Pulling Together

Staff members at the Fairfield (Ohio) treatment plant make landscaping their job and create a colorful scene every year

As chief operator at the City of Fairfield (Ohio) Wastewater Treatment Plant, Jason Hunold conducts many tours. When he does, he always hears praise for the plant’s appearance and maintenance.

“Their first impression of what they see as they arrive is a nice, clean plant,” Hunold says. “We never fail to get a lot of compliments on how nice the grounds are kept and how well everything is maintained. First impressions at a treatment plant give people a sense of how well the plant is operated. Well-maintained grounds are an indication of a well-run process. It shows the public that we’re doing everything in our power to protect river quality.”

The activated sludge treatment plant has a permitted capacity of 10 mgd and treats an average of 5.5 mgd. It serves a population of 42,000. Hunold credits the 40-year-old plant’s appearance to past and present employees who have taken the upkeep of the grounds as a personal responsibility.

The landscaping took off in the early 1990s when city crews were clearing a large area of a park to make room for a picnic shelter. They salvaged eight healthy ash trees from the site and replanted them around the treatment plant office building. Today, the trees still stand at one end of the building, providing shady green canopy.

Stepping up

The decision to save the trees was just the first step in efforts to beautify the plant. “At the same time there was a guy who really stepped up to do some landscaping,” says Hunold. The late Gene Campbell was a longtime employee who took pride in the plant’s appearance. One of his enduring legacies is a hillside patch next to a maintenance building where he spelled out “FAIRFIELD” in paving blocks against a background of red.

“Gene was really the first one who stepped up and made this his project,” says Hunold. “And he took care of those trees like his own.” Although Campbell was the first to adopt the landscaping as a personal project, others on the staff soon took an interest. “Throughout the years a number of people have stepped up, getting what they wanted to plant and adding their own touch to the grounds,” Hunold says.

One motivation is that Fairfield, north of Cincinnati along the Great Miami River, has received the Tree City USA designation from the Arbor Day Foundation for the past 15 years.

“Since we started receiving that award, we’ve stepped up our landscaping even more,” Hunold says. “We’re just doing our part to help the city earn that designation.”

The job involves teamwork and a bit of compromise as people bring different ideas to the task. Plant superintendent Drew Young has created plantings of everything from roses and butterfly bushes to a Japanese maple. “That Japanese maple is his real claim to fame,” Hunold says. “That’s right outside his office window.”

Chief collaborators

The landscape includes a mixture of trees, shrubs and flower beds, many set off with neatly stacked walls of landscaping blocks. The colorful displays are groomed and mulched. Their care fits neatly into the grounds maintenance routine.

The landscaping involves a partnership between two longtime employees, lead clerk June Jeffery and maintenance foreman Larry Wittman. “For the past six to eight years, they have teamed up to go to a local lawn and garden center to get the annuals for the flower beds, and it’s always a big event,” Hunold says.

Jeffery and Wittman make their own lists of blooms and then go shopping together. Despite some differing tastes in flowers, “they always find a way to meet in the middle,” says Hunold. The teamwork continues when the two get back to the plant.

“Larry gets down on his hands and knees to do the planting and June is right over his shoulder telling him where she thinks the flowers should be planted,” says Hunold.

In the end, the result is always the same: Colorful plantings that impress the plant’s many visitors from the moment they enter the grounds and approach the front door.


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