Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In   |   Create a web profile
Talking on Water Podcast
Blog Home All Blogs
Search all posts for:   


View all (5) posts »

Talking on Water with Clyde Dugan

Posted By Bonnifer J. Ballard, Thursday, July 5, 2018


Talking on Water Episode 5 Transcript


Announcer:      Welcome to the Talking on Water Podcast, a service provided by the Michigan Section of the American Water Works Association. This podcast offers insights and useful career information for Michigan water professionals. Now, here's your host, Pat Staskiewicz.

Pat:                  For the fifth episode of Talking on Water, we welcome Clyde Dugan from the Meridian East Lansing Water and Sewer Authority. In this episode, Clyde discusses water and sewer security and the value of networking. Welcome, Clyde.

Clyde:              Thank you.

Pat:                  Well, Clyde, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Clyde:              Well, I have been in the water utility business since about 1979. But actually, I started out in the water field early on by joining the US Navy and ended up in the submarine force. I've been underwater and involved in water for most of my adult life. I started, as I said, in the water utility business in 1979 and came out as a start-up engineer for a lime recalcining facility, reprocessing water treatment plant sludge for the Lansing Board of Water and Light. I've been at it ever since.

Pat:                  What took you to the city of Lansing?

Clyde:              I was originally from Bath, which is a small community just outside of Lansing. I spent six years in the Navy and when I got back, I was out of the service. I wanted to come back into this environment. In the Navy, I was in the nuclear power program, which is power generation. The Lansing Board of Water and Light was just a logical fit for me and stayed in my home ground. It was great. I entered the Lansing Board of Water and Light actually on the power generation side of the business, as a boiler room help her to begin with, a boiler operator. Then went through the laboratory and worked as a resources engineer for a number of years while I got my Bachelor's Degree in Engineering. That's what landed me a start-up engineer of a calciner, which I never heard of before that.

Pat:                  Now you're an expert.

Clyde:              Now I'm an expert.

Pat:                  Can you tell me a little bit about your role in water security?

Clyde:              Water security is a very important element of the water sector management, and the importance was highlighted after the 9/11 attack with the formation of Department of Homeland Security at the federal level, then ultimately with the requirements for water sector utilities to do vulnerability assessments under the requirements of US EPA. I and Bill Maier, who many of our listeners may know at the Lansing Board of Water and Light developed vulnerability assessment for the BWL.

                        At the same time, I was participating at American Water Works Association at the national level in the Standards Council administering the standards program for all utilities. As a part of that, the staff asked if I would chair a new committee on water sector security for AWWA. That was my real step into the water sector security issues with the American Water Works Association was the development of security standard for operation and management.

Pat:                  The water industry faces a lot of hazards. Can you explain what it really means for the security aspect of things, not so much the water treatment, but security?

Clyde:              Yeah. The water security is really a process of evaluating potential risks to health and safety of the water customers as well as the employees of the utility by person or persons of the level and intent. We didn't used to have to worry so much about that, but after 9/11, that became a significant issue and actually has become more important as time goes on with more and more bad actors trying to attack the United States through various means.

                        Even from Biblical times, the attacking one's enemy through their water supply has been practiced by a lot of adversaries. That hasn't changed. That's still a risk that all utilities faced. The idea is to institute safeguards to prevent or mitigate risk from bad actors. The importance is in preserving life and maintaining a functioning community, and water utilities are forefront of what we do is provide life for health and safety.

Pat:                  You mentioned the AWWA standards. I understand you're very involved with that. Can you tell us a little bit about the AWWA standards and why they're important?

Clyde:              The American Water Works Association Standards Program has been in existence for a long, long time. My recollection from hearing some of the history as it may be over a hundred years, since the development of the first standards. What they do is provide standardized methods and practices for manufacturing of water sector products and services. The AWWA standards program has some 75 or more committees. They're involved in developing standards for all aspects of water sector of services and products.

