Plant Tours Change the Face of New Jersey Sewerage Authority

Plant Tours Change the Face of New Jersey Sewerage Authority
Executive Director Jim Meehan and Regulatory Compliance Manager Tony Gencarelli explain the Sanitaire (Xylem) secondary aeration equipment. (Photos courtesy of RVSA)

Interested in Education/Training?

Get Education/Training articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Education/Training + Get Alerts

An impetus for changing the face of the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority (RVSA) in Rahway, N.J., has boosted the frequency of plant tours. The authority is taking the common educational practice more seriously. 

“We put together a community outreach program,” says Executive Director Jim Meehan. “The best way for us to get the word out about the authority and the fact that we do a lot of positive things for the environment is through the children. 

“The kids then go home and tell their parents they toured the facility.” He says kids explain to their parents how much effort it takes to clean water and how they shouldn’t waste the precious resource.

Maintenance Manager Dan Ward, adds, “We’re increasing awareness for clean water one child at a time." 

The 30 mgd (average) RVSA wastewater treatment plant serves 11 municipalities so there are plenty of schools interested in bringing students to tour the facility. 

The authority has survived numerous hurricanes without any serious damage or major insurance claims, offering another reason to spread the word through tours. “We’re trying to show the public the benefit of the money that’s been invested in the infrastructure,” Ward says. 

New face of the authority 

When Meehan came on board almost three years ago, the authority got a bad wrap for problems with its cogeneration system. Although some of those issues are ongoing, the authority is at the top of its game and staff members are proud of the plant. “There’s a lot going on here,” he says. “We’re just trying to get the word out.” 

Four or five RVSA plant staff members give comprehensive tours from top to bottom. “We require that school groups bring at least two teachers and a couple of chaperones,” Meehan says. “We tour the entire facility, down the to influent dry well 60 feet below ground, and take them down through all of the plant processes.” 

Students from seventh grade to high school watch a short slide presentation produced by Superintendent Bob Valent before the tour and they end in the laboratory for a Q-and-A session. 

“The educational outreach is just one of several prongs we’ve put out over the last couple of years to try and change the face of the authority and make the public more aware of what a good job we do,” Meehan says. 

Meehan says a lot freshman students come through the tours and ask about future employment. “We explain the different types of jobs that are available here,” he says. “There’s a wide scope of opportunities; anything from a utility worker to an engineer.” 

Ward says he answers all types of questions from students looking at future career paths. “A lot of kids ask about the odors,” he says. “And they ask if it pays well.” 

Working together pays off 

And Meehan says the educational program and tours wouldn’t be a success without the entire team working together. “I’ve been in this business 30 years and I’ve never had a staff as well informed as the one I do now,” he says. “They are performing at the top of their game. We’re on a roll.” 

Ward and Meehan also credit office manager Joanne Grimes for spearheading the tours. “She gets in touch with the teachers so they can formulate questions to make sure the kids are paying attention,” Ward says. He says the kids are really well behaved because of that collaboration. 

The entire staff works together to show community members, young and old, the hard work involved in operating and maintaining a wastewater treatment facility. “There’s a pride associated with knowing what you’re doing for the environment,” says Andy Sasso, operations supervisor. 


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.