The Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA) conducted a webinar on November 10, 2022, to create awareness about technologies that can help manage and map lead service line inventories. Alan Roberson, the executive director of ASDWA, commenced the webinar focusing on technologies that will help water systems manage their inventories and mapping requirements. Trinnex and six others presented some excellent technologies, and we bring you the recap.
We presented Trinnex’s leadCAST, a data management platform to help manage service line inventory development and elaborated on how it will help people in their journey toward lead-free drinking water. The platform was built using learnings from CDM Smith’s lead service line replacement project with the City of Newark and was one of New Jersey’s highly successful community programs. leadCAST’s real-time dashboard — the highlight of the digital portion of the project — is placed at the front and center of the platform and provides the ability to manage inventory data in the same place.
But why do we need the dashboard? As Steve mentions, managing an inventory that meets the requirements of the impending Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) regulation is analogous to hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. It has several steps, and taking each one correctly is key to achieving the desired result. Let’s look at the steps to manage inventory development and how leadCAST helps ease the process.
Organize, Plan, and Verify
Much like the thanksgiving dinner, the first step is getting the ingredients, or rather, in this case, the inventory data collated, organized, and digitized. This ensures we have everything required and that the process can begin without glitches. Inventory data might come from a GIS database, CMMS database, or paper records – any systems used in the past that might help you identify service line material.
Organizing, planning, and verifying with leadCAST
Organizing starts by importing inventory data from a Geographic Information System (GIS), if available, using a file geodatabase. Once the mapping data is imported, we should immediately see an overview of our system along with the count of properties in each of the four Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categories (lead, galvanized replacement, lead status unknown, and non-lead).
Once organized, we move to the planning phase. This involves referring to the dashboard and reviewing individual addresses, getting high-level information such as material, verification status, and lead prediction knowledge, and diving into details such as the source of material and if a verification is needed.
In a more holistic planning approach, we can filter all our private side unknowns with a high likelihood of lead. Like in this example where we have about 3800 private properties that need to be verified; we can set them to be verified and begin to monitor progress in the dashboard view.
Once the data and plan are ready, the next step is to check them for their quality (verification), as incorrect information can make or break a project. Verifications can be performed as individual inspections right on the web app. The workflow, in this case, is configured to require approval so one can review that inspection and approve or reject it.
But what if we are missing details? That’s where the next step comes in.
Undercooked turkey and hard potatoes with no seasoning just aren’t that great, are they? Most dishes require some improvements to bring out the right flavors.
Similarly, as we improve our inventory, we’d fill in the missing information. To accomplish this, we use a few different ways such as customer self-reporting, mobile inspection, and bulk importing.
Users will register for an account confirming themselves as homeowner or tenant, hence saving time on ensuring that the information is reliable and confirming emails that you can use to communicate with the users. Homeowners can report their line material and provide a photo. This submission is tagged as pending approval by the utility or other decision maker and can be reviewed to be accepted, rejected, or corrected. These homeowner submissions offer a cost-effective way to get information and have response rates of around 20–25%. Homeowners are about 95% accurate at identifying copper and plastic. Lead and galvanized are trickier, and hence will need professionals to put boots on the ground.
Using a mobile device, such as a phone or iPad, to collect material information in the field is another effortless way. On the web app over the mobile device, search for the address or tap on locate me. Once loaded, get basic information about the property such as the materials used and if their inspection is needed. The inspection form uses radio buttons, drop-downs, and allows for multiple photos. However, some clients have contractors using their own tools or paper logbooks.
Bringing in inspections in bulk is a huge help. In a past job, we had one client who had an ongoing meter replacement project and the contractor was tracking the materials in MS Excel. Simply copying and pasting the data and importing synchronizes that dataset with the inventory to help prioritize further verifications.
Machine learning also helps to identify potential lead or narrow down where further inspections are needed by looking at various metrics. Improving a machine learning model comes from cleaning up inventory data, looking at false positives and false negatives to review what's driving the prediction. The goal is to find the missing data and fill in the gaps.
Okay, the dinner is ready! We’ve organized, planned, verified, and cooked. Now is the time to eat.
Since we have all the data in the dashboard, getting the word out about the inventory status through direct email notifications, presenting information through a secure portal before you are ready to get the public map out is ideal, and allows you to control the message.
The public map is a requirement for larger utilities, but we recommend it for all to keep your community informed about service line inventory updates.
No thanksgiving meal is complete until we have some dessert. After ensuring the dashboard is all set, for that cherry on top, Trinnex offers automated sampling through our partnership with SimpleLab. You can sit back and relax while your customers request sample kits through the secure portal. After approval by the utility, kits are sent to clients’ homes, then to the lab, and the results are provided back to the homeowners through the leadCAST self-reporting portal. We’re working with a utility now that is offering this to homes with galvanized or lead. We control who has the option to request a kit based on the inventory.
There, we have it. All the required data at one place, transparent, and ready to be shared with the community. We believe leadCAST is a one-stop-shop for service line inventory management and will surely help us gain a lead-free and healthy tomorrow soon.