Guest Column | December 9, 2019

TAG Teams Talk Tech

By Kipp Hanley


Five wastewater technology vendors pitched their emerging technologies to the Prince William County Service Authority (SA) and various other regional public and private utilities on November 20 at the SA’s Durward E. Grubbs Jr. Environmental Center in Woodbridge, VA.

The Technology Approval Group, or TAG, serves as an innovation forum for water and wastewater utilities around the globe, including 60 water and wastewater utilities in the United States. The Service Authority, DC Water, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, City of Richmond Utilities, and various other utilities from Virginia and the East Coast comprise the Northeast Chapter of TAG.

During the event, each vendor demonstrated their technology solution, then TAG chapter members discussed the pros and cons in a closed-door setting. Service Authority employees who attended the TAG session learned about new technologies that could benefit the utility, such as automated technologies for the H.L. Mooney Advanced Water Reclamation Facility, and shared some of the Service Authority’s own innovations.

For example, Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Division Director Jeanetta Williams said DC Water expressed interest in learning more about the Business Analytics Dashboards that her team developed for senior staff and managers at the Service Authority.

Since its creation in 2005 by Isle Utilities Inc., the TAG program has served as an excellent matchmaker for vendors and utilities. According to Isle Utilities Inc. President Cristina Ahmadpour, approximately 20 percent of the companies who have presented at TAG events have either met with participating utilities immediately after the meetings or conducted a pilot study with those utilities.

“We meet with the individual utilities beforehand, so we understand what their priorities are,” said Ahmadpour. “We combine those with the region’s priorities and then bring in the solutions. We came to the Service Authority today because they are doing a lot of innovative things.”

The Service Authority joined the group a year ago, and according to Operations & Maintenance Division Deputy Director Glenn Pearson, the membership continues to be an excellent investment.

“We joined because we were looking for an organization that was focused on performance excellence,” said Pearson. “At the time we joined, we were right in the middle of preparing for the Senate Productivity and Quality Award site visit, so everybody was focused on innovation. A lot of times at the Service Authority, people will say ‘oh, I heard about this vendor or this technology.’ Well, there is about an 80 percent chance that TAG already has a write-up on that technology and that another utility has tried it.”

According to Mark McClain, the Innovation and Research Administrator for the City of Richmond’s Gas Works and the Department of Public Utilities, the event offers more than just the opportunity to hear about the latest technologies in the industry.

“The pipe in the ground in Pennsylvania is the same in Richmond, Virginia,” said McClain. “We may have slightly different materials, but we have the same types of maintenance issues. To be able to network with peers who have the same challenges is invaluable.”