says Young. “Repeated failures led to continuous repairs. When you have 160 devices, that’s very, very frequent.”
If these systems stop working, at a minimum customers may experience low water pressure, but in more extreme cases, if systems aren’t repaired quickly the local water could be polluted.
“Electronics in a water/wastewater system need to work in extreme environments,” explains Young.
Even in areas that don’t experience frequent storms, the challenging physical environment of the water and wastewater industry can lead to product degradation. Devices used within this field are exposed to gases and liquids and are subject to possible surges due to a lack of climate control. Young and SCADA Systems Administrator David Grantham were working together to find a solution for what they identified as their greatest need: “robust reliability.”
Beyond a need for reliability from the products themselves, Brunswick-Glynn was also struggling to find reliable system-wide data acquisition. Their previous system used radio telemetry by implementing a polling loop. With an average of twenty minutes to poll each controller, there could be a gap of 20–60 minutes without data. Lost or inaccurate data meant an inability to pinpoint problems when they occurred or overtime for workers responding to unnecessary alarms. Their hope was to move to a more efficient cellular system.
Electric Machine Control, the integrators working with Brunswick-Glynn to upgrade and improve their lift station system, suggested integrating products from SEL’s water and wastewater solutions into their system, starting with the SEL-2411P Pump Automation Controller. With conformal coating to protect against environmental contaminates and with SEL’s rigorous product testing, the SEL-2411P could offer much-needed reliability. Complimenting this hardened solution is the subsecond time-stamped digital and analog event logging (via DNP3), which would work well with their new cellular system and be much more efficient than their former proprietary system.
Young says they ultimately chose the SEL components for the hardy designs, base costs, simplicity of conversion from their existing systems, and ability to partner with their new SCADA system—as well as the SEL ten-year warranty and around-the-clock technical support. He explains that the initial cost of products purchased doesn’t account for lost time if operators have to respond to a multitude of issues, such as unreliable hardware, time spent returning hardware to the vendor, and reinstallation.
“That all comes at a cost that gets rolled up into our customers’ water and sewer bill,” says Young. “The big question is: Does the company stand behind their products? With the SEL products, on paper we had a ten-year warranty; we also had the assurances of the history of devices that have been operated in less-than-ideal conditions and put through rigorous testing.”
“SEL has worked with us a great deal,” says Young. “They came to us, they showed us what they had, and they mapped out what we’re looking for and what we’re going to need, not only right this second, but where we intend to be years down the road.”
Brunswick-Glynn started with around 20 SEL pump controllers in the field, and Young was happy to report that after a year, those devices were operating with zero issues. “A year isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, but zero issues is a big deal.”
Grantham notes, “SEL products stand out beyond anyone else’s. We’ve begun rewriting and sourcing primarily all SEL products for everything that we do moving forward. As it stands, everything we’re planning or producing is based on a SEL-2411P pump controller as a primary backbone.”
While the SEL-2411P may serve as a backbone, it is just part of the SEL overall solution for lift stations. Brunswick-Glynn is currently in the middle of a pump station SCADA upgrade that includes over 134 sites, using SEL components. Among these components, and besides the SEL-2411P, are the SEL-3505 Automation Controller, the SEL-849 Motor Management Relay, and the SEL-3061 Cellular Router. SEL continues to partner with Brunswick-Glynn Joint Water & Sewer Commission, working with them to further enhance their water and wastewater solutions.
Grantham says, “This has moved our technology leaps and bounds forward. Everything will become more of a reliable resource instead of a hassle for our end users, our consumers, and our customer base." As someone who was born and raised in the very area he now serves, he says, “It’s a good feeling to know at the end of the day everything is working correctly and we are being as responsive and reliable as we can be.”
SEL products can enhance your water and wastewater systems through power plant system protection, reliable data acquisition, power metering, motor protection, and situational awareness. A safer work environment is created through arc-flash mitigation. Hardened, tested products with conformal coating can withstand the harsh water and wastewater environments, and SEL’s service, technical support, and ten-year warranty provide another level of reliability.
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