Herlon J. Fayard Jr. Succeeds With Effective Training, Personal Conviction and People-Oriented Management

Herlon J. Fayard Jr. applies effective training, personal conviction and people-oriented management to achieve award-winning results.

Herlon J. Fayard Jr. Succeeds With Effective Training, Personal Conviction and People-Oriented Management

The Shoal Creek Water Reclamation Facility has 112 acres with 70 wet acres used to polish flows of up to 4.4 mgd. It is plant supervisor Herlon J. Fayard Jr.’s favorite spot.

Herlon J. Fayard Jr. was the new kid on the block when he became supervisor of the Shoal Creek Water Reclamation Facility three years ago. It didn’t take him long to win the support of management and staff. His positive attitude won the day.

“Herlon really enjoys the work that he does and the people,” says Michael Crabtree, an operator at the plant operated by the Clayton County (Georgia) Water Authority. “He’s a joy to work with.”

Chris Hamilton, water reclamation manager, adds, “He has worked his way up through the ranks in very short order and has done lots of good things at the plant and in the department that make for a safer, well-organized, and well-operated facility. He has left his mark.”

His latest reward is a new assignment as supervisor of the authority’s Northeast Water Reclamation Facility. Fayard observes, “I’ve been beyond fortunate and blessed. I came into the profession 10 years ago not even knowing what the local water authority was. But the training, the leadership academies, the opportunities — it’s been unbelievable for me to move up the way I have.”

The profession has recognized Fayard as well. In 2017, he was named the Top Operator for District 3 by the Georgia Association of Water Professionals. He also received the Water Environment Federation’s 2017 William D. Hatfield Award. In addition, Shoal Creek received the Georgia Plant of the Year 2017 award from Georgia Association of Water Professionals for advanced treatment facilities smaller than 5.0 mgd.

Out of the truck

Growing up in Louisiana, Fayard wanted to be a “big-truck driver.” He achieved that dream, driving trucks and dealing with heavy equipment for 12 years, until that work led him to help the Clayton County authority transition from spray fields to constructed wetlands that accept the effluent from Shoal Creek and the W.B. Casey Water Reclamation Facility.

“It was interesting,” Fayard recalls. “The wastewater supervisor encouraged me to look into certification.” He did that, studying for and passing the tests, then going to work as a beginning operator at the W.B. Casey facility. Soon, he was managing the midnight shift before earning his Class III Wastewater Operator license and becoming chief operator.

When the supervisor at Shoal Creek retired three years ago, Fayard took that position. He’s responsible for operations and maintenance of the 4.4 mgd (design) biological nutrient removal plant, which uses continuously sequencing reactor (CSR) technology (Schreiber) to achieve nutrient removal.

The facility employs coarse screens and grit removal, 5 mm rotary drum fine screens (Parkson Corp.), a pair of CSR units, two secondary clarifiers, a re-aeration basin and UV disinfection (TrojanUV). Solids are processed in two anaerobic digesters, followed by centrifuges. Cake biosolids are recycled for green roofs and other applications in the area by ERTH Products, a private contractor.

Effluent is polished in the constructed wetlands before release into two authority-owned drinking water reservoirs. The plant meets a phosphorus requirement of 2-3 mg/L, as well as stringent limits for ammonia (4.0 mg/L), TSS (30 mg/L), and BOD (10 mg/L).

The Shoal Creek team includes Robert Cloud, chief operator; Crabtree and Hilton Texidor, day shift operators; Andy Eason, evening shift operator; and Robin Liles and Willie McCune, midnight shift operators. About half the staff members have 20 to 30 years’ experience. “They all outrank me in terms of service,” Fayard says. “I get credit for the awards, but I couldn’t have done it without them. It’s impossible to do by yourself; you need a quality team.’’

Positive energy

Fayard managed the transition to leadership by paying attention to his team members and respecting their experience and knowledge. A family man himself, he is also sensitive to staff members’ family ties and personal commitments. “They all have different personalities, and they don’t always come to work happy,” Fayard says. “They have to balance their family and personal life issues with their responsibilities at work.

“Luckily for me, I had worked with many of them before on shifts and in different places within the authority. We knew each other, our personalities and our thought processes.”

