Water Online Radio: Hach Answers Emerging Issues With New Technology
Bob Dabkowski, a wastewater specialist with Hach Company, talks to Water Online Radio about the company’s new phosphorus controller and why automation and optimization are key drivers for the water/wastewater industry.
Todd Schnick: Good afternoon and welcome back to Water Online Radio coming to you live from WEFTEC here in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am Todd Schnick, joined by my friend and colleague Todd Youngblood. Todd, we’ve talked to this guy before and I can’t believe he actually wants to spend time talking with us again.
Todd Youngblood: He did.
Todd Schnick: Well, I think I impressed him last time. He didn’t like you so much. I see him nodding his head, so that’s the case. He came back to see me.
Todd Youngblood: Okay and that wraps this episode.
Todd Schnick: No. I’m excited to welcome back Bob Dabkowski. He’s a wastewater specialist with Hach. Welcome back, Bob.
Bob: Thank you. It’s good to be back.
Todd Schnick: Well, it’s good to have you Bob. Before we get into it, do take a quick second and tell us a little bit about you and your background.
Bob: Sure. I’ve been with Hach for 13 years or so as a Wastewater Specialist and Licensed Wastewater Plant Operator in the great state of Colorado. By the way, our tourism is our # 1 industry in Colorado, so please come and keep Colorado green. We appreciate that.
Todd Schnick: That’s going to cost you a little bit for that plug. But continue, please.
Bob: Oh, okay. With Hach I’ve done a lot of things with pilot studies and application studies, helping people put the right instrument in the right location, using that to develop innovative new products, new projects, and hopefully make the water better.
Todd Schnick: Go a little bit deeper. Hach is obviously a large organization doing a lot of neat things. Talk about what Hach’s all about and how it’s serving its market.
Bob: We manufacture equipment to analyze water, whether it’s in the lab or whether it’s online continuous monitoring. So for laboratory-type equipment, that’s great, for making sure you’re in compliance, making sure you’re meeting your permit requirements, and things like that.
But at the same time when you really need to start optimizing a process, whether it’s a wastewater process, or a drinking water plant process, you really need to start monitoring things online continuously. Another part of our business is that kind of online instrumentation that’s always measuring and always monitoring 24/7.
Todd Schnick: I understand Hach has a new phosphorus controller. Tell us a little bit about that.
Bob: This is a really exciting product for us. We’ve taken a step from just giving you a number for phosphate concentration, to giving you a number you can actually use, the phosphorus controller.
What it does is it measures the effluent phosphate, takes a flow signal from somewhere inside the plant, and tells you exactly how much chemical you need to feed in order to hit a phosphorus set point.
For example, let’s say the wastewater plant has a 1 milligram phosphorus limit. Well, maybe we make the set point 0.6 milligrams per liter leaving the plant. The phosphate instrument measures the concentration of what’s leaving the plant, measures the flow, and then will ramp up or ramp down the chemical feed to make sure it’s always leaving at 0.6.
The way I like to think of it is like cruise control. You’re driving down the road and you’re maintaining 55 miles per hour. Here comes a hill, okay, add mores gas and we make it up the hill at 55.
Okay, going down the hill. We’re going to back off the gas and make sure we stay at 55. It’s the same thing, just with phosphorus removal where we’re always at 0.6 or 0.7 milligrams per liter leaving the plant.
Todd Schnick: It sounds like you’re taking some of the human management element out of the whole process. Is that the case? And if so, what kind of impact does that have?
Bob: You know, not that much really. What we’re doing there is more like a thermostat almost. Right? You can control your heaters by manually turning a heater on or off in your house, or you can let the thermostat do it and keep it right at that same heat level, if you will, or temperature in your house. So that does help automate the process.
One of the big benefits from that is reduced chemical consumption. One plant that I’ll be talking about later here at WEFTEC in one of my technical papers, they saved 55% on their chemical bill by putting in this phosphorus controller. Could you imagine knocking 55% off of a bill?
Todd Schnick: Any bill.
Bob: It’s a great thing.
Todd Schnick: What kind of feedback has the market given you? What are your customers saying about it?
Bob: The customers are saying a lot of good things. In fact, that particular customer is going to be helping me present the paper and is over in our booth periodically, so you can talk to them direct and not hear from us crazy sales guys, but actually hear from the ones using the thing and understanding how it works.
You know, the real benefit, aside from the chemical savings is convenience. Any wastewater plant can create this kind of a system, but then they’re going to have to test it 5 times over, understand the algorithms, and if Joe’s the one that creates it, what happens if Joe’s sick or breaks a leg?
So for us, we built it, it’s off the shelf, and we have people in our tech support group that support it. So if something were to happen they can call right away and someone in Loveland can help them get back online again if something were to go wrong. So there’s a big convenience factor too.
Todd Schnick: Bob, talk a little bit about trends for us. What do you see coming down the road here in the next 3 to 5 years?
Bob: I see more movement towards this automation and optimization. You’ve probably heard it that we’ve got this situation happening in the industry where there are people who are retiring. They’re retiring quickly and taking all of this great knowledge with them. And of course we’re going to have to replace that knowledge.
One way of doing that is through automating processes and helping get things that don’t need as much human or manual interaction anymore. So this is one step, in my opinion, moving towards more automated processes – whether it’s aeration control or phosphorus chemical control.
Todd Schnick: So we’re here at WEFTEC, Bob. Hach seems to have a little bit of a different presence this year. What’s this Hach MythBusting thing I’m hearing about? Tell us about that.
Bob: Right. That’s a campaign that we’re running this year here at WEFTEC.
There sure are a lot of myths in this industry. The first one we kind of started working with was, if you fall in an aeration basin you’ll sink right to the bottom because it’s so full of air that you can’t float.
Well, we met people that had floated before, not by choice; sometimes it happens. We started thinking, “Hey, what other myths are out there? Maybe we should put this out to the industry and see if we can’t help get some of these myths busted.
For example, one of the myths we’re featuring is, “Well, I dose my chemical in proportion to my flow, so I must be optimized.” Well, that’s the myth. We busted it with the chemical phosphorus controller where now we’re not just measuring flow, but also the concentration. So we’re really automated and optimized truly because of the load. So that’s what we’re doing by busting these myths.
Todd Schnick: Well, what other kinds of things is Hach doing that’s innovative? I mean that’s kind of an innovative idea just to get people working on the correct problem. What other kinds of innovations is Hach coming out with to address some of the trends?
Bob: Wow. You know, I think we’re going to see more and more of these types of controllers, like that chemical phosphorus controller. We’re going to see more and more automated laboratory equipment that helps take maybe a time consuming, manual lab system and makes it more of an automated process, makes it a whole lot simpler, and reduces some of the human error element I think out of the equations as well.
Todd Schnick: Bob, I hate to say it, but we’re out of time. Before we let you go, how can people get in touch with you and where can they learn more about your work at Hach.
Bob: Sure. The best place is by giving us a call at our 800 number, 800-227-4224. Our operator can direct you right to me, that’s the easy way. If you want to e-mail, feel free, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Todd Schnick: Bob Dabkowski, Wastewater Specialist with Hach. It was great to see you again. Thanks for taking the time to join us.
Bob: It’s always a pleasure.
Todd Schnick: Alright. Well, that wraps this segment of Water Online Radio, live from WEFTEC in New Orleans. We’ll be right back.