Cleaning Up Compliance

March 9, 2020
Integrated regulation updates ensure compliance and streamlined reporting saves time while maintaining consistency in across all industries.

Regulatory updates and streamlined reporting save time, maintain consistency

For more than 70 years, Sanitation District No. 1 (SD1) has managed Northern Kentucky’s wastewater and stormwater and is committed to keeping the area’s rivers clean. Every day, SD1 cleans 37 million gallons of water, serving a population of 115,000 customer accounts with a network of over 2,000 miles of pipe below ground.

SD1 has the second largest pretreatment program in Kentucky. Sarah Griffith, laboratory and industrial pretreatment manager, oversees the laboratory and manages the industrial pretreatment and fats, oils, and grease (FOG) programs at SD1. In the lab, the team performs 40,000 analyses per year, seven days a week. On the pretreatment side, the team oversees, inspects, and samples 55 industrial users in the service area, and also permits and inspects 200 food service establishments (FSEs) under the FOG program.

A newly developed environmental compliance module was released by the computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that many departments within SD1 used for the scheduling and tracking of work. As an exercise in due diligence, the industrial pretreatment and FOG program teams attempted to move to this new module, as it seemed like a practical decision for the organization.

Although the CMMS was a very robust and comprehensive program for other teams within the organization, it quickly became apparent that the its compliance capabilities were not advanced enough to manage SD1’s pretreatment and FOG programs.

“The CMMS worked to the extent that you could handle industries as assets and track utilization of time, however, it was just not able to handle compliance — and compliance is a big part of what we do,” Griffith said.

For several years, SD1 had been using Linko, a compliance management software by Aquatic Informatics, and did not want to lose the program’s purpose-built compliance capabilities. SD1 decided not to fully move away from the CMMS for their pretreatment and FOG program management so it was not hard to switch back to full functionality.

“To be honest, it was easy to stay with Linko, and it wasn’t hard to justify to our executives,” said Griffith. “Staff members were still naturally wanting to use the programs and it was already much easier to perform the functions we needed in Linko versus in our CMMS.”

Pretreatment programs involve a lot of data, compliance is complex, and regulations do change. In many ways, temporarily moving to a CMMS helped SD1 realize the value of purpose-built software. “We spent a lot of energy trying to make the CMMS work for something it wasn’t made for, especially when we already had a solution that worked,” said Griffith.

Now that SD1 had confirmed that their old software solution had the best capabilities, they moved over to a cloud-hosted environment. “From my experience with different types of software, I’ve found that hosted environments generally work better for specialty software,” Griffith said.

The transition from on premise to hosted is simple with no training required and allows for better access to the program and an added level of security.

SD1 uses the software’s LabSync function, which allows for the automated transfer of results from the lab. They run LabSync nightly, so each morning new data is ready to review from the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The program alerts SD1 to possible compliance issues, giving the utility a preliminary check on compliance.

“It’s comparable to having a second set of eyes check for compliance, but on the front end. We then can review those possible issues and move forward with enforcement as needed, resulting in amazing time savings” Griffith said. “I’d say that it saves us 30 minutes per event, per industry. This is the module that we use the most, and with everything so automated, it eliminates redundancy and a lot of manual work.”

Regulations, and how regulations are interpreted, change over time. By automatically integrating regulatory changes in the cloud environment, SD1 is able to keep current without involving IT for software updates. Compliance Assistant and LabSync are preloaded with nearly all weekly definitions, making compliance easier to determine. The Compliance Assistant can determine compliance against rolling quarters and can identify significant non-compliance issues. “Other programs we’ve tried cannot do this well or at all,” Griffith said.

SD1 does all reporting through Linko. Having the ability to extract all of the events, site visits, sampling events, etc., from one location saves a lot of time. In addition, state reports often change slightly every year, so a key time saving feature is the ability to query data to answer the questions required for the reports as opposed to having to spend hours combing through results manually.

Permitting is another function that falls on Griffith’s team. Standardized permit templates with Permit Writer allow SD1 to establish standard permits and easily tweak when needed. Violations can be issued and tracked along with an enforcement response plan that automates compliance. “This is a great tool for keeping permits standard, especially when changes occur and we have to reissue all 55 industry permits at the same time. It’s really nice to be able to pull all the pieces together and create all of the permits at once,” Griffith said.

“At the end of the day, if you aren’t familiar with pretreatment, you would think that it’s just comparing a number against the limit. If that were the case, Excel would work. But, regulations change, interpretations change, and having a software platform that keeps up with that saves time and improves compliance.” WW

About the Author

Rich Prinster

Rich Prinster is the Linko business development manager for Aquatic Informatics, where he has worked for more than eight years, helping hundreds of municipal pretreatment programs address their data management issues with Linko software. He focuses on bridging data silos within water utilities to enable better, more timely decisions.