Florida utility recognized for water and wastewater achievements

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Winning an award for outstanding distribution system is nothing new for Bay County (Fla.) Utility Services, which took home the 2012 honor presented by the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association for the second year in a row. And this year the Bay County team can add two more awards to the list: Plant Operations Excellence Awards from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the Bay County Water Treatment Plant and the Military Point Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant (AWT).

“I think it’s probably fairly rare for a utility to win both sides,” says Paul Lackemacher, utility services director. “We’re very proud of the recognition. It’s a goal that we put in front of everyone to accomplish. Whenever you meet your objective and goals, that’s noteworthy.

“One reason we’ve achieved our goals is that we’ve made tremendous improvements in the last five or six years to the process, plant upkeep and maintenance. The utility service staff has done a very good job of operating and maintaining the facility.”

Bay County serves a year-round population of 165,000, which includes wholesale customers and the Tyndall Air Force Base. The population swells to 350,000 during the summer months.

The water treatment plant treats 25 mgd on average, jumping to about 40 mgd in the summer. The AWT facility averages 3.5 mgd. 

With approximately 100 employees, Bay County ensures all workers understand how the entire system works by cross training. “Cross training includes the guys out in the field and in distribution,” says Don Hamm, water division superintendent. “We try to get the guys in the field to understand what happens in the treatment process and how what they do out in the field affects the quality of the water.”

Allowing personnel to get a feel for what others do helps everyone work as a team. “We switch hats a lot and that’s helped with the overall employee’s knowledge,” says Lackemacher. “It’s easier to understand someone else’s position if you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, as they say. So we try to give that exposure to the employees. We’ve gone a long way with making the groups meld together to create a harmonious work environment.

“We try to get the groups more intimate with each other in terms of understanding their job functions.”

The DEP requires that all water and wastewater applicants meet specific selection criteria to be considered for the awards:

  • Compliance history for the last two or three years
  • Recordkeeping and reporting
  • Customer relations
  • Outstanding operation and maintenance practices
  • Facility operation which includes staff training and safety equipment training

“I think it’s just a matter of everyone working together and understanding what each person’s importance is,” says Hamm. “Everyone understands that they’re part of why we won the awards. It’s not just the superintendent. Employees at all levels take a lot of pride in it.”

Check out a full profile on Bay County Utility Services in the December 2011 issue of Municipal Sewer & Water magazine: www.mswmag.com/ezine/2011/12/10


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