Archive for October, 2011

October 27, 2011

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has scheduled another National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 29, 2011, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. to provide a venue for persons who want to dispose of unwanted and unused prescription drugs.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day addresses a vital public safety and public health issue.  More than seven million Americans currently abuse prescription drugs, according to the 2009 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.  Each day, approximately, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet.

Proper disposal of prescription drugs is also important to water quality.  Unwanted prescription drugs thrown down the drain or toilet can end up in water ways, potentially harming aquatic life, recreational activities and the quality of source water used for your drinking water.

DEA, in conjunction with state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States, conducted National Prescription Drug Take Back Days on Saturday, September 25, 2010 and April 25, 2011.  Nearly, 4,000 state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation participated in these events, collecting more than 309 tons of pills.

Find a collection site near you.  In Polk County, you can drop off unwanted and unused prescription drugs at these locations:

2702 SE Delaware

3140 SE 14 Street
Des Moines

3030 University
Des Moines

Urbandale Police Department
3740 86th Street

West Des Moines Police Department
250 Mills Civic Parkway
West Des Moines

Iowa Department of Public Safety HQ Building
215 East 7th Street
Des Moines

Johnston City Hall
6221 Merle Hay Road

Altoona Fire Department
950 Venbury Drive

Polk City City Hall
112 S. 3rd Street
Polk City

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Water Quality October 26, 2011

Finalists for Water Works Park Design Competition Announced

Earlier this year, Des Moines Water Works, in partnership with Iowa State University’s Department of Landscape Architecture, launched “Parkitecture,” an international design competition for Water Works Park.  The competition, aptly named for its emphasis on the fundamental role landscape architecture and design play in re-envisioning Water Works Park, sought proposals from professional designers and students.

A panel of 9 judges reviewed the 44 submitted design proposals and selected 5 finalists for further review and public comment as well as 9 student team honorees. The 44 submitted design proposals included 25 student entries and 19 professional entries, including international firms from London and Egypt.

Professional finalists (note: many entries included several individuals and/or other firms):

  • Gina Ford, Sasaki Associates, Watertown, MA; Mike Bell, RDG Planning & Design, Des Moines, IA and Kim Chapman, Applied Ecological Services, Prior Lake, MN
  • Matthew Getch, London, England
  • Dena Kennett, AECOM, Alexandria, VA
  • William Roberts, Nomad Studio, New Orleans, LA
  • Ed Wall, Project Studio, London, England

Student team honorees:

  • Clark Bockhahn, Oklahoma State University
  • Brandon Burlingame, Oklahoma State University
  • Yi Hou, Iowa State University
  • Forrest Hunt, Oklahoma State University
  • Nicholas Meyer, Iowa State University
  • Abby Rodeald, Iowa State University
  • Cameron Rouze, Oklahoma State University
  • Alex Tyler, University of Oklahoma
  • Shengyi Yue, Iowa State University

The review panel selected the finalists based on creativity, practicality, appeal, and addressing site considerations.  Judges included representatives from the design industry, Des Moines Water Works, and the community:

  • Ted Corrigan, Des Moines Water Works
  • Jeff Fleming, Des Moines Art Center
  • James Grant, Board of Water Works Trustees
  • Mell Meredith, Meredith Publishing Corporation
  • Janis Ruan, Ruan Corporation
  • Gary Scott, City of West Des Moines
  • Ken Smith, Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect
  • Don Tripp, City of Des Moines
  • Carl Rogers, Iowa State University Department of Landscape Architecture

The five professional finalists are invited to visit Water Works Park in November to review specific areas of the Park addressed in their proposals.  The finalists will meet with the public on December 15 at the Des Moines Art Center and will make final presentations to the jury on December 16.  The winning design concept will be announced by the end of the year. 

“The competition is intended to generate discussion about watershed issues and best practices and offer innovative design solutions to address ecological and recreational challenges specific to Water Works Park” (e.g., prone to frequent flooding), said Ted Corrigan, Director of Water Distribution and Grounds for Des Moines Water Works.

Water Works Park, a 1,500-acre urban park in the heart of Des Moines, has provided the main water supply for the city since the early 1900s.  It is also a major component of the city’s open space system and trail network.

