National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

Our friends at the The Florida Rural Water Association are requesting everyone’s assistance in helping promote the 10th Annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. There are many locations in the State of Florida participating in this event, being held Saturday, September 26, 2015 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.

This program is an important part of the national effort to keep drugs away from places they don’t belong, particularly out of the public water supply.

It is important that everybody knows the importance of proper disposal of unwanted/unused medications. DO NOT FLUSH!

  • Flushing medications leads to water pollution.
  • Pharmaceuticals entering natural waterways can lead to birth defects in fish and other aquatic residents. There have been several cases of evidence of this already happening in many locations around the United States. These creatures can also develop open sores, and their bodily functions can shut down or alter to the point where the animal can no longer function in the wild. This in turn leads to effective toxification of species that might otherwise serve as a viable food supply for humans and other animals.
  • Municipal water supplies carrying dissolved, waterborne drugs can also endanger sewer workers, who may be exposed to toxic or allergenic substances.
  • Improperly throwing these medications in the trash can lead to accidental ingestion by children and pets, and could still lead to water pollution.

As professionals in the wastewater management industry, we are all uniquely positioned to help educate the public about this increasing danger to our water supply. Please help us spread the word!

Feel free to repost this information on your own blog and social media channels. Below are two links for you to share more information about this important program:
http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/
http://www.frwa.net/pharmaceuticals.html

Thank you for your help in getting the word out.
The R.S. Technical Services team and FRWA Sourcewater & Groundwater Staff

 

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Worker Safety Series: Protect Yourself From Unexpected Hazards

Our last post revealed some of the surprising hazards that may await CCTV operators inspecting wastewater collection systems. This second in our Worker Safety Series takes a look at how we can protect ourselves from those hazards.

The U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive reports that some workers who come into contact with sewage and sewage products will suffer at least one episode of work-related illness each year. The majority of these illnesses are relatively mild cases of gastroenteritis, but potentially fatal diseases—such as leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) and hepatitis—are also reported to HSE.

So what can you do to protect yourself from accidental injury and infection? It’s an ongoing concern for everyone from the municipalities who hire your firm to the people you work for, to the people doing the work. Let’s look at some best practices: (more…)

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DATA CHECK-UP: Security Starts With A Sound Backup Plan

In this last post of our Data Checkup series for CCTV inspection services, we take a look at the part of data security most often overlooked: Establishing and maintaining a smart data backup system.

Think about it: Everything you do in the rest of your business supports your ability to visualize and record miles and miles of water and wastewater conveyance systems. Though it happens through your crews’ skill and hard work, the end product is that digital video and accompanying review and analysis data. Along the way, you’ve also got other digital data that must be stored for possible later retrieval:

  • Customer (CRM) information
  • Order and service records
  • Inventory and equipment records
  • Operations emails
  • Enterprise software records
  • Accounting and tax records
  • Legal records
  • Human Resources files

When you take a thorough look, you realize how much your ability to do business every day depends on your data being up-to-date, accurate and complete, as well as easily accessible. But have you ever thought what might happen if your system got hacked, your files got corrupted, or you couldn’t get to them when needed? (more…)

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DATA CHECK-UP: Could Your Software Be Ready To Give You A Hard Time?

 

In our last blog post, we took a broad overview of your central data system hardware through our Technology Health Quiz. This time, we’ll drill down a bit to what makes your computer hardware valuable: The software you run on it.

Software has come a long way from the days of endless loading from slow, tiny floppy disks that required babysitting so you could pop in the second, third…ninth one, as needed to complete an install. We’ve moved on through CDs, then DVDs, to direct Web downloads. And now more than a little software is Web-based, either via subscription downloads or simply as cloud-based SAAS (software as a service), with nothing to download at all; you simply go to the website and log in to use the program.

That said, it’s safe to say that at this point, most CCTV pipe inspection companies are running loaded/installed software, whether you’re talking about scheduling/routing programs, back-office applications such as Quickbooks or Microsoft Office, or the inspection software itself. This will likely change over the next five years, as developers begin moving away from media-based upgrades and encourage or even require direct downloads or cloud-based subscriptions. There are pros and cons to both, but there are concerns you need to keep in mind with any form of software:

