Kentucky Water Operator Doug Brooks Puts Heart And Soul Into His Work

Whether on the job with Kentucky American Water or suiting up as a volunteer firefighter, Doug Brooks puts heart and soul into his work.
Kentucky Water Operator Doug Brooks Puts Heart And Soul Into His Work
Doug Brooks, shown with Terry Kincaid, operator. Brooks won Kentucky American Water’s Warren Rogers Community Leadership Award for exemplary professional performance and outstanding community service.

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Doug Brooks is always helping others, whether that means helping with Kentucky American Water’s annual Waterfest or the Kentucky River cleanup, or working as a volunteer firefighter.

His can-do attitude has served him well in his water treatment career: He is chief operator at the Kentucky River Station (KRS) II at Hardin’s Landing treatment plant in Owenton and helps out at the Owenton Water Treatment Plant. His excellent work led Kevin Kruchinski, Kentucky American Water superintendent of production operations, to nominate him for the 2013 Meritorious Service Award from the AWWA Kentucky-Tennessee section.

“I didn’t even know I had been nominated,” says Brooks, who has 16 years’ experience in the industry. “Someone came and interviewed me, but didn’t say what it was for, so I thought it was just a plant tour. My boss, Dalvin Krug, sent me to the local conference and the next thing I knew, they were calling my name. I was flabbergasted.”

In his nomination letter, Kruchinski highlighted Brooks’ professionalism, his continuous drive for excellence and learning, his work with other operators to optimize operations, and his willingness to cross-train at other company water facilities.

The 20 mgd KRS II plant and the 1.0 mgd Owenton plant serve about 500,000 people in parts of 10 counties, including the cities of Lexington and Owenton. “When you walk into a plant, you never know what’s going to happen,” says Brooks. “Some days it’s routine and other days it’s something every hour. We have to be on our toes and know what to look for.”

Moving up

Brooks began his career in the Public Works Department in Cynthiana, Ky., as a maintenance worker. “I worked in the recreation department taking care of the grounds and, before that, as an umpire for the softball and baseball teams,” he says. “A friend in the department asked me if I’d be interested in working for the utility.”

He eventually switched to meter reading and earned his Class II distribution license. Two years later, he became an operator trainee, received his Class IV water treatment operator certification, and became a full-fledged operator: “I’ve always been the type of person who wants to better myself, and I saw an opportunity in water treatment.”

He credits his mentors for helping him succeed. “My supervisor, Nick Dotson, encouraged me, showed me what I needed to do, and had my back,” says Brooks. “Co-workers Jim Sapp and Gene Fuller also mentored me.” Brooks moved to Kentucky American Water in 2008 and was operator at the Richmond Road Station plant in Lexington before moving to KRS II a year later.

As chief operator, he helps supervise operators and maintenance workers at the two water plants and the Owenton Wastewater Treatment Plant, handles scheduling, trains operators, analyzes plant process samples, performs compliance sampling, orders chemicals, calibrates chemical feed systems, standardizes laboratory equipment and documents operational data. His team members at KRS II are:

Class IV operators Bill Allen (three years), Terry Kincaid (nine years), Nick Dotson (one year), Christine Florence (two years), Larry Hedge (three years) and Bobby O’Banion (nine years), Class III operator David Clifton (nine years)

KRS II is staffed around the clock, and Brooks is on call around the clock for all three plants. He describes himself as a laid-back manager who likes to have fun: “I feel that I am the kind of leader people trust and feel comfortable coming to and asking questions. I believe in one-on-one interaction. I always try to treat others the way I want to be treated.”

Brooks and his operators enjoy the challenges each day brings. “We’re still learning every day,” he says. “If you’re not always learning in this job, then you must be a hermit.”

Meeting challenges

Located on the Kentucky River, the KRS II plant was built in 2010 to help the company meet growing demand. The plant helped mitigate a drought in Lexington during summer 2012. “We sent 10 to 12 mgd more water to Lexington so they wouldn’t have to implement water restrictions,” Brooks recalls. “We just had to step up our game a little to meet the demand.”

