Exercise? Are you kidding?

A while back, my lovely wife and I were in Daytona Beach for a week of vacation (Yes, they do let me go every so often.). We were having breakfast at a small diner on the strip when two guys in an orange truck pulled up outside and started blocking off one lane of the traffic. They popped the top of a valve cover in the street, pulled out an electric valve turner and started to open/close the valve.

I, being the curious one, went to the street to ask questions. First, I explained who I was and what I do and then asked what they were doing. They were the valve-exercising crew and exercised each valve––water and sewer––in the city once a year. When I asked about the laptop and a binder in the truck, I was told that they were changing from a paper to an electronic record of the valve.

Each valve card should contain the location, address and GPS data, valve size, type, number of turns to open /close, direction of open/close, maintenance records, installation date and any other pertinent data about the valve, such as a slightly bent stem, one that doesn’t close completely, etc. If this information can be made more accessible to the field employees through electronic means, changes to the data may be made in the field as needed and work orders or maintenance requests may be submitted.

There are systems in our Commonwealth where the locations of all the important valves in the water or wastewater system are unknown because the guy who knew that information retired, died or left for a better job. If that is the case where you work, how do you develop this important program?  As- Built Plans are the answer.

Without the proper data, you can’t even find the valves that need to be exercised. The as-built plans are the first place to start. These plans should provide an approximate location, size and type, at the very least. Further investigation through maintenance records and interviews with past employees may also help to locate these valves.

Once these valves have been located, you will need to determine if the valve is open, closed or somewhere in between. You will find that some will move easily and some won’t move at all, but be careful or you’ll twist the stem off.

Valves are not just in the collection and distribution system; they are also in the treatment plants. Has the raw water valve been exercised? Is it completely open or did it get choked down in the winter? Did we forget to open it up again? When was the last time the RAS or the WAS valve at the wastewater treatment plant was used? Does it close completely? Is there a grit build up in the channel? Do all the check valves close completely at lift station or booster pump stations? Do all the air valves still work on the aeration system? How about the valves on the metering chemical feed pumps? Are they clean?

Valves are an important part of the treatment and movement of water and wastewater. Without them, we would not have control of the systems. The recordkeeping and exercising of these important pieces of your system are maintenance tasks that require planning, investigation, diligence and communication.

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