Devin Snyder Succeeds With a Skilled Team, Rigorous Maintenance and a Supportive Manager

Award-winning wastewater plant supervisor Devin Snyder succeeds with a skilled team, maintenance and electrical experience and a supportive manager.

Devin Snyder Succeeds With a Skilled Team, Rigorous Maintenance and a Supportive Manager

Devin Snyder believes he won recognition as Outstanding Class IV Pollution Control Operator of the Year for the progress his team made in improving the facilities and their performance. Plant team members pictured with Snyder are, from left, Blake Smith, Michael Freeman and Charles Newell.

Devin Snyder didn’t start out as an operator, but as  a maintenance technician at the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant in Jackson, Mississippi.

“I was 18, and a friend of mine told me about an opening,” he says. “I learned as much as possible because I could see that the current workforce was aging, and I wanted to eventually move up.”

Today, as manager of O&M in Laurel, Snyder oversees O&M for the 7.4 mgd Massey and the 6.6 mgd Smyly wastewater treatment plants, as well as 50 lift stations. He also oversees maintenance for the city’s three water treatment plants.

He’s employed by SUEZ and manages a contractual partnership between the company and the city. SUEZ manages the city’s water, sewer, billing, customer service and collections systems. With his management team and crew, he oversees systems that have recorded zero violations, with equipment that consistently stays online. Both wastewater plants operate at 97 to 99 percent BOD and TSS removal.

His greatest challenges include heavy inflow and infiltration from storms and dealing with daily changes from industrial users, such as heavy BOD and grease loadings. His greatest successes include consistently meeting permit and implementing new SCADA and lime slurry systems in 2016.

A “together” project

In September 2017, Snyder received the 2016 Don Scott Award as Outstanding Class IV Pollution Control Operator of the Year from the Mississippi Water and Pollution Control Operator’s Association. One of his former SUEZ project managers, Mike Moore, nominated him.

“The association toured the facility and interviewed me, but I didn’t know I had won until I went to the event in September,” Snyder says. “It means the world to me. It lets me know that all the late nights and missed holidays have made a difference. I enjoy doing my part to help provide a sustainable environment for the future.”

Snyder believes he won because of the progress he and his team have made at the Laurel facilities: “When the regulatory agency performs their annual inspection, they comment on the cleanliness and organization and say they wish all projects were as together as Laurel. I’ve rebuilt this team with skilled technicians, and we have tackled all obstacles to make these plants perform as they should.”

Determination and a strong work ethic have defined Snyder from the beginning. While at the Jackson plant, he enrolled in an industrial electricity class. He later graduated at the top of his class with an associate degree in applied science from Hinds Community College in Pearl.

Snyder was soon promoted to maintenance supervisor at the plant, the largest in the state. “The plant was operated by SUEZ, and because I was able to make a big difference as maintenance supervisor, they asked if I would transfer to Laurel.” He was promoted to manager of the Laurel system.

Snyder credits his mentors for much of his success, especially his current boss, Randy Dias, regional manager. “Randy is a true leader who continues to encourage me and push me toward my goals,” Snyder says. “I work for an amazing company that has always encouraged me to do my best.”

Twin sister plants

The Massey and Smyly plants (also called George Gaddy Treatment Facility No. 1 and No. 2, respectively) are activated sludge oxidation ditch facilities with fine-bubble aeration, both built in 1989. “They are twin sister plants about 10 miles apart,” Snyder says. “Wastewater from the city is split 50-50 to each plant. The city decided it was more cost-effective to run two facilities than to build one huge plant.”

Together, they serve 26,000 people in Laurel, along with industrial customers that include two poultry processors, an electrical transformer manufacturer, a metal fabricating plant and several oil companies. Plant equipment includes:

  • Two FlexRate automatic bar screens (Duperon).
  • Three ABS 48 hp dry pit submersible influent pumps (Sulzer Pumps Solutions).
  • Two 75 hp vertical turbine storm pumps (Pentair - Fairbanks Nijhuis).
  • Four ABS 48 hp return activated sludge pumps (Sulzer Pumps Solutions).
  • A Pista grit system (Smith & Loveless).
  • Influent and effluent autosamplers (Teledyne ISCO).
  • Eight EMU mixers (Wilo USA).
  • Three six-stage blowers (Continental Blower).
  • Two Spiraflo circular final clarifiers (Lakeside Equipment).
  • A UV disinfection system (TrojanUV).

Each plant includes a 90-acre storm equalization basin, a 10-acre waste activated sludge basin, and an anaerobic lagoon to treat poultry plant wastewater. A laboratory at the Massey plant handles all testing, including regulatory. Both plants discharge to Tallahala Creek. Biosolids are dredged, belt pressed and landfilled by Synagro Technologies. 

