All-Around Performer

Rich Hunt brings a long list of proven capabilities to help clean-water plants produce quality effluent and operate reliably, safely and cost-effectively.
All-Around Performer
Rich Hunt of Woodard & Curran at the Union Park Pump Station in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photography by Ed Collier)

Interested in Engineering/Consulting?

Get Engineering/Consulting articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Engineering/Consulting + Get Alerts

If Rich Hunt were to emulate a doctor and frame his diplomas for display on a wall, he would need a pretty big room.

Besides his associate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts — Lowell, he holds wastewater treatment plant and collection system operator licenses, master electrician and refrigeration licenses, plus a dozen or so certifications in predictive maintenance methods, hazardous materials and safety.

It all comes in quite handy in his role as reliability manager and field operations and maintenance specialist with Woodard & Curran, an engineering, science and facility operations firm based in Portland, Maine, serving clean-water plants in the Northeast and other regions of the United States.

Hunt spends much of his time traveling among the 43 facilities the company serves — he has been to 39 of them. While on site, he helps plant managers and operating teams with maintenance issues, troubleshooting, safety compliance and much more. As a jack of many trades, he provides in-house a host of services for which plants otherwise would have to hire separate contractors, at considerably higher cost.

Last year, Hunt’s contributions earned him the Operator Safety Award from the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA).

A valuable player

Hunt’s supervisor, Frank Cavaleri, a senior vice president in the company’s Operations & Management Group, observes, “Rich is a unique guy. He has multiple certifications and skill sets that cover everything we do in our group. There are about 200 people in our operations business, and if we were to take a vote on who is the most indispensable, I believe Rich would come out on top.

“He provides valuable safety guidance at the facilities we operate. His dedication and superb maintenance skills were essential in helping several facilities battle the lasting impacts of Hurricane Sandy. He was instrumental in keeping those facilities running reliably and safely in the face of many obstacles.”

During 10 years with the firm, Hunt has assisted with health and safety compliance audits and in setting up lockout/tagout programs. He played a key role in developing and deploying the Woodard & Curran Electrical Safety Program and has acted as an electrical qualification instructor to more than 130 employees.

“He is extremely dedicated — one of those people you can call in the middle of the night to help out on a project,” Cavaleri adds. “Another thing that really stands out is his constant desire to better himself and better the company.”

Love of maintenance

Hunt has been in industrial maintenance for 30 years, and along the way he never stopped learning. He started as a facilities technician for a test equipment manufacturer. Next, he was an HVAC/electrical lead technician for a computer company, then a facilities manager for a pressure transducer and scales manufacturer. In all those roles, covering 30 years, he was always involved one way or another with in-plant water or wastewater treatment systems. That made Woodard & Curran a good fit. “They had a need for an O&M specialist, with both maintenance and wastewater operations skills, and that’s what I had,” Hunt says.

His mission at first was to support the plant managers at all the company’s contract operations projects, with an emphasis on the maintenance side. “Instead of hiring contractors, we tried to do things in-house,” he says. “My role was to provide an expert opinion on how to complete specific projects. For example, if a facility team wanted to add a new control system, they would ask me to come in and evaluate it and give my opinion on which way to go.

“Every project has a technical support budget. The plant managers have an allotment of money they can use to engage expert help, whether it’s Woodard & Curran resources or local contractors. The benefit to bringing me in is that I can do more than just one thing, whereas if they hire a contractor it’s usually just for one specific task.”

In time, Hunt’s focus shifted to predictive rather than traditional preventive maintenance. “The company was growing, and we saw a distinct need not just to perform maintenance but to be smarter about using the latest tools to analyze equipment,” Hunt says.

Keeping it safe

When taking on a new facility, Woodard & Curran typically performs maintenance, operations and safety audits to determine where improvements are needed. Hunt soon became deeply involved in safety audits, working with Shannon Eyler, corporate O&M Group safety manager.

The two soon discovered benefits simply in looking at a facility with two sets of eyes: “Even things you would normally pick up, when you’re looking at the same things over and over, you can be blinded sometimes. When we walk into a plant, we basically split off in different directions, and once in a while we meet in the middle.

