An Alarming Situation

Assuring the safety and availability of the Pike Township’s water supply

Infrastructure Security Article March 16, 2004
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The Pike Township Municipal Authority (PTMA) recently installed
a Raco Catalyst to monitor various conditions and levels at their Curwensville, Pa., water treatment and
distribution facility.

As a participant of the Partnership for Safe Water program, the township completed the installation as part of an effort to optimize treatment plant performance and provide safe drinking water.

Through this membership, the township is encouraged to voluntarily survey treatment processes, operating and maintenance procedures, manage oversight practices and the treatment facility itself. The PTMA realized that they needed to put the appropriate tools into place to assess the filter plant and prevent problems or possible violations before they occur, as well as help bring the facility up to date.

To assist in accomplishing their goals, the PTMA looked to replace their alarm notification and monitoring system with a more robust solution. Prior to the installation of the Catalyst system, the facility was limited to four monitoring points, leaving 12 points unmonitored. In addition, the facility wasn’t staffed nights and weekends.

The inconvenience of the 16 chart recorders was also an issue. The recorders had to be manually checked and set up, requiring personnel to visit each one onsite. Additionally, the engineer who recevied an alarm notification call had to go the RTU location, diagnose the problem and then travel to the location where the alarm condition occurred. Overall, the system was not only inconvenient for facility staff, but also inefficient and potentially dangerous.

The PTMA knew they needed such features as detailed alarm messages that eliminate the need for engineers to go the RTU, the capacity to monitor up to 256 inputs and the ability to quickly set up all monitoring and reporting functionality from a computer.
The Catalyst has four standard internal inputs that can be configured to sense digital or analog signals and can monitor up to 256 points to provide extensive data and event logging capabilities. With this functionality, the PTMA is now able to monitor everything in its facility including data samples, alarms, channel state changes and configuration changes.

The system is accessible at any time and can be remotely programmed via the integrated keypad, using the manufacturer’s proprietary software or any standard touch-tone telephone.

Alarm conditions

The PTMA’s system consisted of a single Catalyst unit mounted on a wall in the control room, adjacent to the automation direct-terminator I/O interface system. When an alarm condition occurs, the system sends out numerous alarm calls. The first call goes to a fax, where a printed report shows the details of the alarm condition. The fax call is followed by calls to both the manager and operator’s cellphone, pager and home phone. These calls alert staff to the existence and nature of the alarm condition.

The new system has been successful, according to the PTMA, who cited quicker, more efficient engineer response to alarms and a more proactive approach to preventative maintenance as some of the benefits.

Ultimately, the PTMA’s process control has been vast improved and engineers have the peace of mind that conditions are being monitored 24/7.

For more information, phone 510/658-6713.

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