Working with NOAA to Monitor the Weather for CSO RTB Operations

Staffed 24 hours a day, NOAA’s White Lake office collects and disseminates precipitation, river and rainfall data, and prepares local climatological data. In addition to forecasts for southeast Michigan, the office provides marine forecasts and warnings for near-shore and open waters of Lake Huron. Costello showed the group how different models and meteorological data are used to forecast the weather.
Records in the White Lake office date back to 1870. Costello showed the group an old meteorological record book from 1875 when data was manually collected and recorded three times each day.

Supervisors and operators for the area’s combined sewer overflow (CSO) retention treatment basins (RTBs) follow the weather closely every day. They need to know when rain is coming that can overload combined sewer systems and prompt RTBs to begin operation. RTBs store and treat excess flows from combined sewers during rain events. Understanding how to interpret weather reports is critical to staffing these facilities that are only manned during operation.
The invitation to tour the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) White Lake office and meet staff members was eagerly accepted by members of the Wastewater Best Practices Work Group (WBPWG). Danny Costello, Hydrologist and Meteorologist with NOAA, has contributed weather information to the Work Group’s RTB Performance Annual Reports for the last four years and extended the invitation to visit after reviewing the final draft of the 2014 Report.
“We wanted to understand how NOAA’s products are being used by RTB supervisors and operators, and find out if there are ways to improve them,” explains Costello. “Protection of life and property is part of our mission and RTBs protect our waterways from pollution.”
Costello and three other NOAA staff members met with eight members of the WBPWG representing the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, Macomb County Public Works Department and the City of Dearborn on April 22, 2015. The group discussed how weather forecasts are used to determine when to call staff in, and the amount of precipitation over a specific period of time that causes concern. Discussions then dove deeper into forecast probability of occurrence and how NOAA’s data could best be used by WBPWG members in determining when to staff their RTBs.
NOAA collects an extensive amount of data and has the ability to customize their reporting format. NOAA staff offered to work with the WBPWG to create a reporting format to facilitate review of relevant weather data and support staffing decision making. The WBPWG will discuss items they would like to see in the forecast reporting data at their next meeting. The WBPWG will also talk about how they can share their rain gauge data with NOAA to supplement data for river level forecasts
Rain gauges are used to measure the quantity of rain that has fallen. NOAA uses a network of rain gauges for real-time flash flood warnings and in their hydrologic model for their river level forecasts. DWSD and wholesale customers with RTBs operate their own network of rain gauges to determine precipitation levels for reporting to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. By sharing rain gauge data, there is the potential for NOAA to fill spatial gaps and obtain more precipitation data to use in their models. The first step in the process will be reviewing locations of rain gauges to determine the overlap with existing NOAA gauges.
“It was great to meet NOAA staff and connect faces with the agency name,” explained Gary Nigro, Assistant Chief Engineer at Oakland County. “We were impressed with how willing they are to work with us and help meet our forecast needs.”
“The visit was really informative,” added Dan Schechter, Superintendent of Engineering for DWSD’s Wastewater Operations Group. “We are looking forward to continuing the dialogue between the Wastewater Best Practices Work Group and NOAA.”
As part of the continued dialogue on how to best use NOAA’s extensive data resources, NOAA staff will tour an RTB to learn how they operate and visit DWSD’s System Control Center to understand how flows to the WWTP are monitored.

Members of the DWSD Wholesale Customer Outreach Wastewater Best Practices Work Group toured the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s White Lake office. The office operates Automated Surface Observing Stations and the local Doppler Weather Radar that provides information about current weather conditions used by area television and radio stations.
May 12, 2015

Operation Clean Water features articles on how DWSD and its suburban wholesale customers manage our water and sewer infrastructure to protect public health and the environment. It was created by the DWSD Wholesale Customer Outreach Public Education Work Group that includes individuals from wholesale customers (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties), DWSD, MDEQ, SEMCOG and consultants.