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An “On the Ground” View of Work of a Hawaii Circuit Rider

March 8, 2010 |

Providing oversight and direction for hands-on issues with small water systems

The people of Hawaiian Shores Community Association on the Big Island work hard to make their community vibrant, healthy and sustainable.

When the community faced high water pressure problems, the association’s water system staff and Rural Community Assistance Corporation’s (RCAC) Hawaii circuit rider joined forces to fix the problems quickly.

As an RCAC circuit rider, Kevin Baughman partners with small water systems in Hawaii to bring them up-to-date information on rules and regulations. He encourages staff to become familiar with the components and operations of the water works. His knowledge of specialty valves, electrical controls and distribution system operations makes him a valuable resource to small water systems.

He meets with the Hawaiian Shores Community Association’s system operators during planned visits to help them improve their technical capacity.

When the water system staff identified the pressure issue, several attempts were made to adjust the pressure control settings without success. During a routine site visit, Baughman and the water operators discovered that two three-inch PRVs (pressure reducing valves) did not have a working bypass and needed to be replaced. These valves had probably been in service for 40 years and had quit working. The pressure at the lower sections of the system exceeded 250 pounds per square inch (psi); normal pressure in a water system is 40 to 80 psi. With high water pressure there is risk of water main breakage and home plumbing system failure.

The water system staff replaced both PRVs and plan to rebuild the old valves as a training session so they can be used as emergency replacements. The team encountered several challenges as they conducted the repairs. First, they faced pressure problems when one of the new valves jammed with volcanic cinder. Then, as the other PRV was removed, the isolation valves blew off the mains, flooding the vault in seconds. As a result, the distribution system was contaminated as the water in the vault flowed into the downstream open piping. Customers and the Department of Health (DOH) were notified with a “do not use” alert.

After the new valve was installed, the system was flushed and disinfected, and the pressure was set. During the next couple of days, the bacteriological tests showed negative results (no presence of bacteria). After DOH approved the actions and test results, the system was restored to service.

Even with these unplanned events and long days, the water system staff completed the job in a very skilled manner. Currently, the system has two new pressure reducing valves and pressure is maintained at more reasonable levels.

“At the most, my personal involvement was to hand out small parts and tools while providing thoughts about the work,” said Baughman. “In this case I had the privilege of sharing a little experience and giving a little reassurance to help complete the project. The operations staff did the real work, and they get the credit for caring about and improving their community’s water system reliability.”

RCAC Hawaii circuit riders Kevin Baughman and Joy Gannon work under a five-year water system circuit rider contract with the Hawaii State Revolving Fund (SRF) program. Their role in the program is to provide technical, managerial and financial guidance and assistance to small water systems.