An unlikely source is bestowing honors on an unsung group, as the Environmental Protection Agency pays tribute this week to standout drinking-water and wastewater operators and facilities throughout New England.
For the 27th year, the EPA’s Region 1 (New England) Office is presenting the EPA Regional Wastewater Awards, recognizing about a dozen individuals and facilities for excellence in maintenance and operations.
The program was established to recognize and honor the employees of publicly owned wastewater treatment plants for their commitment to improving water quality with outstanding plant operations and maintenance.
The awards will be presented Wednesday (Jan. 25) during the annual New England Water Environment Association Conference in Boston.
The awards “acknowledge a pretty underappreciated profession,” said David Chin of EPA’s Region 1 office, who oversees the program. Nominees are solicited from environmental agencies across the region.
EPA’s national wastewater awards were phased out years ago, and only two other regions (3, in the Mid-Atlantic region; and 4, in the Southeast) still conduct a regional program, Chin said.
|Flooding from Hurricane Irene put many New England wastewater treatment facilities to the test last August.|
But the New England office has stuck with the awards, to promote and encourage what it considers an “underappreciated and undervalued” profession, said Chin.
Well aware that EPA is better known by far for setting standards and nabbing violators, Chin says: “It’s great when we get the bad guys. But we need to acknowledge the good guys.”
This year’s honorees:
VT Treatment Plants and Operators
EPA honored the efforts of Vermont’s municipal operators and maintenance staff for their “herculean” round-the-clock efforts in protecting their facilities and minimizing the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene in August.
“The operators are some of the unsung heroes of Hurricane Irene,” wrote Jeff Fehrs, an inspector and engineer with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, who nominated the group.
“I have heard multiple stories of operators working 36-plus hours straight, not knowing what day it is anymore, and sleeping in their vehicles. Through their dedication, resourcefulness, and hard work, they were able to provide at least primary treatment (if not secondary treatment) within a day…”
EPA also honored Carole Fowler, an Environmental Technician with VT DEC, with an “Operator Certification Provider Excellence Award.”
|EPA honored Vermont’s municipal operators and maintenance staff for their “herculean” round-the-clock efforts in protecting their facilities from Hurricane Irene in August. This is the Middlebury Wastewater Treatment Plant.|
Nominated by multiple peers throughout New England, Fowler “has done an outstanding job to provide assistance to wastewater treatment operators throughout the state” during her 27 years of service with Vermont DEC, EPA said.
Claremont (NH) Treatment Plant
The Claremont Wastewater Treatment Plant, led by Plant Manager Robert Lauricella, is being recognized for exceptional work in operations and maintenance. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services nominated the facility.
Fields Point (RI) Treatment Plant
The entire staff of the Narragansett Bay Commission, led by Executive Director Raymond Marshall, was recognized for its years of “outstanding work” in operating and maintaining the Fields Point Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Franklin Pierce University (NH) Plant Operator
Richard Emberley, of the Franklin Pierce University (NH) Wastewater Treatment Plant, is being honored for his “outstanding job” as Chief Plant Operator since 2000. He was nominated by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
Greenfield (MA) Treatment Plant
The entire staff of the Greenfield (MA) Wastewater Treatment Plant, led by Superintendent Cliff Bassett, was recognized for exceptional work in operating and maintaining the four-story plant, whose first two floors were completely inundated by flood waters from Hurricane Irene.
“The entire staff did a remarkable job to protect the plant and to help restore most of the essential infrastructure as soon as possible,” EPA said. “The plant was able to be placed back on-line with primary treatment and disinfection within a few days to protect the Green and Deerfield Rivers.”
Groton, CT, Operators
Richard Stevens is General Manager of the City of Groton Utilities’ Water Division; Kevin Cini is Chief Plant Operator for the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. Both are being honored with “Operator Excellence Awards."
Stevens, whose position oversees both drinking water and wastewater, has held his position since 2000 and has been with the utility for almost 35 years. In June, the division “hosted a highly successful two-day water security conference and field exercise for the benefit of nearby utilities, state and federal personnel,” EPA said.
Both Stevens and Cini have done outstanding jobs and are well regarded by peers at the state and federal levels, EPA said.
Lebanon, NH, Superintendent
Donald Schagen, Superintendent of the Lebanon, NH, Wastewater Treatment Plant, will receive an “Operator Excellence Award” for his service.
Schagen has held his current position for 12 years and has been in the industry since 1978. “He has done an outstanding job over the years, and is extremely well regarded,” EPA said.
Maine WW Control Association
The Maine Wastewater Control Association is being recognized “for all of the outstanding work the MWWCA has done over the years, through the collaborative efforts of all of its members,” to protect water quality and public health, EPA said.
The association has more than 650 members who include municipal and industrial wastewater treatment operators, consultants, students and regulatory officials. It represents over 95 wastewater treatment plants serving over 125 communities throughout the state of Maine.
Manchester (NH) Treatment Plant
The plant is receiving EPA’s 2011 Regional Industrial Pretreatment Program Excellence Award, established to recognize employees of publicly owned plants “for their commitment to improving water quality with outstanding plant operations and maintenance.”
“More often than not, and particularly with the smaller facilities, conscientious operators and staff continue to perform exceptionally with limited resources,” EPA said.
The Manchester plant’s Pretreatment staff was recognized “for exceptional work in its oversight of its industrial users discharging to the municipal sewer system.” The facility exceeds federal requirements and “continues to provide extremely efficient oversight of industrial users by performing exemplary inspections and documentation of industrial activities.”
Warwick (RI) Sewer Authority ED
Janine Burke, winner of an “Operator Excellence Award,” has been Executive Director of the Warwick, RI, Sewer Authority Treatment Plant for two years and has worked in the environmental field for more than 20 years.
“During the past two years, Ms. Burke, along with her entire wastewater treatment plant and collection system staff, has been instrumental in overseeing the recovery and complete rebuilding of the entire wastewater treatment plant that was devastated by the spring flood of 2010,” EPA said.
“She has been a dedicated professional protecting the water quality and public health of Rhode Island’s citizens.”
‘High Level of Commitment’
“The professionals operating these wastewater treatment plants, as well as the municipalities and the state environmental agencies that support them, are essential to keeping our environment healthy by protecting water quality,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office.
“They are devoted, often underappreciated, and demonstrate a high level of commitment under extreme situations. I am proud to give them the credit they deserve.”