Beyond Boundaries

A plant team in Springfield spearheads a major effort to restore two miles of banks on an ecologically important stream that also receives plant effluent.
Beyond Boundaries
The treatment plant staff includes, from left, Phillip Costa, Barney Christian, Dan Mooneyham, Stephanie Gott, Kenny Carlisle and Jack Davis.

To the team at the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant in Springfield, Mo., passion for delivering clean water reaches far beyond the facility boundaries.

During two weekends in spring 2013, many employees of the 42.5 mgd (design) activated sludge plant joined 150 community volunteers to plant more than 7,000 seedlings along a nearly two-mile stretch of Wilson’s Creek, which is the plant’s receiving stream.

“It was quite an event, full of enthusiasm and pride by everyone,” says Stephanie Gott, plant biologist, who coordinated the effort. The idea to restore the stream corridor nearly a mile from the plant emerged more than two years ago when the city’s Clean Water Services division transferred responsibility for upkeep of the large properties next to the plant to the facility’s operations department. The plots served as a buffer around the plant and had been leased to farmers for cattle grazing with no oversight. That proved detrimental to Wilson’s Creek.

Precious resource

“What’s unique about Wilson’s Creek is that it runs through all three properties as well as right through the plant itself,” says Kelly Green, plant superintendent. “It’s very near and dear to our hearts.” The creek also flows to the James River, a water source for the city, and eventually to Table Rock Lake, an Ozark reservoir with significant economic impact to the region and state.

“I took it as a water quality issue,” says Green. “Steve Meyer, director of the Environmental Services Department which we are a part of, was extremely open to the project.” The city was willing to take on the project alone, but Gott found grants through collaboration with three entities: the James River Basin Partnership, whose mission is to protect and improve waterways; the state Department of Conservation; and the Ozarks Greenway Trail System.

The first priority was to build a fence to create a 100-foot buffer along both stream banks. A contractor erected the five-strand barbed wire fence with steel corners and H-braces. Plant operators, mechanics and laborers did the rest of the work in cleaning up the properties. 

The next phase was a landscape contractor’s planting of 120 oak, cypress, sycamore and river birch trees, each 6 to 18 feet tall, along both sides of the stream banks to form an anchor against further erosion and contamination. The final phase was the planting of seedlings by citizen volunteers and students from Missouri State University, Drury University and grade schools.

Plant team involved

Volunteers included parents and their children, co-worker teams, college classmate teams and teams of people meeting for the first time. “It was a humbling experience to coordinate groups of such compassionate people,” says Gott. “Our planting was a success.”

Among the employees who helped with the planting were Dan Mooneyham, plant operator 3; Kenny Carlisle and Jack Davis, maintenance mechanics; Philip Costa, labor supervisor; Barney Christian and Tyson Pingel, laborers; and Terry McConnel, operator.

“We work very hard and are very proud of what we do,” Green says. Awards are a big source of that pride. The plant’s recent awards include a second Platinum Award for permit compliance from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and the 2010 Plant Of The Year award from the Missouri Water Environmental Association.

Green says the idea to clean up the properties and Wilson’s Creek originated within the plant team, and the effort grew from there: “I just thought it made perfect sense from a water-quality viewpoint and perception viewpoint for both the citizens of Springfield and the Southwest treatment plant.”


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