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Flushing Habits and Wastewater Transport Systems

Flushable Wipes

ISO TC 224 established a WG to draft a standard on the quality of products identified by the producers as flushable wipes – an increasingly popular product around the world.  These were originally intended for sanitary use with babies, but also became popular with the elderly.  In the work item proposal, it was estimated that blockages caused by the flushed wipes adhering to the walls of sewers (along with flushed fats and greases) was costing millions of dollars annually to wastewater collection system operating expenses.

Unfortunately, the WG, comprising essentially of wastewater system experts and two representatives of the major manufacturers of wipes were unable to agree on specific qualities of wipes that would be acceptable to both parties.  These qualities address such topics as the rate of disintegration of the products in the turbulent conditions likely to be found in sewer lines and the nature and quality of the materials used in the wipes.  The WG was reconstituted to produce a Technical Report (ISO TR 24524:2019) on the Hydraulic, mechanical and environmental conditions in wastewater transport systems. With the same mix of experts, this was only partially successful, as the range of conditions finally agreed upon was really quite broad, and would thus permit the production of flushable wipes with resistance to disintegration in the transport systems.

The contention remained between the wastewater system operators and the manufacturer’s Association, INDA: The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (www.inda.org) on the subject. INDA has published a voluntary standard of performance for these products that the wastewater system operators considered to be unsatisfactory and contributing the presence of blockages in the transport system.

Accordingly, a group representing the wastewater operators decided to proceed and publish their own standard of what they considered to be an acceptable set of performance qualities for products that they would accept as being flushable.  The International Water Services Flushability Group established an internet site: https://www.iwsfg.org/ and published on it 3 Publicly Available Standards (PAS) addressing the qualities and testing for acceptable flushable products.

Since the publication of ISO TR 24524:2019, a civil action brought in the USA by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) against one of the major manufacturers of flushable products which resulted in a court decision favourable to wastewater operators.  The manufacturer agreed to abide by the IWSFG PAS on a world-wide basis commencing in 2022.

https://www.wateronline.com/doc/nacwa-commends-settlement-in-wipes-litigation-0001#:~:text=Under%20this%20first%20ever%20settlement,Services%20Flushability%20Group%20(IWSFG).

Several States have already brought those PAS standards into legislation.

COVID 19 consequences

COVID 19, has now brought an additional problem to wastewater transport system operators – the very commonly used face mask and other COVID related products are now showing up in wastewater systems as well as quite generally in the environment and river and lake systems.

An article published in the London, Ontario London Free Press entitled City sewers wiped out by flushing habits during pandemic reported that many products from masks, to rubber gloves, disinfectant wipes, and injection needles are now being found in the City’s sewer systems and pumps. (City sewers wiped out by flushing habits during pandemic | London Free Press (lfpress.com)).

Some Londoners have forgotten that basic fact about flushing habits during the past year, prompting the city to deliver visual reminders through eye-popping billboards in a campaign Toilets are not garbage cans.

 

Barry Orr, sewer outreach and control inspector with the city of London.

(Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

 

Barry Orr, sewer outreach and control inspector with the city of London, said since the pandemic began, the city's sewers have been "inundated" with disinfectant wipes and gloves “It’s gone crazy. I’ve never seen so many rubber gloves coming down the pipes. I’ve got gardening gloves. I even pulled out a pair of those long ladies’ evening gloves. It’s a constant battle and it’s getting worse.” 

“Our staff has to deal with this 24/7, 365 days a year,” Orr said. “When a pump plugs, the worker has to clean it out. Especially during a pandemic, we don’t want to subject them to that. There are a lot of sharps (needles) in the wastewater now. That stuff all gets mixed in there and it’s very dangerous.” 

There’s a sure way to fix it.

  1. use the toilet as designed – toilet paper, poo and pee! and
  2. put all the other gross stuff in a plastic bag, then in the garbage where it belongs.

New ISO Standard on the provision of alternative drinking water service during a crisis

ISO has recently published ISO 24527:2020 Service activities relating to drinking water supply, wastewater and stormwater systems – Guidelines on alternative drinking water service provision during a crisis. This standard was initiated by Israel (SII), leader of ISO TC 224 / WG7, which deals with the various aspects of crisis management in relation to drinking water.

 

Drinking water supply relies on systems that can be subject to disruption from internal or external factors including operational error, lack of rehabilitation, damage to the drinking water system, malicious acts (e.g. vandalism, criminality or terrorism) and natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes, floods, hurricanes or volcanic eruptions).

ISO 24527 is intended for drinking water utilities that normally provide a service without interruption through a drinking water distribution network, while providing guidelines for the effective implementation of alternative drinking water service (ADWS) provision during extended periods of disruption to drinking water supply.

 

This international standard was developed in consensus as required in ISO standardization. Several countries have contributed their alternative drinking water supply practices and experience, among which UK, Japan, US, Canada and Australia. Following the publication of the standard, a few countries plan to adopt it.