  • Run the latest version. With any of these options, you must always be sure your software is up to date. These days, it’s not just a matter of getting all the latest features to boost productivity, it’s a matter of making sure you’re applying the latest security patches created for the inevitably discovered loopholes that could be exploited by hackers. It’s a sad fact of life that ALL of our productivity and our profitability are affected by the need to keep up with this annoyance, but no one is safe without such preventive activity.
  • Do you have an established policy and routine for software updates? The best way to make sure you’re running the latest versions and all security patches is to develop a regular software update policy for every package you use. The main user of that package should be assigned responsibility for keeping it up to date, and a log should be kept of all update and patch installations. This may also help if you experience glitches, because many such problems can initiate with the installation of a new version or update, and knowing when the last update happened will help your IT person figure out the nature of the problem.
  • Are you still using media-based software, and is it time to explore the advantages of cloud-based apps? Only you can decide the best fit for your company, but based on how many people use each package, how mission-critical the software is, and the cost differential between media-based programs and SAAS or subscription versions, you may find one of the latter is a better deal. You need to consider all the costs of operation—including your mobile workforce—before making a good decision, but your provider should be willing to do a comparison that will clarify what makes the most sense for you.
  • Do you have protection from malware/viruses on your computers? With the proliferation of hacking and just plain bad actors who think fun is figuring out who can do the most damage to innocent users, it’s just not safe to use unprotected computers any longer—especially considering that in the kind of fully networked environment most of us run today, one infected machine can quickly spread to every workstation in your operation…and that includes off-site machines on your network!
  • When’s the last time you updated or tested your anti-virus protection to make sure it’s working? More so than with any other kind of software, it’s critical to keep your anti-virus/anti-malware program up to date. These packages are sometimes updated as often as every few days. Some of them provide a setting that automatically checks for and installs updates, virus definitions and patches during a time you can schedule to be least disruptive to your daily operations. Take advantage of this customizable feature, as well as any others that can keep you protected without being slowed down. And by all means, test this software on a regular basis (you can make this a part of your Software Update Policy) by running it manually and watching the activity and reports. Because this type of program should protect ALL seats in your enterprise, it may be the first application you decide to take to a subscription basis, just to keep things simple and low-maintenance.
  • Would it be worthwhile to give your computers a speed check? Regardless the software you use, it can only perform as well as the machine it’s installed on. The average optimal use life of today’s personal computers is 4-5 years. This means that after that much time, the machine slows down through everyday wear and tear, the hard drive may be starting to go, and the processor is likely not able to keep up with the demands of newer software, so you’re not realizing its full efficiency. Also, by then, newer models are available with much faster processors, greater RAM, and overall better components. One way to speed up an older computer you’re not ready to put out to pasture is to dump old software you’re no longer using.
  • IMPORTANT TIP: When you’re ready to buy a replacement, don’t assume you’ll realize the speed of an optimized store display machine running the latest software on maxed-out RAM and the fastest processor available, unless that’s what you intend to buy. You want a reasonable “oranges-to-oranges” comparison, or at the very least, an “oranges-to-tangerines” assessment. Make sure to ask the salesperson how the machine you’re actually considering will compare with what you have now, running ALL the software you currently run simultaneously. The difference in speed of a stripped-down, new machine running one or two programs, and the same one running a full load of software, can be startling. It’s best to manage your expectations from the start.

 

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Why We Exhibit at No-Dig

While most of us are hunkering down for what looks like another tough winter moving in, it’s kind of surreal to think that we’re only three months away from the 2015 NASTT No-Dig Show. That’s right, this country’s largest trenchless technology expo is almost right around the corner, taking place from March 15-19 next year in Denver. And we’ll be there, because it’s one of the few chances we get to meet current customers and new prospects in a lively but professional atmosphere where everyone’s focused on everything new and exciting in trenchless.

No-Dig: The Ideal Interactive Environment

This ideal environment allows us to discuss our customers’ challenges, learn about the applications they’re using our products in, and learn their thoughts about where they think we should focus our research and development efforts. After all, it’s our customers who drive the products we create, and there’s just no better or more effective market research than this kind of face time with them at No-Dig.

We really appreciate the chance for this kind of in-person exchange, because sometimes we can catch some body language or facial cues to see what the person maybe is thinking but not knowing how to say it. We can then ask more probing questions and clarify the features they may be looking for or the ones they’d like to see improved, then discuss how we might be able to accommodate those requests.

Most of all, No-Dig provides us with the ability to showcase our unique Single-Conductor technology. It has particular advantages in operation, maintenance and results, all of which are best communicated with a hands-on, real-life demonstration. Once a technician has held and used our tools, and seen for him/herself the very real results our products can help them achieve, we don’t have much of a sales job to do. But having that unique demonstration/education opportunity is what makes it all possible.

We look forward to No-Dig every year, and hope to see some of you there in March!

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Happy Thanksgiving – We’re Thankful For You

As most folks prepare to get together with family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday, we feel it’s appropriate for us all to devote at least this one day each year to reflect on how richly we’ve been blessed. That’s not true just for any individual living in this great country of ours, but also for those of us who make our livelihoods here.

