Wearing Multiple Hats. Many Irons in the Fire. That Describes This Ohio Operator.

Newly minted WEF Fellow Kim Furry strives for excellence, whether leading her clean-water plant team or giving volunteer service to the industry

Wearing Multiple Hats. Many Irons in the Fire. That Describes This Ohio Operator.

Kim Furry, manager of the Lima Wastewater Treatment Plant, was named a Water Environment Federation Fellow in 2022.

As manager of the Lima Wastewater Treatment Plant, Kim Furry certainly has her hands full.

She is in charge of an Ohio facility that handles a dry-weather design flow of 18 mgd (12 mgd average, 70 mgd peak capacity). She’s also responsible for 32 lift stations, a 13 million-gallon combined sewer overflow basin and 19 permitted CSO discharges to the Ottawa River.

Along with all that, Furry fulfills numerous volunteer positions with the Water Environment Federation and the Ohio Water Environment Association, in that latter case as president. She’s also a member of the American Water Works Association.

Add 10 published wastewater-related articles in various scholarly journals, and an assortment of industry accolades, and it’s no wonder she was honored last year as a WEF Fellow, recognizing professional achievement, stature and contributions to the global water environment.

“I was surprised and honored to be named a WEF Fellow because the winners are nominated by their peers in the water industry,” Furry says. “I joke with my husband that I won for all my volunteer work, which is just another way of saying that I can’t say no!”

Actually, Kim Furry won this honor for the same reason she has won five awards: She is dedicated to excellence in wastewater treatment and environmental protection, and she lives that dedication daily in everything she does.


Furry’s affinity for wastewater management may well come from her family history. She was born in Toledo in 1973. “My dad was a biology teacher, and my mom was a registered nurse in the intensive care unit,” she says. “Biology and environmental science were subjects I grew up with.” She became passionate about them while in high school and then in college.

Furry graduated from Jefferson High School in Delphos in 1992. She then earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Toledo in 1996. When she graduated from college, a family friend told her about a laboratory technician job at the Van Wert (Ohio) Wastewater Treatment Facility. She got the job and “just absolutely fell in love with wastewater. Even today, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Furry’s career has taken her through many aspects of the profession and to a few locations across Ohio. Along the way she earned her Class IV Wastewater Operator and Class II Wastewater Laboratory licenses. While serving as plant superintendent in Delphos from 2002-10, she oversaw the design, construction and startup of a new state-of-the-art $32 million membrane bioreactor treatment plant with auto-thermophilic aerobic digestion.  


In June 2021, Furry took her current position in Lima, where she oversees day-to-day operations, along with the laboratory, the industrial pretreatment program and in-plant stormwater monitoring. She also manages all of the facility’s design and construction projects, the operating and capital improvement budgets, and 24/7 operations and staffing.

“Because we have a combined sewer system we do see a huge fluctuation in flow,” she says. “Our average daily flow, when it’s not raining, is about 12 mgd, where we are designed for 18 mgd. But half an inch of rain will take us up to 70 mgd in about a half an hour.”

For that reason, and to comply with a 2014 U.S. EPA consent decree related to untreated discharges to the Ottawa River and Pike Run during rain events. Lima has been investing to improve its wastewater handling processes.

“We have a lot of projects we’ll be doing between now and the time, quite frankly, that I will retire,” says Furry. “Every two to three years we’ll have a major construction project out in the system to improve our ability to cope with excessive rainwater events.”


The activated sludge treatment plant was built in 1931 with a design capacity of 7 mgd. That was increased to 12 mgd in 1952 with the addition of a new digester and a chlorination building. In 1976 the capacity was expanded to 18.5 mgd with a 33 mgd maximum flow.

To make that happen, nitrification towers and related equipment were installed. A year later, new solids dewatering facilities were brought online through the installation of EIMCO vacuum filters (Ovivo), for dewatering, new sludge holding tanks, a new biosolids cake storage facility and a liquid biosolids loading dock.