“The result of the design competition will be an innovative park design showcasing Water Works Park as a model component of the larger watershed and recreational destination for current and future generations of Central Iowans,” said Corrigan.

Funds for implementation of the winning design will be obtained through private fundraising and will not be borne by water rate payers.

Online public access to the five professional finalists and nine student honorees is available.  Questions and comments regarding Parkitecture can be addressed to [email protected] or (515) 283-8751.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 1 Comment
Labels: , , , , Posted in Parks October 18, 2011

Employment Longevity Speaks Highly of DMWW

The average tenure of Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) employees is 15 years.  While that number is definitely something to brag about, an even more impressive statistic is the significant number of employees who have spent the bulk of their careers working for the water utility: 

    • 42 employees have over 25 years of service
    • 17 employees have over 30 years of service
    • 4 employees have over 35 years of service

    And one employee has worked for DMWW for 41 years!  Joann Elrod plans to retire from her position as Customer Service Coordinator this December.  She started working for the utility in 1970 as a file clerk, then a cashier, and has excelled in several other positions, the majority of them being customer service related. 

What has kept Joann at DMWW for over 40 years?  She said it’s the great people she works with and the fact that she has always enjoyed the work she does, noting that there hasn’t been a day where she didn’t learn something new.  She also attributes her employment longevity to the company’s size (approximately 210 employees) where she doesn’t feel like she’s a number.  

Within the next 10 years, 67% of Des Moines Water Works employees will be eligible to retire.  Plans are underway to capture all of this knowledge before it walks out the door.

Are you interested in a career in water?  Des Moines Area Community College began a new water/wastewater curriculum.

Posted by: Pat Ripley 4 Comments
Labels: , , , Posted in About Us, Employees October 14, 2011

Polk County Snapshot: Volunteer Monitoring Event to Evaluate Water Quality in Polk County

The Des Moines Chapter of Izaak Walton League will coordinate the 2011 fall Polk County Snapshot event. Partners for the Snapshot include the Izaak Walton League, Iowa Environmental Council, State Hygienic Laboratory and Des Moines Water Works. Volunteers do not need experience to participate. Sampling is done in groups of two to four people, and we try to make sure at least one experienced volunteer (someone who is a trained by IOWATER or has done the snapshot before) is with each group. 

Water monitoring of Polk County rivers, streams, ponds and lakes is conducted in the spring and fall.  In sampling events held the past 7 years, volunteers helped collect water samples at over 70 sites throughout the county.  For safety reasons, it is required that there is a minimum of 2 people per team.  Children under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult. 

Volunteers should register with Mike Delaney at [email protected] or (515) 339-0438.

Volunteers will meet at the Izaak Walton League, 4343 George Flagg Parkway, Des Moines, IA to get their site assignments, sampling gear and instructions. 

What is a snapshot?  A snapshot is a view of water quality within a short time frame. It involves sampling the water in a specific location from your local creek, stream, river or lake. Most snapshots usually require about six hours.

Who participates?  Anyone can participate… teachers, students, city and county employees, concerned community members, clubs and other group organizations… both young and seasoned volunteers alike! Anyone with an interest in water quality in Central Iowa is encouraged to get involved.

Why are Snapshots conducted?  To learn more about the quality of our source waters and ways we can help improve them.

What do you find in a snapshot?  Results have shown that most streams in the metro area are impaired with pollutants from agricultural operations, urban runoff and human wastewater. Nearly all metro streams contain numbers of disease-causing E. coli bacteria, nitrate and phosphorus at levels well beyond the safe standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

How can I get involved?  It’s easy! Just contact Mike Delaney at [email protected] or (515) 339-0438.

Posted by: Linda Kinman No Comments
Labels: , , , , , , Posted in Water Quality October 13, 2011

Water Works Park Road Facelift

Those who enjoy the beauty of Water Works Park by walking, biking or simply cruising, have probably noticed Water Works Park received a minor facelift recently.  The western portion of the Park, known as the Event Loop, has taken a beating from age, flooding and a high water table.  The road was crumbled, cracked and even non-existent in some areas, providing an uncomfortable and sometimes unsafe surface.  The 1.7 mile loop received a 3” overlay of asphalt, which amounted to 4,100 tons of asphalt!   In addition, to improve drainage and channel water, 4,050 feet of ditches and 376 feet of culverts were installed.  Thanks to the completion of the project, which cost approximately $410,000, recreation enthusiasts can now enjoy a smooth riding and walking surface.   

