Control Engineering Implementation Chronicles

By Control Engineering Staff November 29, 2005

Project: Baton Rouge Wastewater Pump Station SCADA System

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This $2 million+ project involves the design, assembly, configuration, and installation of a SCADA system to monitor and control 51 critical wastewater lift and booster stations serving the municipality’s 412,000 residents, located within a 20-mile by 20-mile service area.

The municipality’s current SCADA system, installed less than 10 years ago predominantly by two proprietary RTU vendors for the same 51 sites, has not lived up to expectations. The two vendors’ systems communicate using their native protocol over the same backbone employing a custom communication interface. The communication system backbone is based on a private radio network employing a voice-grade 800 MHz system with repeaters. This system has proven to be only marginally reliable, with higher than expected retransmission rates and inconsistent coverage of the service area. In addition, the polled architecture and limitations in the RTU firmware offer a much slower communication update rate than intended by the Baton Rouge wastewater facility.

Complicating matters further for the municipality, one of the proprietary RTU vendors involved in the initial project has since exited the market and parts availability has become limited.

The current system was low bid at a cost of $800,000 (second, third, and fourth place bids ranged from $1.25 to $1.6 million). The low bidder spent several years attempting to complete the system. Eventually a bonding company attempted completion to specifications by employing a third party. In total, the municipality invested nearly 5 years and reportedly more $1.6 million (including initial costs and additional engineering fees) to bring the current SCADA system to its present state.

A number of design and technological approaches new to municipal SCADA are planned for this system replacement project:

  • Use of systems engineering techniques ensure the SCADA system’s design supports monitoring of the municipality’s progress toward achievement of established service level goals.

  • The public cell phone network, rather than traditional radio or leased line circuits, provide the communication backbone to remote sites.

  • The SCADA host is redundant yet native Web-based, capable of being accessed by any municipal employee from any desk or mobile terminal with IP connectivity.

Be sure to check in with us each week to see how things are going!

Stan Prutz, P. E.,
is CEO of
QDS Systems Inc., Baton Rouge, LA.

The major challenges we expect to face include gaining acceptance of changing methods and procedures within a large municipal organization and coordination of stakeholders toward a timely completion, while lacking direct contractual authority over them.

QDS, the system integration firm for which I am CEO, entered the bidding process for this project after the traditional low-bid process used for selection of Baton Rouge’s previous SCADA vendor resulted in an unfavorable outcome for the municipality. Taking advantage of recently enacted provisions in the state’s public bid law, the municipality dropped the low-bid process in favor of a unique contractual arrangement based on request for proposals (RFP) process. This allows the municipality to evaluate proposals based upon weighted evaluation criteria they establish. The criteria used to evaluate proposals included past performance and references, current financial standing and evaluation of pending litigation (30%), experience with water/wastewater SCADA system programming (20%), experience with the chosen SCADA software and radio-based telemetry systems (20%), support services (10%) and price competitiveness (20%).

The municipality’s primary consultant used this RFP process to make separate awards in three of four phases of the project. Equipment and services not qualifying for use of this process were awarded in a separate phase using the traditional low-bid process.

Request for proposals process included the following phases:

  • Phase I–remote telemetry unit (RTU) controllers and human machine interface (HMI) hardware;

  • Phase III–project management of all phases, host systems, all software configuration, testing, quality assurance and systems responsibility; and

  • Phase IV–communications system linking remote RTU controllers to a host.

The low-bid process was applied to Phase II–control panel assembly and installation.

For Phase I, the municipality contracted with the local representative of the most highly evaluated hardware vendors.

Phase II was awarded to the low-bid general contractor. This contractor plans to employ an electrical subcontractor for installation services and a separate UL508 panel builder for assembly of 38 RTU control panels and 10 pump starter panels. The panel builder is required to use the RTU controller, HMI, and radio modem selected in Phases I and IV. The Phase II contractor is contractually required to closely coordinate with the Phase III project manager.

QDS Systems ranked highest against the established criteria for Phases III and IV. While the QDS Systems Phase III relative point ranking was nearly twice that of the nearest competitor, prices offered for this phase varied considerably, ranging from half to twice the QDS Systems price.

Baton Rouge’s four-part independent award process presents unique project management challenges that will prove interesting to observe as this Weblog progresses. The project is expected to last 12 months and this Weblog will be updated with reports direct from the field each week.

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QDS Systems, Inc., is a Registered Member of Control and Information System
Integrators Association (CSIA), one of fewer than 75 integrators in North America to have earned that distinction.