Letters - September 2014

In favor of the change

This is my first ever letter to the editor, but I thought with such a big change, you might be looking for input. First off, your magazine is excellent. I appreciate the quality of contributors you expose us to.

As far as combining the two disciplines (wastewater and drinking water), I can only see it as being a good thing. I am certified in and operate in both water and wastewater. However, in recent times I have worked in a wastewater plant that switched over to tertiary, reclaimed water. I think this is something that will be more and more common, at least in California. Being able to think in terms of both processes gave me a feeling of being at ease with that new process adaptation. Anyway, I appreciate every opportunity to learn, so please, keep up the good work.

Pete Delaney


Sonoma County Calif. Water Agency

Call a spade a spade

Here’s a question to ponder: Your magazine is named Treatment Plant Operator. Are you prepared to change the title of your magazine to represent our “improved” image in the wastewater industry? If not, I see this entire discussion as a moot point.

We are treatment plant operators. I have never felt any shame about being one. Although I’m a lab technician now, I still work with the same materials as when I was an operator. I’ve never needed a change of title to feel all right about myself or my chosen career path.

Calling a sewage plant a sewage plant is simply less confusing to the public than calling it by any other name. I am employed at what was once called a POTW (publicly owned treatment works). It was known to the locals as the sewage treatment plant. It was renamed the Water Pollution Control Center, and for years we’ve taken calls from the public inquiring as to the phone number of the sewage plant. More than once after explaining that they were in fact in contact with an employee of the sewage plant, I’ve been asked, “Well, if it’s a sewage plant, why don’t they call it the sewage plant?”

Calling a treatment plant operator anything else may build up someone’s ailing ego, but it won’t necessarily make them a better, happier, more satisfied worker. Maybe they’ll walk around with their chest puffed out a bit more initially, but the truth will remain: They’re still working as treatment plant operators. Maybe the change needs to take place in the region between a person’s ears, not in the job title or the name on a sign.

Mark Stears

Lab Technician

Findlay (Ohio) Water Pollution Control Center

Who’s to blame for nutrients?

I find it a disservice that you blame so much of stream nutrient problems on nonpoint sources (“Of Cows and Phosphorus,” TPO, June 2014). This is the standard reply from the “clean-water plant” profession. When you indicate “major contributor,” you need to be clear about which nutrient you are talking about.

You indicate in your article that point sources — clean-water plants and industries — account for a small (2 percent perhaps) fraction of the phosphorus load to waterways. I would like to see the data used to make this claim. I find that treatment plant discharges account for more like 60 to 70 percent of phosphorus in streams.

I am a retired wastewater chemist who has seen much stream monitoring data in central Illinois farmland. What I see is that farm drainage is the major contributor to nitrogen (nitrate) in the streams. With phosphorus, it is just the opposite. Treatment discharge, without phosphorus removal, is the major source of phosphorus in a given stream.

I agree that farmers need to be more responsible in the solution. They need to ensure that nitrogen use is timely and needed for crop production. They need to stop soil erosion, as most of agricultural phosphorus is in the soil. Fertilizer needs to be applied so that it is incorporated and will not wash off in heavy rains. Manure application is another problem. Sometimes proper application techniques are not followed or shortcuts are taken. This can also happen with biosolids application.

Jim Royer

Retired Wastewater Chemist and Wastewater Operator

St. Joseph, Ill.


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