People Make The Difference

A dedicated team of longtime employees makes sure Hardin County Water District No. 2 customers have the best-tasting water in Kentucky.
People Make The Difference
Burton Langley, a founding commissioner of Hardin County Water District No. 2, designed its logo. The vertical waves represent the original com- missioners and their desire to conduct business with honor and integrity. The rising sun signifies a new day as the county population and commerce expand rapidly. The rays represent the district’s vision to supply safe, high-quality water.

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The misbehaving Nolin River brings challenges to Hardin County Water District No. 2 in Elizabethtown, Ky. Agricultural runoff enters the water quickly after rainfalls, causing a large spike in turbidity that goes back down just as fast.

Managing turbidity was central to the design of the 2.7 mgd White Mills Water Treatment Plant in 1990, but employees took ownership of it by contributing ideas and suggesting equipment, then helping to build many components. Eight years later, they were again heavily involved in designing a plant expansion to 8.1 mgd. The enlarged facility became operational in January 1999.

According to general manager James “JJ” Jeffries, the daily diligence of the district’s 48 employees and their pride of ownership made the water district the best in the state. Submitting water samples collected from the distribution system, the district won the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Kentucky-Tennessee section Best Tasting Water championship in 2009 and 2011. It also won the 2010 and 2011 Best Tasting Water award from the Kentucky Rural Water Association.

Winning both local awards in 2011 earned the district the unique title of Undisputed Best Tasting Water Champion in Kentucky. In 2012, it received the Award of Excellence for Distribution System Operations from the AWWA Kentucky-Tennessee section. It also is the only water company in the state to hold the Area-Wide Optimization Program championship twice, in 2008 and 2012.

Reliable process

The district was born from a sense of urgency that never diminished. “Radcliff and Elizabethtown didn’t want to supply water to subdivisions outside their city limits,” says Jeffries. “That left 90 percent of the county’s citizens – the state’s fourth largest – without access to safe public drinking water. Our district was created to furnish it.”

Initially, the district purchased water from Elizabethtown and Hardin County Water District No. 1 to supply its 900 inherited customers, but the county’s growth of about 5 percent per year quickly outpaced District 2’s ability to meet demand. The board therefore approved the construction of the White Mills plant. Surface water flows by gravity through the system.

The raw water pump station draws from the Nolin River at the confluence of Cave Spring, then sends water 300 yards to the head tank in which inflow turbidity averages 22.00 NTU. The gravity flow system then directs the water to three 2.7 mgd ClariCone upflow sludge blanket clarifiers (CB&I). Operators add polyaluminum chloride Deepak 2020 (Delta Chemical Corp.) to coagulate suspended particles.

Turbidity meters (Hach) record levels as clear water filters to the top. The monitoring system enables operators to make mechanical adjustments to the weirs and maximize the flow rate through the clarifier with the highest performance.

Water overflowing the weirs enters associated dual-media filter cells, each holding 2 feet of anthracite coal atop 18 inches of sand. Head pressure determines when the filters are backwashed. The backwash water goes to a reclaim pond, while sludge from the clarifiers goes to drying beds.

Before water enters a 500,000- or 1-million-gallon clearwell, operators charge it with chlorine gas and feed 1 mg/L fluoride (analyzers by Hach). Finished water turbidity averages 0.035 NTU. The district stores water in three 1-million-gallon Hydro pillar elevated tanks (CB&I), a 600,000-gallon standpipe, and four multi-leg elevated tanks holding a total of 1.25 million gallons.

Moving targets

Six pump stations send water to 17,000 connections through more than 800 miles of pipeline with more than 7,300 valves in three counties. “Our field crews work especially hard to maintain this vast system,” says Jeffries. “Right now, they’re walking the transmission lines and lifting the lids on meter boxes in subdivisions looking for legacy leaks revealed by our hot, dry summer.”

Such leaks drag on the district’s leak percentage. In 2011, it was 13.4 percent. “Leak detection is very complicated for us,” says Jeffries. “Kentucky has more streams and rivers than any other state except Alaska, and many of our lines cross them. When evidence of a leak mingles with a body of water, we never find it.”

If technicians discover a pressure problem or see water meters turning without knowing where the water is running, they hook up the LD-12 portable leak detector (SubSurface Leak Detection) and listen. The sophisticated equipment helps them pinpoint leaks for excavation and repair.