Besides droughts, Brooks has had to deal with manganese caused by high organics in the source water. “If the manganese gets into the filters, it can cause turbidity problems in the finished water,” he says. “That is one thing we constantly look for, and when it happens, the whole team gets together to discuss and figure out how to solve this issue.” If team members detect manganese in the water, they add more chlorine, and if they detect manganese in the filters, they add sodium permanganate or carbon.

While floods have not caused major problems, they can affect the turbidity and infiltrate the intake buildings that house the raw-water pumps. “If water reaches these buildings, it can cause a lot of problems, so we try and divert the water by placing sandbags around the buildings,” Brooks says.

Outstanding water

Brooks’ biggest challenge is “making the best water at the best price.” He has found ways to lower costs with the everyday choices — for example, by constantly monitoring the water and feeding the right amount of chemicals. “The water quality is outstanding,” he says. “We always strive to do 10 times better than what is required. You can’t get everything out of the water, and sometimes you don’t know if you have taste or odor issues. If you discover that you do, you have to tweak the process by adding more permanganate or even carbon.”

It helps that KRS II is only 4 years old. Designed by consulting engineering firm Gannett Fleming of Harrisburg, Pa., the plant uses a dual-media filtration system (Roberts Water Technologies, division of The Roberts Filter Group) and a chemical treatment process designed by Gannett Fleming. It is designed for expansion from its current 20 mgd to 30 mgd.

In the Kentucky River, three submerged intake screens pipe water to a raw water sump installed through jet grouting to a depth of 80 feet. The jet grouting allows the surrounding weak soil to support the sump excavation. Raw water is pumped over a steep river bluff through an elevated 42-inch pipeline to the treatment plant. Finished water is piped through a 31-mile main to Lexington. The plant’s innovative design earned Gannett Fleming and Kentucky American Water a 2013 Grand Honor Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Kentucky.

Other plant equipment includes Stage 1 flocculator drives (Jim Myers & Sons), rapid mixing equipment (Philadelphia Mixing Solutions), progressive cavity pumps (NETZSCH Pumps North America), chemical feed pumps (Lutz-JESCO America), Floway vertical turbine pumps (Weir Minerals) powered by U.S. Motors (Nidec Motor Corporation) and motor controls (Eaton Corp.)

Helping out

Brooks assists with company functions like Waterfest, a family-friendly community event held in the summer at the Richmond Road water plant. Visitors learn how water is taken from the Kentucky River, treated and delivered through the distribution system. He also volunteers for River Sweep, held the third Saturday in June to clean litter and trash from the river.

His eagerness to help is one reason he received the Meritorious Service Award. Others include no regulatory violations, keeping basins and equipment clean and in proper working order, helping and training operators, helping to fix system leaks and replace lines, and helping with community and school events.

The first year he joined Kentucky American Water, Brooks won the company’s Warren Rogers Community Leadership Award for exemplary professional performance and outstanding community service. “The company gives this award to just one employee a year,” says Brooks. “It’s an honor to receive it.”

He recently completed the Kentucky Rural Water Association’s Utility Management Institute certification program: “It’s designed to recognize and market the skills of experienced management personnel, and it also provides a career incentive for those who seek opportunities in utility management.”

Brooks used to play basketball, baseball and softball. He still enjoys hunting, fishing and camping, and spending time with family and friends. His goal is to continue working with his team to make quality water. “When you work as a team, you don’t have as many headaches, since you’re all helping each other,” he says. “A lot of people are depending on us to keep them healthy, so we can’t do our job just halfway.”

His advice to other operators mirrors his own philosophy: “Be true to yourself, be true to the company and be true to the team.”  

More Information

Eaton - 877/386-2273 - www.eaton.com

Gannett Fleming - 800/233-1055 - www.gannettfleming.com

Jim Myers & Sons, Inc. - 704/554-8397 - www.myersequipment.com

Lutz-JESCO America Corp. - 800/554-2762 - www.jescoamerica.com

NETZSCH Pumps North America, LLC - 610/363-8010 - www.netzschusa.com

Nidec Motor Corporation - 888-637-7333 - www.usmotors.com

Philadelphia Mixing Solutions - 800/956-4937 - www.philamixers.com

The Roberts Filter Group - 610/583-3131 - www.robertsfiltergroup.com

Weir Minerals - 559/442-4000 - www.weirminerals.com



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