Thomas W. Essig, Jr., RCAP Solutions Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Lead
A system’s Operation and Maintenance Plan (OMP) is a formal document that describes how a water system is to be safely operated on a daily basis. It details how to provide system service while adhering to permit requirements and safeguarding public health. This plan contains a comprehensive description of water sources, treatment processes, storage tank data and distribution system information. It must be prepared in a way that provides accurate depictions of daily routine operational and maintenance procedures. It should include examples of record keeping and emergency response procedures.
The OMP should be prepared completed in a way that it clearly explains to another operator how to run the water system and keep it in compliance with all laws, rules and regulations. This document ensures adequate safe drinking water to the community if current system personnel were unable to operate the system for whatever reason. It provides direction so that all employees are aware of their individual roles and responsibilities for operating the system. Because all waster systems, even those of similar design, are run differently – the template should be customized to each system’s size, source water, treatment techniques and distribution system needs. It should convey a complete and concise understanding of the water system’s operations.
This critical system document should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis at minimum. If new system infrastructure is expanded or assets are added, they should be included in as much detail as possible to the plan. There should be multiple copies of the plan kept at different locations and it should be distributed to operations staff, management and board members. This is to help ensure that a copy of the plan is available for use should the plant or treatment facility suddenly go out of service due to a natural or man caused emergency such as a flooding event while ensuring that all stakeholders of the water system gain a basic understanding of infrastructure assets, locations and operations.
It is interesting to note that while many state primacy agencies have produced OMP manuals and templates, there is not a standardized OMP document. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a check list of items to be included in an OMP and many states accept a system “SOP” – Standard Operating Procedures document produced by the engineer or operator to serve as an OMP. So it is important for a water system to check in with their regulatory agency to determine what type of document is needed to fulfill the OMP requirement. The various primacy templates also vary in what should be included in an OMP as well as the level of technical sophistication required. Examples of this include latitude and longitude locations for system assets or providing various customer notification forms in English and Spanish. A copy of the completed OMP is typically required to be kept at the system facility and is to be made available upon request from state primacy staff.
Components of an OMP:
Most OMPs begin with basic system data such as the system name, public water system identification number, address, contact information, system type, the person preparing the plan and the date completion and any subsequent revision or updates. Additional information can include: system ownership; responsible officials; service area; population served; permit numbers; and listing various operator certifications.
The OMP then often “flows” in a way similar to the way that water processes through the system. This includes records for sources such as wells, springs, purchased water, pumps, booster pumps and master meter information. More detailed information on sources can include:
- Well location, date drilled, yield, depth, location, static and pumped water levels, pipe diameter and if casing is grouted
- Well pump information such as type of pump, manufacturer, horse power, booster pumps, whether controls are manual, digital or automatic and if there is a SCADA – remote control system
- Important master meter records can include location, size, type, if there is chart or digital data recording and the last calibration date
The next topic covered in the OMP defines the system treatment processes and is one of the most important components of an OMP. This section is fairly comprehensive and covers procedures for maximizing operating techniques and preventative maintenance of your facilities and assets. A well-organized OMP helps ensure critical activities are performed by staff on time. A proper maintenance program and schedule will increase the working life of your equipment, thus reducing operating costs over time. Typically system assets are identified, flowed by operation techniques and the maintenance programs. Items to be considered for inclusion in this section are:
- Disinfection chemical utilized, strength, chemical supplier, chemical feeder type data and design contact time and chlorine residual
- Descriptions of raw and finished water storage including locations, capacities, specifications and age
- Distribution information should include pipe material, diameter, cross connection and back flow programs, as well as the number and location of valves, hydrants and meters
- A distribution system map and treatment system schematic should be provided, as well as water main replacement contact information
- Spare parts and chemical inventories and location with contact information for the local supplier
- An equipment manufacturer’s operation and maintenance specifications attachment and local vendor contact information
- Analytical laboratory contact information with policies and procedures for system monitoring and sampling protocols
The next section of an OMP will typically describe start-up and shut down procedures and should go into as much detail as necessary to conduct these activities. Considering all of the equipment involved in running a water system, this information can be quite detailed and lengthy depending on the size of the system. Items requiring consideration are the location of start-up and shutdown equipment, controls and electrical equipment. A check list should be included for start-up equipment and chemical inspections, as well as pre-shutdown procedures and activities. Additional items here should also include:
- Tasks such as checking gauges, where and when to check chlorine residuals, visual equipment inspections, valve exercising policy and fire hydrant flushing frequency
- Routine operations should be described as to who is responsible for performing each task and the frequency – daily, weekly, monthly etc.
- System emergency flags such as a drop in water pressure and distribution entry point residual or rapidly draining storage tanks should have subsequent emergency operating procedures
- Contact information and techniques for customer and regulatory official notifications and protocols for emergency response including incident follow-up actions
- Copies of the annual Consumers Confidence Report and the Sanitary Survey should be attached
- Emergency mutual aid agreements with local water systems or membership information with a state WARN (Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network) should be included
The OMP is a dynamic and all-inclusive document that covers critical aspects of properly running a water system. Research for this article from EPA guidance tools and various state primacy templates has demonstrated that there is a wide variance in plan requirements and complexity. Standardization of OMPs would be of benefit by easing plan preparation, providing better comprehension by new system operators and improving emergency response in large multi-state disaster events. The RCAP national network of field technical assistance providers can help small systems prepare an OMP and often at no cost to the system.