It’s been an eventful and momentous year here at R. S. Technical Services. As usual, we attended and participated in dozens of industry trade shows and conferences, and were featured in several industry publications. That was, as always, interesting, fun and enlightening, as we got to visit and catch up with so many of you. We’re thankful for your continued patronage and the trust you place in our engineers and customer service people to provide what you need to get the job done and keep it working and you making money.

Quite out of the usual realm, we lost our beloved leader, Rod Sutliff, in August. That was a real blow, and of course a difficult time for us here, both personally and professionally. But if there was ever a doubt in any of our minds before, about the esteem in which this industry held our founder—and, by extension, our company—they were laid to rest along with Rod.

We cannot adequately express our immense gratitude at the outpouring of love, respect, admiration and support we received from so very many of you on Rod’s passing. All the cards, emails, phone calls and condolence gifts, and especially the attendance at Rod’s funeral, were so very welcome and greatly appreciated.

At such a time of upheaval, it’s easy to feel a bit off-kilter as you try to regain your equilibrium, and it’s no different for an entire organization as it is for an individual person. We want you to know your overwhelming support was felt and indeed helped us all return faster than we otherwise might have to the business of serving our customers and our industry. It’s what Rod would have wanted, and we just want to let you know how thankful we are for you and your part in making it happen.

We look forward to winding up this year on a strong note under continued solid leadership, and to continuing in the new year the tradition of innovation and customer commitment Rod established and engendered in every last one of us at RST.

Happy Thanksgiving. Your support remains our greatest blessing.

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POSITIVE PROOF: Lateral Inspections Pay Off!

There probably isn’t a municipality in America whose public works department heads haven’t at one time asked themselves if it’s worth the cost to inspect sewer laterals before undertaking a complete rehabilitation of their wastewater conveyance infrastructure. At first guess, it seems almost a no-brainer that the time and expense of inspecting miles of pipeline and other underground assets that have seriously aged out would be far outweighed by the savings in simply instituting a top-to-bottom replacement effort of infrastructure of a certain age. It just stands to reason, doesn’t it? How much service life could that stuff have left in it, after all?

Well, two engineers took more than a passing interest in this very question, and performed an analysis of a sewer separation project completed by the Metropolitan Sewer District (MDC) in Hartford, Conn., not too long ago. George Pendleton, P.E., of Kleinfelder/ SEA Consultants (Rocky Hill, Conn.) and Jeffrey Griffiths of Hydromax USA (Newport News, Va.) presented their findings in a report titled “Are Sewer Lateral Inspections Cost Effective?” in March, 2012, at that year’s No-Dig show.

Background: Throughout the industry, the common conclusion is that private property I/I sources are significant. Many utilities are finding it cost-effective to address these problems and consequently reduce capital expenditures and operating costs. The report’s summary states that throughout the United States, authorities estimate up to 50% of a sanitary sewer collection system’s footage is comprised of public-private laterals.

Not surprisingly, this study found that inflow and infiltration (I/I) originates from a variety of sources within a collection system, many located on private property and/or not maintained by the local sewer authority. Based on surveys from many communities across the country, I/I derived from private sources ranges between 20% – 80% of total I/I (Private Property Virtual Library database).

The age-old question is: How do you cost-effectively address the problems? Do you simply broad-brush your approach, automatically rehabilitating 100% of the laterals in areas with significant I/I? Or are pre-rehab lateral inspections to determine actual need cost-effective?

Since 1929, the Metropolitan District (MDC) has managed the Hartford, Conn. region’s water and sewer systems, originally developed in the 1850s. The MDC set goals to replace laterals with poor performance based on

  • structural integrity
  • root intrusion
  • infiltration

Recently, 1,160 laterals were inspected and coded, per NASSCO Lateral Assessment and Certification Program (LACP) parameters. In some cases, laterals could not be inspected due to lateral caps, large debris, rocks, defects, etc. After scoring and tallying all inspections, 646 laterals were identified as candidates for replacement.

However, the more important figure is the 514 laterals deemed in satisfactory operating condition, and not in current need of replacement. The cost to do the lateral inspections was an order of magnitude less than total rehabilitation.

Private source I/I reduction activities start with lateral inspections, which have proven to be a very cost-effective tool. The full report discusses lateral inspection techniques, presents data output, and demonstrates how data is used to support rehabilitation recommendations that provide clients with cost-desirable solutions.

