Utah Plant Workers Compete To Keep Buildings And Grounds Looking Sharp

A friendly competition among team of plant workers keeps the Orem treatment facility clean and looking sharp for visitors.
Utah Plant Workers Compete To Keep Buildings And Grounds Looking Sharp
An aerial view shows the well-kept ground and buildings at the facility in Orem, Utah.

Keeping a wastewater treatment plant outstandingly clean and presentable is easy, says Lawrence Burton, Water Reclamation Section manager of the 13.5 mgd (design) facility in Orem, Utah. Competition and a contest are the keys — along with a great payoff to the winners.

Burton attributes the success to the plant’s 27 full-time and five part-time employees. They’re divided into six groups; each is assigned a section of the plant and is responsible for all aspects of cleanliness and neatness. “It has become quite a contest,” says Burton.

Once each quarter, an inspection team made up of two members from each group gets together with Burton to select the winning group. Winners are recognized at the plant’s quarterly safety and information meeting; the group’s members receive a paid half-day off. “It has worked out really well,” Burton says. “Consequently the plant is kept very clean and clean looking.”

Changing duties

To keep the contest fair, the groups rotate among the plant sections each year. The areas of responsibility have a total footprint of 7.5 acres and include all the hard surfaces of the plant, such as process buildings and structures, outbuildings and parking lots. The lawn care and landscaping is contracted to a local company.

The inspection committee members continuously observe and keep notes instead of having announced inspections. At the end of each quarter, however, a committee of representatives from each group conducts a formal inspection using a checklist and a score sheet.

Winners schedule their half-day off just as they would a regular vacation day. The only stipulation is that the half-day off cannot be carried over to the following quarter. “To the employees, it has become more than just a day off,” Burton says. “It has become a matter of pride, and the result is the facility always looks good.”  

Operators’ brainchild

The idea for the contest was spawned about two years ago during a weekly coordination meeting of the senior plant operators (SPOs). Members were asked for ideas on how to improve plant cleanliness. “We wanted a way for all the employees to take ownership in the facility and put forth the effort to keep it looking good,” says Burton.

Since then, membership in the SPO group has grown to include Scott Bergera, collection system field supervisor; Ned Miner, plant field supervisor; Allan Hadfield, biosolids senior plant operator; Blaine Shipley, maintenance senior plant operator; Troy Houghton, pretreatment coordinator; Norm Atkin, instrumentation and control specialist; Joe Jamison, GIS/GPS specialist; Randy Sandoval, process control senior plant operator; and Burton.

Originally, employees spent three to four hours a week cleaning up their areas. Now it’s an ongoing process that seems to take very little time. “Almost every time anyone comes to the plant we get compliments on how good it looks,” Burton says.

Now surrounded

It wasn’t always that way. The original plant, built in 1958, was relatively remote from its community. More recently, urban sprawl has surrounded the facility with residential neighborhoods, business parks and a golf course. And the plant’s receiving water has become a major bird refuge that attracts bird watchers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the region.

“When there is a water reclamation facility near your home or business, it usually has the stigma that it is just a sewer plant,” says Burton. “Now the facility is aesthetically pleasing. We do quite a bit to keep all of our neighbors happy with us.”

In 2013, the plant was nominated for an award by the Water Environment Association of Utah. During the evaluation team’s tour, one evaluator asked, “Does your plant always look this good?” The facility didn’t win the award, but Burton observes, “The question made us all feel good about what we do.” 


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