Paving the road

Snyder is based at the Massey plant but travels daily to the Smyly plant to speak with the operators about daily conditions and to help address maintenance issues. He manages a staff of seven who handle O&M for both plants. Snyder holds Class IV (highest) Wastewater, Class II Collections and Class C Water certifications. Reporting to him are:

  • Blake Smith, O&M technician and lead maintenance/safety coordinator, Class II Wastewater and Collections.
  • Michael Votta, O&M technician and lead operator, Class III Wastewater.
  • O&M technicians Charles Newell, Class III Wastewater, Class II Collections; Maurice Hughes, Class II Wastewater; Lee Rowell; and Michael Freeman.
  • Tony Shaw, lab technician, Class II Wastewater.

The O&M technicians perform all operations, maintenance for water and wastewater along with grounds work. “Any of them can do any job,” Snyder says. “Most were hired with a maintenance background, and we can do all the electrical and mechanical work in-house.”

Both plants operate around the clock. The staff can access the plants remotely via the SCADA system (Mission Communications). “I have the team everyone wishes they had,” Snyder says. “I am just one person, and I may get all the recognition, but they are the ones who did the work. I just paved the road.”

The staff gives back to the community by conducting plant tours for high school and college students. “They tour the facilities, and we have them view slides under the microscope in our lab,” Snyder says. “We also enter trucks and equipment in parades, participate in a Touch-A-Truck event for children, and financially sponsor the city’s annual fireworks show.”

Increasing efficiency

In 2016, the wastewater plants added SCADA control and a lime slurry system (Polytec). Snyder says, “Before the SCADA, everything was operated manually. The staff had to learn how to operate the new system, but it saves so much time. When they arrive at 7 a.m., it generates a report that tells them how they will spend their day.”

Snyder added the lime slurry system after looking for ways to increase staff efficiency. “We use lime for alkalinity and pH adjustment and had been spending a lot of time dumping bags of lime at the headworks,” he says. “We were handling 30 to 40 50-pound bags a day.”

Now, a truck delivers and pumps the 35 percent lime slurry about twice a month. Plant operators set the target pH, and the system doses the correct amount. “The plant saved $19,000 in 2017 on lime costs alone by switching to slurry, not to mention the overwhelming savings in manpower efficiency,” Snyder says. “The system took a year and a half to implement and wouldn’t have happened without city cooperation.”

Future plant upgrades include new aeration blowers. “We are being proactive and considering the age of our equipment so as to reduce future downtime,” Snyder says. “The city of Laurel has been outstanding. They see the problems with infrastructure and do their best to allocate proper funding to make it better.”

Planning for pretreatment

Snyder’s biggest challenge is learning to deal with daily changes in the flow from industrial users. “We’re coming to something new every day, so we have to change how we operate to keep up with their changes,” he says.

Plant staff members have developed good relationships with the customers, who now give them a heads-up when they make a change: “When an industrial facility goes into cleanup or goes down for maintenance, that can adversely affect our system. Luckily, they now give us a call to let us know what they’re doing and how long it will take.”

Each plant pretreats poultry waste in an anaerobic lagoon. The waste is broken down to reduce organic loading, and the water is decanted into the treatment plant. Plant staff members aim to implement an industrial pretreatment program by summer 2019. It will include all nonresidential customers with flows containing more than 200 mg/L BOD and TSS.

Sized for I&I

Snyder is not fond of the storms and heavy rain the city has seen in past years: “We get an incredible amount of I&I during the November through March rainy season. We average about 56 inches of rain a year and received 21 inches just in June 2017.”

Hurricanes are always a concern. “Potential effects of hurricanes are power out at lift stations and high flows from I&I,” Snyder says. Hurricane Nate in October 2017 didn’t affect the plants since Laurel is 90 miles north of the coast, but Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 did have an impact. High winds took out power lines, destroyed several lift station sites and damaged a few structures throughout the system. Each facility has an emergency preparedness plan and 100 percent backup generator power.

The plants are designed for wet weather. “At 75 hp, the two vertical turbine storm pumps are sized to handle the inflow,” Snyder says. “Although our average daily flow at each plant is 4.0 mgd, we have seen 19 mgd, and we can push 20 mgd.”

The stormwater pump station receives wet weather flows above the plants’ peak hydraulic capacity of 13 mgd. It raises the stormwater to a high level where the flow can be discharged to the equalization lagoon or to the oxidation ditches if needed. The flow to the equalization lagoon is retained and gradually drains back into the main pump station for treatment during dry weather.

While the weather in Laurel can be stormy, all is calm at the treatment plants. For Snyder, the missed holidays and late nights are not nearly as frequent. “There were a lot of late nights, more times than I can count when I was first brought in to get the maintenance to where it needed to be,” he says. “But I would do it all over again. It’s a good profession.”

Outdoor adventures

When not overseeing plant O&M, Devin Snyder likes to hit the slopes. “I enjoy recreational skiing, and my family and I travel to the mountains a few times a year to ski,” he says.

He and his wife, Shellie, love the outdoors so much that they named their two daughters Autumn and Rivers: “We love to travel. We have a 30-foot travel trailer, so we spend as much time as we can camping and exploring new places.”

They also enjoy riding their all-terrain vehicles. “We go on several large rides throughout the year, including trails in the Tennessee mountains and mud riding in Mississippi and Alabama.”


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.