This report—or excerpts from it—could be very convincing tools when planting seeds for new approaches next time you visit your municipal customers to generate a bit of new business. Who knows? Your fishing expedition could turn into some serious financial benefit for you and make you into a hero for your customer.

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Above and Beyond: Alternative Product Uses

We know our customers are smart, resourceful people. When they let us know of alternative ways they’re using our products, we like to share them with you. And we recently learned of some novel uses for our Investigator Camera System.

Intended for inspection in vertical pipe situations, our Investigator system consists of a removable, adjustable 22-foot pole with a TrakSTAR camera head attached. The setup, with 2 high-intensity white LED lights, is submersible to five feet. One of our distributors reported to us that they found a good deal of interest from a representative of a law enforcement agency in using this package in searching for evidence suspected of being ditched underwater during a homicide or other investigation. Think a gun or other murder weapon tossed off a bridge into a river or lake. It’s a scenario right out of an episode of CSI, and we’re excited to think of our products playing a hero’s part in a criminal investigation!

Our pole cameras can also be used to inspect in-ground or above-ground gasoline, petroleum or other fuel storage tanks before and after cleaning to show the customer that all debris has been removed. An ideal pairing for this purpose would be our explosion-proof Omni Eye II camera, which is certified for safe working conditions in classified hazardous environments.

Pole cameras aren’t the only products of ours that can be used for alternative applications. One company reported to us that they recently attached a hazardous waste detector to one of our tractor cameras to approach potentially dangerous situations. This effectively turned our equipment into drones, used in much the same way our military uses them in situations where a human presence could present serious danger.

Do you have a story to share about a way you successfully used our products for a different application than it was intended for? We’d love to hear about your alternative product uses! Please take a moment to let us know about it, and we may share it here.

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Industry News Updates

We’re always happy to share industry news updates from the field with you.

Ductile Iron Pipe study – Findings from a study of usage of this traditional material pipeline have been reviewed in Water Utility Infrastructure Management. Member companies of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) are manufacturers of durable, environmentally responsible ductile iron pipe. The trade organization conducted the study in March and April of this year to help understand how experts with years of experience in the field feel about different choices in pipe materials. It drew more than 2,000 responses from long-time industry experts in every state in the nation — with 61 percent of those having more than two decades of experience. This study is an elaborate collection of the water community’s knowledge, expertise and field-born wisdom.

Sewer Rehab Lessons Shared – Water Online magazine’s September issue contains a very informative article sharing lessons gleaned from four public and private sewer system rehabilitation projects from the city of Westlake, Ohio. The projects were all performed in four different subdivisions developed from the 1950s to the 1970s, and the article covers different methods of inspection, assessment and repair.

Consultant Emphasizes Importance of Condition Assessment in Asset Management – CH2M HILL Director of Consulting Services, Jeff Sanford, penned a column for Water Online, touting the critical nature of infrastructure condition assessment as part of a strong, effective asset management program. In this era when municipalities are widely dealing with aging infrastructure, he says, everyone needs to determine the condition of their assets, then evaluate the need for, and select the most cost-effective repair, rehabilitation, and replacement solutions.

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Making Your Equipment Your Own: Product Modifications

Among our customers are more than a few curious, handy people who just can’t leave well enough alone. They like to tinker with their tools, enhancing their functionality or making an existing feature work better by making a few product modifications.

As designers and engineers ourselves, we get that. And we’re not threatened by your creativity — we appreciate it! We understand the attraction of taking what you’re given and making a few product modifications to make it even better.

Our designers and engineers never fail to be impressed when they see what some of our clients have come up with, and many of those ideas and suggestions have indeed made their way into new product releases here at R.S. Technical Services.

Clever Customer Product Modifications

For example, we became aware that a customer had developed wash-down systems to clean his equipment after use. This client also came up with the idea of fabricating a cradle to secure the equipment while in transit from job to job. Ultimately, our designers and engineers perfected both of these ideas into the native designs and incorporated them into later models.

During show season, we get several questions each year from booth visitors concerning how we feel about customer mods to our tools and equipment. We actually have no official policy about them, as long as our users keep safety at the top of their considerations, along with functional enhancement. Of course, we do strongly suggest reading the fine print in your new product’s warranty, since alterations and modifications can void the warranty protections.

The best approach, we think, is to contact us with any ideas for improvements or enhancements to our products. Let us know:

  • what first gave you the idea
  • primary and any secondary functions you seek
  • what conditions affect this additional functionality
  • how much of a premium you’d be willing to pay for the added functionality, so we can determine cost effectiveness

We’ll try to work with you to fully develop these special features in the factory. This way, we can incorporate them in future designs, so they won’t void your product’s warranty.

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