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IoT Tech Is Helping West Virginia Manage Water Quality

Environmental technology company Extreme Endeavors has updated several state Public Service Districts and water associations with new monitoring technology that allows for improved safety and quality monitoring.

by Scott Gillespie, Times West Virginian / August 24, 2020
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(TNS) — The founder of company formed two decades ago on an ice plateau in Antarctica, says his goal today is to serve his West Virginia neighbors with innovative answers to several challenges.

Mike Masterman, a Morgantown resident who for years managed the United States’ research center at the South Pole, created Extreme Endeavors to tackle some of the biggest environmental and safety issues facing the state today.

Masterman’s team is using the fledgling Internet of Things to deploy the evolving technology in all its research and development projects. The company was an early member of Fairmont’s High Technology Foundation.

The Internet of Things is a system of interrelated computing devices embedded into everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data without the need for human interaction. IOT, for short, is now found in everything from refrigerators to vacuum cleaners.

Extreme Endeavors has created a way to remove rare earth elements from acid mine drainage discharged from the region’s abandoned coal mines. Among the most desired natural resources in the world, rare earth elements power everything from smartphones to rechargeable batteries.

In the U.S., approximately 15,000 tons of these elements are used annually, nearly all of it imported from China. The company created a mobile processing plant for West Virginia University’s Water Research Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy to capture and remove the valuable minerals from acid mine sludge.

Masterman’s team of engineers and software developers have advanced a proprietary, totally-remote building security system that allows video and three-dimensional imagery of a home or building to be viewed live from anywhere in the world.

The company also outfitted the aptly-named Hellhole cave in Germany Valley with sensors monitoring environmental change in an effort to protect the habitat of two species of endangered and federally-protected bats.

But Extreme Endeavors’ most resounding success of late is its protection of West Virginia’s fresh drinking water supply.

Several state Public Service Districts and water associations have been updated to what Masterman calls “the most advanced water monitoring system in the world.”

The new systems fully automate all water supply monitoring, allowing for continuous observation and reliable real-time information, while safeguarding residents’ drinking water.

“It replaces the old hands-on way of data acquisition by employing small Internet nodes that read data from whatever appliance is attached to it,” Masterman said. “Why would taxpayers want to pay someone to ride around turning a pump on and off or constantly checking water levels? When a computer can sit there and do that, it saves the taxpayers money.”

The system features continuous pump and voltage monitoring, automated analysis of water flow, real-time tank levels and water loss updates.

Because it’s a web-based system, crucial information may be accessed at home on a laptop or personal computer, on a smartphone, or at a command center in a Public Service District office. Satellite and cellular communication, powered entirely by off-grid energy sources, transmit data continuously.

“The end result is easy up-to-date monitoring and the ability to see an entire public service district’s water system information at a glance on one screen,” said Masterman. “These features are unheard of in most other water systems right now.”

The company has installed its system in water districts from the eastern panhandle to the Ohio River, including several PSDs in nearby Taylor, Harrison, Barbour, and Upshur counties.

“I think one of the most important advances we’ve made in our technology is making it web-based. What that means is you don’t need to install a separate app for Android and another for iPhone. The exact same system, interface and functionality a water employee sees on his desktop computer is available on any device,” said Travis Miller, a software engineer with Extreme Endeavors.

Miller said the company’s custom-made products are developed specifically for each water district.

“We don’t have a prepackaged solution we force on a customer. We provide solutions that are tailored exactly to what a customer wants and needs. The customer provides feedback to us as we develop their solution, so they get the functionality and usability they expect,” Miller said.

Rocky Gallo is a water operator with the Century Volga PSD near Philippi. He said Extreme Endeavors’ automation of the district’s drinking water system was a game-changer for his crew.

“If we have a break, we see it immediately and we’re out there right away fixing it,” Gallo said. “We’ve eliminated the problem of tanks running dry. We’ve eliminated boil water advisories. We can monitor our entire water system on one screen. It’s been very helpful.”

Masterman said West Virginians assume fresh, clean water as their right and his company is employing the best technology available to ensure they receive it.

“Go turn on your water faucet. You expect clean water. We’re simply enabling that to happen,” he said.

©2020 the Times West Virginian, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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