AEP zaps Sunbury Wastewater Treatment Plant; Monday, February 24 power surge fries processors

By Lenny C. Lepola

March 12, 2014

American Electric Power customers in the Sunbury area are accustomed to power fluctuations, typically in the form of brownouts and power outages. But at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, February 24, the Village of Sunbury Wastewater Treatment Plant got the granddaddy of all power surges; enough to knock out two of the plant’s primary processors — one controlling the Aeration System and the other controlling the Return Activating Sludge (RAS) System.

During last Wednesday’s (March 5) Services Committee meeting immediately preceding the regularly-scheduled Sunbury Village Council meeting, wastewater treatment plant supervisor Rich Felton said were it not for a bit of luck the plant could have been down for two to three days.

Felton said the plant’s Allen Bradley processors are built on order for the plant’s contracted computer integrator, Status, Control and Integration, Inc (SCI). Typically, SCI does not keep the processors on a shelf; they’re ordered, built and delivered when needed — and that’s where the luck came in, Felton said.

“SCI had doesn’t keep these processors on the shelf, but in this case they happened to have the two spare parts, they were able to replace the processors and got the facility back online by 6 p.m. that evening,” Felton said. “If they hadn’t had the parts on hand, and they normally don’t, the wastewater treatment plant would’ve been out for two to three days.”

Asked if the plant’s holding ponds had enough capacity to store two or three days of untreated wastewater, Felton said no; that the plant would likely have discharged untreated overflow into Prairie Run Creek, and earned a citation from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The SCI visit to the wastewater treatment plant, including parts and labor, cost the village $12,605. Felton said he was preparing an incident report to send to the Village property and liability insurance broker, Rinehart, Walters, Danner and Associates Insurance Agency.

Felton also noted that, in his opinion, AEP is not likely to assume responsibility for the incident.

“In the past we’ve lost frequency drives from power surges, but we’ve never been approached by AEP about it,” Felton said. “My experience with AEP is, they’re not an accountable company. I wouldn’t guarantee they would do anything.

“We had harmonic filters on the Aeration System and a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) in this case, and we still lost the processors,” Felton continued. “This shows the need to have extra processors on hand for emergency situations.”

Felton presented the committee members with a list of 10 spare parts with a total cost of $14,041. He said the parts were listed in the order of importance that he would like to keep on the plant’s shelf to have in the event of a similar emergency in the future.

He asked the committee members if they would recommend that Village Council members approve purchasing the first two items on the list — an Allen Bradley AB 1747-L553 Processor Controller for $6,040, and an Allen Bradley AB 1746-P4 Power Supply for $1,300.

Later that evening, during the Sunbury Village Council meeting, Council members approved a $7,340 purchase order for the two requested items.

After the vote committee member Len Weather said critical wastewater treatment components like the Allen Bradley processors should be specifically listed on the Village insurance policy to ensure claim acceptance.

While he had the floor, Felton noted that the wastewater treatment plant had been using more propane than it typically has in the past to keep plant equipment from freezing during the exceptionally cold winter weather Central Ohio has been experiencing.

“We’ve been hit pretty hard this year with propane; we’ve already passed our blanket PO amount,” Felton said. “There’s a shortage of propane and the price has gone up all winter. The last bill was over $4, it’s been up as high as $4.65 a cubic foot.”

Later during the evening council members approved a $12,000 purchase order for propane from Guttman Oil Company.