Replacing inherited cast iron water mains with 16-inch and larger ductile iron pipe or PVC C900 for 8-inch and smaller distribution lines reduced leaks substantially. “Those projects also helped ensure that every drop of water throughout the system is of equal quality,” says Jeffries.

Positive environment

Manual labor is not restricted to field crews. The staff of nine at the treatment plant does everything from painting or repairing windows and sidewalks to mopping floors and replacing towels.

One daily chore involved cleaning the four wet well intake screens. In 2011, operators worked with Carlos Miller, P.E., of Kenvirons, an engineering firm in Frankfort, to redesign the intake and automate screen cleaning. “We ran the air lines and installed the manifolds,” says Jeffries. “Now operators push a few buttons that release compressed air through the manifolds to blast off the debris.”

The project also involved installing a 2 MW diesel-fueled generator (Caterpillar) for backup power to the treatment complex and the lift station’s pumps: two 80 hp Pumpex units rated at 3.1 mgd each and two 125 hp ABS units rated at 5.3 mgd each. The staff built the forms for the concrete pad and finished the concrete once it was poured. After the backhoe operator dug the trenches, the team laid the conduit and pulled the wire to the switchgear. “I asked the accountant to run the numbers for the cost of the job,” says Jeffries. “We value the staff’s contribution at $37,000.”

The culture of ownership is the legacy of chairman Rev. Michael Bell and the original board of commissioners. Bell believed that while all water companies have pumps and pipe in the ground, people make the companies great. The board created an environment that welcomed people seeking to involve and improve themselves. The formula worked so well that length of service often ends only with retirement.

“Little things separate water districts today, and longevity is one of them,” says Jeffries. Paul Goncher, distribution manager, has been with the district for 22 years, and Shaun Youravich, operations manager, and Stuart Erhardt, water treatment plant manager, have been there 20 years. Other team members are Dwayne Barnes, White Mills microbiological laboratory supervisor, 16 years; Brian Fox, maintenance supervisor, 6 years; water plant operators Lowell Newton (15 years), Chris Philips (12 years), Dave Klinglesmith (11 years), Adran Stinson (9 years), Moody Mohamed (8 years) and Michael Hale (6 months); and trainee Kenny Boyett.

“Furthermore, Carlos Miller has been our engineer for 20 years. His intimate knowledge of the system, along with a tremendous support staff of professional services, have been vital to our success,” Jeffries says.

Support also comes from the five-member Hardin County Water District board of commissioners. As business owners and civic and community leaders, they are heavily vested in the county. “Their culture and expectations mirror ours,” says Jeffries. “They complement us through all the political and civic arenas.”

From the bottom up

Jeffries, who arrived from the automotive market, found a well-established work ethic up and down the ladder when he arrived to manage the district. “Not only do our employees have the highest expectations for themselves, but for anyone aspiring to be their upper management,” he says.

Within 24 months, Jeffries watched two field supervisors, the distribution and the office manager, the head accounts receivable clerk, and the customer service technician retire. “When I used to post openings in the automotive field, no one responded,” he says “Filling the positions here opened my eyes to the quality of our employee base. My greatest problem was deciding which one to pick.”

The same level of commitment holds true for the group maintaining the pump stations and tanks. During construction of the Valley Creek Pump Station on the farthest edge of the distribution system, employees showed up two or three times per day to talk with the contractor and inspectors. “Questions always arose about where they wanted a breaker box or how something should look,” says Jeffries. “The group remained involved because the station would be theirs to own and operate.”

Louisville connection

New challenges are on the horizon as in July 2012, the water treatment plant set a record of 7.2 mgd. “We’re bumping against our 8.1 mgd capacity, and the Division of Water says we can’t draw any more from the river,” says Jeffries. “Connecting to and buying water from the Louisville Water Company became a viable solution.” Its service in Bullitt County extends to the Hardin County line.

To transmit the water, plans call for building a 10 mgd pump station near the county line, then connecting it to the district’s loop line via nine miles of 24-inch ductile iron pipe. “We estimate needing this connection by 2016 to meet peak demand,” says Jeffries. “However, the drought may accelerate the deadline.”

The district’s construction crew expects to complete the remaining 7.5 miles of the 24-inch loop line around Elizabethtown and build a 1-million-gallon water tank in early 2013. “Our agreement with award-winning Louisville Water ensures that our customers will continue to receive the highest-quality, best-tasting water as Hardin, LaRue and Hart counties continue to grow,” says Jeffries. “It’s just the next step in a culture of excellence that ranges through the district’s history.”


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