Taking Care of Business - Applying a Business Model to WWTP Operations


  • Dan Miklos, Chris White, PE, James Gellner, PE – Hazen and Sawyer

Historically, most wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) operate in a compliance mode that is focused to meet the acceptable performance goals at any cost. While attention is given to overall budget constraints, often the evaluation of budget adjustments is a historical exercise with no clear set of guidelines to measure increments of success. Numerous tools exist to operate WWTPs efficiently, but often the tools are independent in nature and limit management’s ability to view the plant from a holistic perspective. By incorporating a business model approach into WWTP operations, compliance is maintained as a first step in cost savings plan. The structured support of modeling drives a proactive cost efficiency goal. The business model integrates these models and guides performance based objectives throughout the plant to be well defined. This paper presents a four phase approach to implementing the business model and the lessons learned throughout the initial phases.

The four phases of the project include Development, Start-Up, Refinement, and Full Implementation of the business model for the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati. One WWTP has been identified to develop and refine the business model during 2013 before implementation at the remaining WWTPs.

The general business plan establishes linked models for the evaluation of compliance, energy, consumables, staff, and budget benchmarking. The management approach includes a business manager with oversight of compliance, budget, safety, and staff performance. A regulatory compliance group establishes structured technical support, identifies optimum return on investment opportunities, streamlines critical process control monitoring, and identifies requirements for optimized compliance.

The establishment of a regulatory compliance group provides for the consistent compliance monitoring at the typical WWTP, but also facilitates a structured path for process improvements within those compliance objectives. Using process models to track and predict plant design performance has been common on numerous projects, but rarely has the modeling been incorporated into overall plant operation and cost management. Using models to establish benchmarks in key areas (compliance, energy, and consumable), provides for continuous progress towards improved efficiency while creating a new cost benchmark. At many WWTPs, the desire for a new benchmark drives adjustment and optimization, but often the steps and adjustments are not clearly defined, often leading to trial and error. Compliance at the lowest possible cost is typically not achieved.

For more information, please contact the author at dmiklos@hazenandsawyer.com.

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Horizons Fall 2017 (pdf)

Horizons showcases significant water, wastewater, reuse, and stormwater projects and innovations that help our clients to achieve their goals, and can help you achieve yours. Articles are written by top engineers and process group leaders, demonstrating and explaining the beneficial application of a variety of technologies and tools.

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