IMT Des Moines Marathon runners will enjoy the new Park roads Sunday, October 16.  Enjoy the beautiful autumn weather and experience the improvement for yourself!

Posted by: Amy Kahler 1 Comment
Labels: , , , Posted in Parks October 10, 2011

New Water/Wastewater Curriculum at DMACC

This fall, Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) began offering a new curriculum at its Ankeny campus.  Thanks to a joint effort between an industry-wide committee (including American Water Works Association-IA Section, Iowa Water Environment Association, Iowa Rural Water Association, Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources), this new curriculum has been designed to help educate a future workforce to fill the large number of openings expected in the water and wastewater industries due to retirements.

There will be three areas of study: water, wastewater, and a combination water/wastewater embedded in a larger two year AAS Degree industrial program.  There will be three levels of education available; a Degree, a Diploma, and a Certificate of Specialization.  By embedding into a larger industrial program, DMACC won’t have the pressure of keeping numbers of water/wastewater students up in order to keep the program alive (which has been an issue in previous programs across the state).  When the number of students allows it, the water/wastewater program will be offered by other community colleges around the state.

The curriculum will be “in class” and “web-based” to reach both traditional and non-traditional students.  The web-based students will attend one day of concentrated classes a week on campus.  This allows students who are working, to take classes while continuing their employment.  

DMWW assisted DMACC with the program and course design and will assist the instructors with assessment review.  Des Moines Water Works is excited to have this new water/wastewater curriculum available to our employees and future employees.


Posted by: Jenny Puffer 3 Comments
Labels: , , , , , Posted in Employees, Value of Water, Water Treatment October 6, 2011

The Dirt on Detergent

It has been known for hundreds of years that alkali solutions (solutions with a high pH, the opposite of acids) remove dirt from clothing. This is why lye was once used as a detergent.  Most of today’s laundry detergents are anionic surfactants that become alkaline in wash water.  A surfactant is something that can dissolve (or dissolve in) two dissimilar substances – like oil and water, for example.  An anion is a negatively-charged particle.  Since dirt is largely positively-charged, the negatively-charged anions from the detergent attach to it, and then the complex dissolves in the wash water, away from the clothing.

Hard water contains a lot of positively-charged calcium and magnesium ions.  Remember that dirt is also positively-charged.  This means that the detergent must chelate, or “lock up” the calcium and magnesium ions before it can affectively clean.  This explains why hard water requires more soap for cleaning.  The chelating agents in detergent combined with calcium and magnesium ions often appear as soap scum.  Animal fibers (silk and wool) are not affected by alkaline wash solutions – this is why they need dry-cleaning.  Some non-ionic (neutral) detergents may be used for these fabrics.

Fabric softeners are positively-charged surfactants.  They are acidic in water.  They alter the surface of the fibers so they feel soft to the touch.  They also may remove some residual soap and dirt particles from the fabric.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone 2 Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service, Water Quality October 3, 2011

Fire Hydrant Safety

October is Fire Prevention Month, a time when we should all be aware of ways to help learn fire safety and prevention. Fire hydrants are important to the safety of a community in the event that a fire breaks out near your home or business.  Des Moines Water Works is responsible for maintenance of the fire hydrants that fire fighters use to protect our community. Help the local fire department and DMWW by following these simple tips to keep fire hydrants working properly and accessible when they are needed:

  • Keep cars, bikes, toys and other objects away from fire hydrants at all times.
  • During winter months, shovel snow away from fire hydrants.
  • Mow and trim grass or weeds around fire hydrants near your property.
  • Do not plant flowers or shrubs around fire hydrants.

     Unauthorized use of a hydrant can cause significant damage to the distribution system, the hydrant and your home or business plumbing.  Additionally, it may cause damage to our water supply. Any unauthorized use of a fire hydrant may result in a $1,500 fine and misdemeanor charges.

     If you notice a damaged fire hydrant or accidentally damage one, please call Des Moines Water Works at (515) 283-8700.  Your call is important to fire protection.

Posted by: Laura Sarcone No Comments
Labels: , , , , Posted in Customer Service