 

It is hoped that this standard can contribute to the awareness of the need for clear procedures to manage drinking water supply provision during a crisis, which is the obligation of every water utility to its users.

 

Dealing with water crisis and water supply during a crisis requires pre-planning and constant preparedness. These days, this standard is even more relevant, as one of the causes of water crisis is epidemic disease. Epidemic diseases as such do not compromise the quality of drinking water. Still, their occurrence can neutralize the human resource that is essential for the operation of drinking water and wastewater systems, which in turn can cause a water crisis. In such case, an emergency alignment as depicted in ISO 24527 can be applied.

 

For more information, see the ISO 24527:2020 webpage.


Current Activities

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISO has forbidden face-to-face meetings and ISO TC 224, like all other TCs has been meeting successfully by Zoom meetings and will continue to do so at least until the end of 2021. 

Task Force 1 – Communications

TF1 – Communications ISO TC 224's Communication Task Force continued development of a communications strategy for ISO TC 224 and identified opportunities to promote the work done by the TC during the upcoming meeting. In addition, the continued development of the website is the priority and is proposed to be followed by other communications activities including the development of a new Brochure on the TC.

WG 6 – Asset Management

WG 6 – Asset Management has recently approved ISO/CD 24528 “Service activities relating to drinking water systems and wastewater systems — Guideline for a water loss investigation of drinking water distribution networks” to be submitted to the public consultation as a ISO/DIS, which is now scheduled for the first half of 2020. The document describes a procedure to investigate water loss in a drinking water networks. The topic drew experts from all continents on the work table of WG 6, showing that the problem of water losses in distribution systems is a pressing one worldwide. A standardized evaluation and investigation procedure will help water managers to tackle this problem more efficiently and helps to validate and rationalize data sets on water losses.

Another topic in WG6 is the management of assets in water distribution and waste water collection systems. A recently completed series of standards  - ISO 24516 – deals with technical requirements to set up an asset management system in a water utility, basically transforming the requirements of ISO 55000 series into the technical and operational aspects of the water sector. Next on the agenda is the development of a supporting Technical Report to guide users of the series ISO 24516 by good practical examples on asset management implementation in water utilities, focusing here on the more abstract parts of the standards. Currently good examples are collected for review and suitability. If available, examples may be submitted via this website to WG6.

Asset management and water loss investigation will remain the main topics of WG6 in the mid-term.

WG 8 – Basic Sanitation Systems

WG 8 – Basic Sanitation Systems progressed the working draft for "ISO Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services – Guidelines for the management of basic onsite domestic wastewater services – Operations and Maintenance Activities". The document is proposed to support the published ISO 24521:2016 Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services — Guidelines for the management of basic on-site domestic wastewater services.

WG 9 – Decision Support Systems

WG 9 – Decision Support Systems publication ISO TC 24522 is about to be published, and the working group has been disbanded.

WG 14 – Governance

WG 14 – Governance continue to make progress on the development of the working draft of ISO 24540 - Principles for effective and efficient corporate governance of water utilities so to progress to CD stage. 


Recently Completed Projects and Activities

WG 10 – Flushable Products

WG 10 – Hydraulic, mechanical and environmental conditions in wastewater transport systems ISO 24524 "Service activities relating to drinking water supply, wastewater and stormwater systems - Hydraulic, mechanical and environmental conditions in wastewater transport systems" was published by February 2019. ISO/TC 224 members resolve to disband WG 10.

WG 11 – Stormwater Management

WG 11 – Stormwater Management publication of ISO 24536 — Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services — Guidelines for Stormwater Management in Urban Areas and TR 24539 Examples of Good Practices for Stormwater Management.  The working group has now been disbanded.

WG 12 – Water Efficiency Management

WG 12 – Water Efficiency Management publication of ISO TR 24526 - Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services — Water efficiency management – Requirements with guidance for use.  The Standard will help any organization that uses or consumes water to manage their water use. It is focused on organizations that use water. The working group has been disbanded.

 

 

News and updates

Meetings continue via Zoom during COVID-19

Meetings continue via Zoom during COVID-19

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, ISO has forbidden face-to-face meetings and ISO TC 224, like all other TCs has been meeting successfully by Zoom meetings and will continue to do so at least until the end of 2021.

ISO 46001 Water efficiency management systems -- Requirements with guidance for use

ByMong Ni Lee

on

ISO 46001 Water efficiency management systems -- Requirements with guidance for use

ISO 46001:2019 is the first Requirements Standard developed by ISO TC 224, to which organizations can receive certification as a water efficiency management organization.  It parallels ISO 14001 – Environmental Management and 50001 - Energy Efficiency Management, and is an increasingly important standard as we move to the UN’s sustainable goals and objectives. Both water services and their customers can demonstrate their efficient use of water both in the provision of water or in the use of water to demonstrate their contributions to water sustainability.