No Strings Attached
As the Village of Romeoville, IL, continues to grow and expand, so does the water infrastructure, including the number of wells, lift stations, pump stations, and wastewater treatment plants. Currently, there are 12 wells, three pump stations, 19 sanitary lift stations; over 100 miles of water mains and sanitary sewers supplying an increasing population of people.
The 12 wells distribute an average of four million gallons of water daily and have the ability to output seven million gallons into three elevated and four ground storage facilities, with a total capacity of five million gallons. Two wastewater treatment plants have the ability to process an average of six million gallons of wastewater daily.
The demand of monitoring these facilities and the increasing distance between them forced Romeoville to take a hard look at their current supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system. The system’s communication methods were unreliable, to say the least. The issues that required attention were consistent service, reliability, overall security, data speed, and promptness of installation.
At the time of installation, Romeoville’s SCADA system was state-of-the-art. Over time, the aging communication system was found to be unreliable. Romeoville’s SCADA system communicated via telephone lines leased from the local service provider. For a monthly fee, Romeoville used the lines to transmit system data from sites to the main computer located in the public works office where it could be analyzed and recorded.
All too often, the leased phone lines are dug up during construction projects, prone to vandalism, affected by weather, subject to failures because of outdated provider equipment, and even cut by lawn mowers, leaving no means of communication.
When communication with sites is lost during storms, public works personnel have no way of knowing about an alarm/emergency situation such as an equipment failure, power failure, high water, etc., unless the public works department sends an employee to each site.
Given all the problems, Water Department Superintendent Chris Drey contacted Metropolitan Industries, Inc., a SCADA system provider, to devise a solution in which reliability, speed, security, ease of integration, and economics were key issues.
One option presented was a trunked radio repeater. This system uses privately owned logic trunked radio systems that connect multiple sites together which are miles apart. It enables locations to share data and broadcast messages to each other over a centrally located radio repeater tower. This method of wireless transmission is useful in areas with peaks and valleys or where every point must hear each communication in the system, every time. Drey liked the reliability and security but the communication speed was not fast enough to accomplish his goals.
Another possibility, wireless SCADA, uses data modems that take advantage of existing Internet and cellular tower networks to join systems. It also allows for external Internet connections for remote access via personal computers as well as other Internet-enabled devices. The technology allows e-mail reports, over-the-Internet control, and mobile data collection.
After reviewing technologies and proposals with Public Works Director, Dan Bromberek, Romeoville ordered the first stage of what will be a total system upgrade at five sites or 14 percent of the total sites.
Using a programmable logic controller or PLC, the master site modem calls the five upgraded sites every few seconds, gathering information. The information collected is wirelessly transmitted from cell towers back to the master wireless SCADA modem where it is processed and viewed via the user’s own Internet address.
Wireless SCADA is much less affected by weather, power outages, and lightning because it uses cellular and Internet networks. Because of the wireless transmission, there is no risk of severed lines resulting from construction, powerful storms, or any other reason. In the same regard, Wireless SCADA can operate through a power outage because of the battery-back up systems, provided by Metropolitan, that completed each installation.
Romeoville can communicate with the system via telephone to receive voice-automated updates and/or adjust system settings on the go through the phone or wireless PDAs. Other features include the ability to receive emergency alarm alerts via personal cellular phones, pagers, PDAs, and a master supervisor’s phone located in his or her residence. After normal operating hours, the server will automatically call the current “on-call” operator at home or on a cell phone and speak any current alarms.
Report data is accessed from automatically generated log files. A directory organizes files per year and month, and archives information for long-term file storage. Numerous years are stored on a single harddrive. The log data is automatically backed-up as it is updated.
Since September 11, 2001, providing added security to water infrastructure has been a hot issue across the country and in Romeoville. Wireless SCADA modems reduce the potential risk of a terrorist attack by eliminating leased lines.
Security is a concern with leased phone lines because the lines can be sabotaged or cut. During this down time, a would-be terrorist can infiltrate a station of his choosing, disable the intrusion alarms and have his or her way. It is easy to break into the plastic enclosures located near the pump stations, and cut the lines. It would take time for a municipality to discover where such sabotage occurred because there is no way of polling the lines in order to know where the incident took place.
Using dial-up modems, the delivery of information to the central computer was so slow that a service response could be untimely.
For added security, Romeoville chose to install the wireless SCADA modems inside control panels and/or inside concrete buildings. The village also has the option to add security cameras or alarms.
Each modem is programmed to allow only specific users access to information. After logging on, operators may still only have access to certain information. It is up to the master controller’s discretion, which operator has access to what information. Passwords used between system locations can be automatically changed hourly along with user names if need be. Transmissions cannot be easily intercepted or hacked because they are encrypted using standard encryption methods.
The benefits associated with the system have reduced the village’s expenses. To maintain the wireless service, Romeoville pays $40 per site per month compared to $120 per site per month with the use of leased phone lines. This is significant savings when looking at the lifetime of a system.
The new access to information has allowed Romeoville the ability to precisely diagnose a situation and ultimately allocate the appropriate resources necessary. For example, on any given alarm situation, Romeoville will know the exact problem and can send the bestsuited person for the job to solve it. This reduces operation costs and manpower.
The consistency of wireless SCADA service and the ongoing ability to see in real-time how each system is operating without interruptions has greatly reduced the amount of problematic failures.
Since the completion of the five upgraded sites, Romeoville has not experienced any notable downtime. The overall improvements and system performance of the wireless SCADA system compared to the previous leased line system has convinced Romeoville to upgrade all remaining sites in the next two years. “The goal of my public works department is reliable service for the citizens of Romeoville,” says Bromberek “The fact that we are committed to providing this service through wireless SCADA upgrades shows that citizens and service are the first priority.”
Editor’s Note: For more information on Metropolitan Industries, Inc.,Romeoville, IL, visit: www.govinfo.bz/4355-263.