“I write my reports and give them to her. Sometimes we end up writing the exact same things down. She finalizes the reports, and then we present them to the project team with recommended corrective actions. It works out well, because the second time we audit a facility, we don’t see the same little issues.”

Electrical safety took on special importance when the National Fire Protection Association issued a new standard covering arc flash safety. (Arc flash is a hazardous and potentially lethal event in which a short circuit flashes through air from one live electrical conductor to another, or to ground.)

The electrical safety program developed by Woodard & Curran includes arc flash analysis and protection. It trains plant operators who are not licensed electricians, but do electrical troubleshooting and repair, to become qualified electrical workers. The program includes classroom presentations and testing along with hands-on work. It covers topics such as wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment and using the proper tools to work safely on electrical systems. Prerequisites include first aid and CPR instruction.

Keeping them running

While assuming more safety duties, Hunt has worked to take maintenance on Woodard & Curran sites to a new level. That means traditional maintenance based on ownership manuals and schedules is no longer good enough. “Your car manufacturer may say to change the oil every 3,000 miles or three months,” says Hunt. “But if the oil is still good, why keep changing it just to change it? Let’s go above and beyond.”

Much of his work involves coaxing people out of old habits: “A perfect example is greasing equipment. A lot of people will tend to grease things twice a year whether it needed it or not. The reality is that too much lubrication is usually more detrimental to equipment than too little. I try to bring the philosophy that you should test equipment to find out of it needs the lubrication before you put it in.”

A useful tool is machinery oil and coolant analysis. Using that effectively means not just sending samples to a lab but drawing samples properly and from the correct sources: “If you take it from the wrong location, the answer you get will be bad — garbage in, garbage out.”

Testing extends to predictive maintenance technologies that help assess equipment condition and can detect anomalies before failures happen. One of the simplest and most effective is infrared (IR) thermography, which uses an infrared camera to locate hotspots on equipment or in electrical connections.

“Many sites, especially the smaller facilities, are reluctant to hire someone for IR testing because it’s an expense and they don’t see the benefit,” says Hunt. “But I can do it as part of a regular visit. I can pull the equipment out of the truck, do the test and say, ‘Here’s a problem that may come to bite us in two weeks.’ It’s a value-added service that gives our clients a little more bang for their buck.”

Another tool is vibration analysis, which uses an accelerometer and software to measure and trend vibration signatures in critical equipment components. “A bearing doesn’t just fail in one day,” says Hunt. “There’s a progression, and depending on how much load is on the equipment and how clean the environment is, it could last a week or it could last another year. If you wait until you can actually feel or hear the vibration, chances are that bearing is already gone.  The idea of vibration analysis is to track it on a routine basis, so at the appropriate time you can plan to take the equipment down and fix it.”

Ultrasound technology, meanwhile, detects sound at frequencies outside the audible spectrum and allows a technician to hear problems, such as leaks in a compressed air system fitting, a bearing fault or a steam trap malfunction.

“A steam trap fills up with condensate, which then blows off and drains,” says Hunt. “With ultrasound, you can hear how it opens and closes. You’re supposed to hear a whoosh-click, whoosh-click. If the trap is stuck closed, you will not hear anything; if it is stuck open, you will hear steam passing by. A bearing should sound like running water — a nice, steady sound. If you hear a sound like running your fingers over sandpaper, that’s a sign of trouble.”

Satisfying career

Hunt finds great satisfaction in using maintenance to help treatment plants reach high levels of cost-effective, safe operation. Common issues he helps correct in facilities new to Woodard & Curran include inadequate housekeeping, improper storage of chemicals and flammables, fall protection deficiencies and equipment that has not been optimally maintained. When not on the road on site visits, he works from home, operating via computer and cell phone, going to the office only for meetings.

“It’s work I like doing, and if you like doing something, you tend to do it well,” he says. “I’ve been told in almost every area I work in that I do it pretty well. I don’t see myself saving the world and creating a great environmental impact by making clean water. I’m just trying to do the best job I can. That’s my satisfaction.”


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.