Stewardship Certified

A North Carolina treatment plant gains certification under a program that brings industry and wildlife together.
Stewardship Certified
Wildlife habitat improvements at the Crowders Creek plant include development of 2.4 acres of open space as a wildflower meadow, and installation of wood duck boxes, purple martin condos and a hawk perch.

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Wildlife stewardship is important to the operators at the 6 mgd Crowders Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, and they have a certificate to prove it.

In February 2012, the plant received the Certified classification from the North Carolina Wildlife Federation for practicing the tenets of the federation’s Wildlife and Industry Together (W.A.I.T.) program, an effort to enhance wildlife habitat and provide educational opportunities for employees and the public.

“It has been a very positive thing for our staff,” says Stephanie Scheringer, assistant division manager of wastewater treatment operations for Two Rivers Utilities (TRU), the utility entity serving Gastonia, N.C. The journey began in 2009 when Janet Maddox, pretreatment coordinator, read an article describing the steps required to become W.A.I.T. certified. “She brought the idea forward, it was approved by our management, and the operations and maintenance staff just ran with it,” says Scheringer.

The process required the formation of an employee committee to develop a three-year plan for review by a W.A.I.T. inspection team, which included Beth Cunningham, Sibyl Brotherton and Kevin Graves, plant operators; Charlie Graham, senior plant operator; Martin Lynn and Tim Hall, plant mechanics; Sara Sims, laboratory technician; and Adam Evatt, landscape technician.

The plan’s eventual approval classified the plant as a Participating Member of W.A.I.T., indicating a commitment to meet the requirements for full certification. “One thing I like about the W.A.I.T. program is that it’s an inexpensive way to naturally enhance the environment and the native species,” Scheringer says. “We didn’t spend a lot of money on it, and it provided us the opportunity to partner with the community and increase the environmental education.”

The plan included development of 2.4 acres of open space near the plant as a wildflower meadow for wildlife. Members of the Piedmont Area Wildlife Stewards (PAWS) conservation group in Gaston County built wood duck boxes. Caleb Bynum, son of Mike Bynum, TRU engineering division manager, built and installed several purple martin condos and a hawk perch as part of an Eagle Scout project.

To meet the program’s educational requirement, the plant team created an on-site library with books on native species and photos of wildlife seen on the site. Dr. Steve Tracey, a member of the Charlotte Audubon Society, has surveyed 34 bird species at the facility. Plant tours are also a big part of the outreach initiative.

“We conduct tours of the whole facility, so we’re not only teaching folks how the wastewater treatment plant operates, but also about the local wildlife,” says Scheringer, who also serves as temporary senior operator of the treatment plant. Tours are for the general public, but schools are the biggest attendees. A local middle school sent 324 eighth graders. Maddox, Scheringer and any of the committee members conduct the tours, which include a visit to the laboratory.

“We walk around the entire facility and explain how each of the treatment units work, and they see things like the wood duck boxes,” Scheringer says. “We show them our SCADA system and look at microorganisms in the microscope, and typically give a PowerPoint presentation that provides more detail about things that otherwise would be difficult to see.”

Two other TRU plants are working toward W.A.I.T. certification. “We are really proud of our plant,” Scheringer says. “Like everything we do, success is determined by the work and commitment of the staff. They really love nature and the animals, and it really shows in the great work they’ve done with the program.”


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