Johnson County Wastewater

Sanitary Provider Rebuilds Telemetry System Alerts to Prevent Sewer Backups

Johnson County Wastewater is a sanitary sewer provider in Johnson County, Kansas that operates under the direction of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, the County Manager and the Deputy County Manager. The department has four organizational divisions: Operations and Maintenance, Customer Relations, Business Operations and Planning, and the Water Quality Laboratory. It serves nearly 450,000 residents in Johnson County via its seven treatment plants and more than 30 pump stations.

The Challenge

Operating on an outdated communications system that had failed on numerous occasions, Managing Engineer of Treatment, Susan Pekarek, knew it was time to rebuild the system. “Our equipment was obsolete, there were a number of parts we couldn’t even order,” said Pekarek. In addition to this challenge, JCW was utilizing a radio frequency that the county was no longer going to use, making it necessary to find a new frequency to operate on. After completing a study to determine the best communications infrastructure going forward, it was determined that radios operating on a low frequency (450 – 512) and capable of over-the-air operation with battery backup would be the best option. Another challenge the team faced was that the radios needed to be accessed remotely since the majority of the treatment plants and pump stations are manned one shift a day or not manned at all, but rather checked several times per week and spread throughout the county. For Pekarek, it was critical their supporting communications operate flawlessly so that the new telemetry system alerts the team to any power failures or failed equipment like pumps, so that there aren’t any sewer backups. “It’s important our alarms are functioning as there can be serious environmental impacts if we are unaware of problems at remote sites,” said Pekarek.

The Solution

Rather than lease lines from the local telephone company for their data communications, JCW chose CalAmp devices for their mission-critical communications. “We evaluated various technologies – even POTS lines with a monthly recurring cost – and this was the lowest cost for the highest benefit we could get,” Pekarek said. The Viper, by CalAmp, provides the low frequency, reliable device JCW needed to get the job done. System integrator, R.E. Pedrotti Company, Inc., worked closely with JCW personnel and their IT department to install the Viper, a solution that communicates seamlessly over multiple networks. The Viper also offers a robust internal web browser and interface that allows it to be set up, configured and managed from anywhere, an important feature for the information technology and field staff of Johnson County Wastewater. With more than 40 Vipers deployed, the ease in remote management simplifies many tasks for the team. Finally, the devices feature a battery backup in the case of a power failure. This is critical as alarms will still alert the team to the power failure and any potential pump or other equipment failures, all environmentally important for JCW and the community. Now, Pekarek can be confident that JCW’s data communications will deliver what they need to properly monitor, maintain and manage the seven treatment plants and more than 30 pump stations.