44 teams take part in tight 2015 Operations Challenge Competition

The contest might by extremely competitive, but fun and camaraderie are the big take-homes for those who did battle on the WEFTEC 2015 show floor.

Two divisions and 44 total teams took part in this year’s Operations Challenge competition at WEFTEC in Chicago. The contest is a challenging, fast-paced test of the essential skills needed to operate and maintain wastewater treatment facilities, collection systems and laboratories. Four-member teams and their coaches are judged on a combination of precision, speed and safety. The winners are determined by a weighted point system for five events including collection systems, laboratory, process control, maintenance and safety that test both the physical and mental acuity of team members.

“There’s a great purpose behind this contest because it focuses on skills that are valuable in the environments we all work in,” says Mike Carle, chief wastewater operator for the Town of Hampton, New Jersey, and a member of the New Hampshire Seacoast Sewer Snakes team. “The events are good tests for operators because they are a mix of physical and mental challenges.”

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The TRA CReWSers of the Water Environment Association of Texas took top honors, as team members David Brown, Dale Burrow, Jake Burwell, Raudel Juarez and Steve Price competed against teams from the U.S., Canada and for the first time, Germany. Teams needed to qualify to compete at WEFTEC, typically through state Water Environment Federation chapters. According to Carle, the Seacoast Sewer Snakes qualified back in June, and have diligently prepared ever since.

“All of us on our team have competed on different operations teams before, but never as one team,” he says. “After qualifying to come to Chicago back in June, we’ve been getting together at least twice a week to practice.”

Patty Chesebrough, a technical leader for several Massachusetts wastewater plants, and a member of the Seacoast Sewer Snakes, says the opportunity to not only meet, but compete against other operators from all over the world, is her driving influence.

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“We have a great chance to get to know the operators on the other teams while we’re competing,” she says. “As it turns out, a lot of us deal with the same sort of issues, regardless of where our plants are. The competition is fun, but the value is in getting to know people that are out there doing the same types of things you’re doing.

The Seacoast Sewer Snakes finished in 11th place overall in Division 2, on the strength of a strong 2nd place on the Process Control written test. Winners in both divisions include: 

Division 1

Related: June Worth Noting
  • First Place: TRA CReWSers – Water Environment Association of Texas Trinity River Authority, Dallas, Texas
  • Second Place: L.A. Wrecking Crew – California Water Environment Association Los Angeles Sanitation District, Carson, California 
  • Third Place: Jersey Devils – New Jersey Water Environment Association Cape May County Utility Authority, Cape May, New Jersey 

Division 2

  • First Place: Motley Poo – Chesapeake Water Environment Association Maryland Environmental Service, Millersville, Maryland 
  • Second Place: Commode Commandos – Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association Littleton-Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant, Englewood, Colorado 
  • Third Place: Blackwater Bruisers – Water Environment Association of South Carolina Renewable Water Resources, Greenville, South Carolina.  

Editor's Note: We're working on a full profile of the winning team for the print edition of Treatment Plant Operator. Don't miss out! If you're not a subscriber, click here to start your FREE subscription today. You'll get TPO delivered right to your mailbox, and you'll never miss another story.

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