                        The AWWA standards program is one of the top draws for utility membership in American Water Work Association, and they're used by utility managers all over the United States and actually throughout the world when specifying products for chemicals for water treatment, when specifying the proper way of disinfecting a main after a main breaker new construction. When you want to build a water tank or water tower, you specify AWWA standards in your purchasing specifications to provide a standardized method of construction and evaluation of those construction techniques.


Pat:                  Imagine after all those years on AWWA committees, you got to know a lot of people from different parts of the country. Can you share with us that experience and how that helped shaped your career?

Clyde:              I started in the American Water Works Association at the national level, probably in the early 1980s, maybe '84 thereabouts. I've been involved with just a wealth of people over those years that have really been influential in the water industry over time. My first introduction here in Michigan was through Bill Kelly.

                        Bill Kelly was head of the water section of Michigan Department of Public Health at that time as the regulatory agency that oversees water utilities in Michigan. He's the one that got me involved in AWWA to begin with. The networking and meeting professionals throughout the United States and here in Michigan has been an extremely valuable part of my career.

Pat:                  Tell us a little bit about how you managed water security in the Meridian East Lansing Water System.

Clyde:              Water security is kind of a state of mind. You want to look at it from the standpoint of making sure that you control access both to your facilities and to your information. You want to keep perpetrators from being able to enter your facilities where they could do harm to a physical facility or could pose a threat to your employees. You also want to protect your information so that areas of your water utility that actually are vulnerable to attack are protected and you don't let the information out to potential perpetrators on where those vulnerabilities are.

                        Those are two elements of it, the physical security and the information protection. A third element is trying to preserve your separation from the outside world so that actors, either locally or from even from other countries, cannot come in and cause damage to your system by accessing your system control and data acquisition or SCADA system, for example, causing pumps to turn on or turn off when they shouldn't, or doing other system events that could cause harm to your system or would deny service to your customers. All of those elements are important in security.

                        From the standpoint of my local utility, we do that through fencing our facilities, through having automated gates with controlled access, having locked doors to all remote facilities to make sure that nobody can enter those facilities and cause harm. Maintaining control of contractors, consultants, vendors, that you know who is coming on your site and that they have access through some kind of granted authority rather than just being able to come out at their own will. Doing background checks on people that are going to be working in your facility and particularly in people that you're considering the higher risk part of your staff, to make sure that you don't inadvertently allow a perpetrator on your site. Controlling your SCADA system to make sure that you don't have an outward-facing system where somebody could access it through the internet or where somebody might provide an employee with a thumb drive that has some kind of a virus on it and hold your system hostage.

                        Hostage taking has been a big issue with control systems and with business computer systems lately where they're basically holding a system up for ransom and requiring payment before they allow the systems to be reactivated or reuse. We've had some of those events here in the local area. Both utility and non-utility systems have been held up for ransomware attacks. These types of things are day-to-day security events that you have to be aware of as the utility manager and you have to plan for and mitigate against.

Pat:                  Can you give me a typical day in the life of your day as a water operator manager?

Clyde:              Regardless of all that I've said, up until now, it's not all security related. The day starts by checking operations, chemistries, turbidity records, plant performance. First and foremost, making sure that we're putting out good water and that we're preserving health and safety of our community. Checking the adequacy of chemicals, order quantities, make sure that we've got enough chemicals in order to maintain inventory so that we can sustain a duration where we didn't get supplied for some reason, so that we're not vulnerable to an interruption like that.

                        Going over the day's projects with a plant staff to make sure that we're all on the same page, everybody is working towards a common goal. This is probably the first hour of every day is doing stuff like that. Then working on task of the day, which might be right now is budget, capital improvement programs, asset management, records keeping, those types of things, financials. Then working on report generation. Because as a water utility, we have a number of reports that are required by regulatory agencies and others.


Pat:                  Do you have any memorable emergency responses that you care to share?

Clyde:              Particularly, when I was with the Lansing Board of Water and Light, I was the water utility director there for, I think overall, about 17 years before I retired from there. One that comes to mind was we had an actual threat that came in about an individual that was going to poison the water supply by introducing, I think, cyanide into the system. Any time you get a threat of that nature, you take it very seriously.