Improvements to the anaerobic digestion system occurred in 1989 with the addition of new EIMCO mixers (Ovivo) and Kewanee boilers, new screening facilities and chlorination/dechlorination facilities were added in 1993, and belt filter presses and a sludge processing unit were installed in the sludge filter building in 2000. 

Biosolids are dewatered on three belt filter presses (Alfa Laval). The resulting cake is then processed by addition of lime and ash in the NViro process to meet Class A requirements. Biosolids at about 60% solids are then land applied by farmers.

The most recent upgrade in 2016, entailed rebuilding the plant to increase the peak flow capacity to 70 mgd with four new bar screens (Headworks) rated at 23.3 mgd each; four aerated grit tanks using two WEMCO Hydrogritter systems (Trillium Flow Technologies); and four new primary settling tanks, bringing the total to seven.

The project also included a new primary sludge pump station, a scum screen (HUBER Technology) and a polymer building equipped with a chemical feed system able deliver polymer before and after primary settling.

The facility now has five sectioned aeration tanks, each with diffused-air piping and fine-bubble diffusers (EDI - A Nexom Brand). The process air system includes blowers from Spencer and Continental.

Solids from the final settling tanks flow to two common wet wells in the secondary sludge pump station. There, 5,000 gpm centrifugal pumps (Hayward Gordon) move the return activated sludge from the wet wells to the reaeration channel and then on to the aeration tanks. Settled activated sludge is continuously extracted using one of two Hayward Gordon 3,000 gpm waste activated sludge pumps.

During flows less than 30 mgd, the entire flow receives full secondary treatment and is pumped to trickling filter towers via four centrifugal effluent pumps, each rated for 12,000 gpm. When flows exceed 30 mgd, the wastewater is split between secondary treatment and the towers.

The secondary flows are pumped to disinfection by one of three secondary effluent pumps (American-Marsh axial-flow vertical turbine pumps, each rated for 13,900 gpm). Flows are then recombined at the disinfection building where Watson-Marlow peristaltic pumps feed sodium hypochlorite for disinfection and sodium bisulfite for dechlorination.

Despite all the improvements made to the plant, aging equipment remains a challenge. “For instance, we haven’t done any major upgrades to our biosolids process since the 1980s or 1990s,” says Furry. “So a lot of the equipment is 30 years old or older, while our digester tanks are a hundred years old.”


To keep the facility operating at peak performance while upgrading it to comply with the consent decree, Furry relies on capable operations and maintenance teams. The operations staff includes:

  • Shawn Dershem, assistant supervisor
  • Amy Staley, industrial monitoring and laboratory chief
  • Ange Layton, chemist
  • Rob Flinn, industrial monitoring technician
  • Plant operators Robert Anderson, Alex Anderson, Shane Biss, Casey Davisson, Sean Griesdorn, Ben Lovejoy, Jessica Preston, Joe Welker, Jordan Greeley and Tilden Sturgill.
  • Maintenance mechanics Mike Hile, Scott Rapp, Ron Fullom and Clint Clauson.

Furry calls Dershem her go-to person: “He has been at the plant for over 16 years, and he has been integral to my learning how things were done historically and what changes we need to make for the future. Amy Staley, our lab chief, has been a major help in addressing our industrial pretreatment program, as has Mike Hile. He has been here for over 40 years and knows all about our lift stations and how they fit into the overall system.

“We’ve got an amazing work culture here. Our people care about what they do and are well-trained and prepared to take us into the future. Another thing Shawn and I are proud of is developing an asset management and maintenance capital improvement program, which had been lacking in the past.”


At the same time, Furry’s volunteerism is driven by her commitment to people in the industry. “Operator training is something that I’m very passionate about,” she says. “I was very fortunate throughout my career to have several mentors who really encouraged me. That’s how I try to give back to the industry. Technology and regulations have changed so much — and are still changing — that continuous training is a must for our people.”

As for her own future, Furry likes having reached the Class IV operator level and enjoys working at a facility where many improvements are being made.

“Besides, I like the fact my work is close to my parents and my brother and his family,” she says. “So I plan to be in Lima until my retirement, which isn’t for another 16 years.” She adds with a laugh, “So I’ll be around for a while!”


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