Still, he admits it was a big step up in responsibility: “In the beginning, the toughest thing I had to deal with was getting everyone to buy into the team concept — getting everyone rowing in the same direction.”

Fayard took advantage of his team members’ long-term knowledge, blending it with his own ideas. Straightforward communication was critical and remains a key to the plant’s success.

“I just talk with employees, monthly, weekly, daily. It’s a thing we do. It’s just conversations around the plant — how their day is going and what’s happening in their personal lives.”

Fayard’s management style mirrors that of managers above him who enabled his success. “I was very lucky in my first position with the authority,” he says. “My first supervisor Donnie Kiblinger and my manager Chris Hamilton were very encouraging. They let me work as hard as I wanted to and advance.”

The positive vibe at Shoal Creek paid off in many ways, including compliant performance and the prestigious 2017 George W. Burke Safety Award from the Georgia Water Environment Association. “We’ve won the plant operations award for our category many times,” Fayard says. “This was the first time we got the safety award.”

Meticulous care

Shoal Creek hasn’t had a lost-time accident in nearly 18 years, starting long before Fayard’s time. Still, he made sure all the proper safety equipment was readily available: mounting brackets, davit arms, safety cables and safety harness gear around the plant’s ground-level basins. Team members use the buddy system and maintain thorough records.

“I think that was one reason we won,” Fayard says. “We have years and years of records and information about training, meetings, unsafe condition reports, repairs, and operational data. Plus, we have a quality group of operators. They’re conscious of what it takes to do the job safely and efficiently. Our goal is that everyone goes home with everything they came with.”

A strong maintenance program enables safe operations, and Shoal Creek takes a comprehensive approach. The plant uses a JD Edwards (Oracle) software program to track maintenance on all systems and equipment — daily, weekly, monthly, semiannually, and annual, as required. Team members can call up work orders automatically on any day.

Good maintenance also supports quality plant performance. “We basically use a timer system to run our anoxic, oxic, and anaerobic zones and maintain good quality of our organisms,” Fayard says. “A lot of our equipment is old and refurbished. Influent changes. We need to keep it running and stay in that sweet spot.”

Looking ahead

Shoal Creek recycles its biosolids and uses natural treatment to produce a high-quality effluent that is stored in reservoirs. In Fayard’s mind, these practices are the wave of the future. “If we don’t recycle, we’re going to be in bad shape,” he says. “It’s going to be important not only for the environment, but for society overall.”

Change will be driven by economics and advancing technology, he believes: “Right now, we have 4 billion gallons of storage available to us. With the rising cost of real estate, that’s not going to be available to us in the future. With the change from spray fields to constructed wetlands, we went from thousands of acres to hundreds.

“Technology is changing fast. When I was growing up 48 years ago, we had a well and a septic tank. My generation didn’t start out with computers. Now we have email and automation. We’re reducing electricity usage.”

He believes the younger generation may be more receptive to concepts like turning treated wastewater into drinking water: “People our age have trouble grasping the idea, even though it makes sense economically. But the kids today, they may be more open to that.”

As for his new role at the Northeast facility, that’s a new challenge that his colleagues feel certain he’ll master. “I have every confidence in the world that he’ll do a fine job there,” says Hamilton. “At Shoal Creek, he established an environment for teamwork, communication and mutual respect within his staff. He has a lot to learn and it’s a little more technically advanced than Shoal Creek, but he wants to do a good job and he cares about what he is doing. That sets him apart.”

Family affair

You can’t leave a conversation with Herlon J. Fayard Jr. without asking about his first name. His grandfather’s oldest son (his uncle) went to college in Germany and became good friends with a German student named Herlon: “My grandfather liked the name. When my father was born, he named him Herlon, and it passed on to me. Thus, I have a German first name and a French last name.”

Fayard Jr.’s oldest son is also named Herlon, and a new grandson carries the name. Family is vital. Married for 30 years, Fayard Jr. and his wife have three sons. He volunteers for the local baseball and football youth programs, having played both sports in high school.

“When my boys signed up for Little League Baseball, they needed a coach,” he says. That was 20 years ago. Since then, he has run the baseball and football youth associations. When his sons got into wrestling in high school, he helped coach the team, and he still does. His oldest son went on to be an All-American in junior college, competing at 141 pounds.

That’s good coaching!


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