                        But luckily, a lot of perpetrators are stupid, which was a good thing. This person happened to fax their demands into us, so their return fax number happened to be on the header which was good. We handed that to the FBI and the problem did take care of itself. However, there was the potential that they might have already introduced a chemical into the system. One of the first things I did was to call Michigan Department of Public Health. Jim Cleland was the head of that water section at that time and advised them of the threat that was posed and worked with them closely on making sure that we knew how to respond to that threat, both in detecting it if it did, in fact, occur. Then what we would do to protect health and safety if we had to respond to that. That was one of the more memorable ones. It turned out that nothing was introduced and it worked out fine.

Pat:                  How do you stay abreast of the next problem and staying ahead of the game?

Clyde:              Well, there's a couple of different ways. With regard to the utility itself, you should always be doing updates to your emergency management procedures, your emergency response plans, and reevaluating your vulnerability assessment on a regular basis. The AWWA security standard recommends that you reevaluate your VA at a five-year frequency. You're looking at what your potential risk is of an attack, how you can detect, deter, delay and respond to that attack, but also how you can mitigate the consequences of an act if one were to occur.

                        You can do that in a short term by making sure you know how to switch pumps, how to switch to a different source water, how to change your treatment process if need be, or how to respond to your community to make sure it's safe through a boil water advisory or do not use advisory so that you respond to your customers. From the standpoint of trying to maintain a knowledge base for the industry and also for professional development, I found the American Water Works Association is an excellent source of information.

                        You get the journal AWWA which has a lot of information from more of a research basis, but on future challenges that are coming up to utility. Various publications, both from the international association and from the Michigan section that provide immediate information on upcoming challenges and also training opportunities that are offered through AWWA, through the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and some of the other associations that were involved in. It provides an ongoing source of information.

                        But I think the other aspect of it is the networking, knowing people to talk to and gaining from the experience of other utilities here in Michigan about what has happened, what challenges have they faced, how did they deal with them. It's the networking with other professionals in this business I think, to me, has always been one of the most important aspects of AWWA, and one of the most important aspects of staying abreast of the industry and making sure we're doing what we're supposed to do.

Pat:                  Somebody new to the industry, what would you recommend they pursue to further their career?

Clyde:              Somebody who is new to the industry, the first thing is to realize that the Michigan section AWWA is an excellent resource and is there to respond to their needs. Sometimes it can seem like it's a website and it's a faceless entity, and they don't know how to actually interact with it. But I found that the people in AWWA are extremely friendly, outgoing, very much willing to assist with somebody in their career development or providing any guidance that they may. There are always volunteer opportunities for somebody that wants to get into this industry and to help build that network so that they know people to talk to when something comes up. I would strongly recommend that somebody new to the industry get involved with the Michigan section AWWA just for that opportunity alone. It will help them in their career. It will help provide value to their employer. It's just an excellent way to start.


Pat:                  If you could travel back in time, would you give your old self some advice?

Clyde:              I think I would. I'm an introvert and I'm not very outgoing. So I was real hesitant to get involved with AWWA because it was a social thing and I didn't want to participate in social things. I should not have been that hesitant. It's been a wonderful experience even for an introvert. If I was talking to my former self, I would say, "Get involved earlier and be more involved."

Pat:                  Can you give us some contact information if anybody wants to get all of you?

Clyde:              Yeah. Again, my name is Clyde Dugan. I'm with the East Lansing Meridian Water and Sewer Authority. I can be reached at area 517-243-3938. I am on the Michigan section AWWA board. If anybody has any questions that they want me to direct to other board members, I'd be happy to assist with that as well.

Announcer:      Thank you for listening to this episode of Talking on Water by the Michigan Section of the American Water Works Association. Please contact us at 517-292-2912 or feedback at with any comments or ideas on future shows. We'd love to hear from you.

[0:16:22]          End of Audio

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
Permalink | Comments (0)
Membership Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal