How To Win a Clean-Water Treatment Plant Award

How To Win a Clean-Water Treatment Plant Award
The competition for plant recognition is rigorous. It takes attention to detail and an overriding personal commitment to excellence to bring those award plaques to the wall in your front hallway.

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In an industry where many of you don’t get the personal recognition you deserve, local and national associations regularly recognize overall plant success and performance with numerous awards. So while you may not receive “Best Operator of the Year,” facility awards demonstrate your personal commitment to excellence and hard work in maintaining a top-notch plant.   

Plants earn awards through hard work and sterling performance in a number of prescribed areas. The criteria for awards from the Illinois Association of Water Pollution Control Operators are typical. Association Executive Dave Mitchell lists: 

  • Quality of effluent
  • General appearance
  • Maintenance and spare parts inventory
  • Records keeping
  • Lab procedures and sampling protocol
  • Emergency plans
  • Training and safety 

“Our awards are based on a peer review,” Mitchell points out. “These are the main things they’re looking for.” 

But according to a quick survey of plant managers, which have recently been honored, the competition for recognition is even more rigorous. It takes attention to detail and an overriding personal commitment to excellence to bring those award plaques to the wall in your front hallway. 

“We targeted the State of California small plant (under 5 mgd) award for years,” says Bob Bobik, supervisor of the Grass Valley Wastewater Treatment plant serving Lake Arrowhead, Calif., which earned the CWEA Plant of the Year Award in 2012. 

“In fact, we volunteered to be on the judging panels so we could learn what made a successful plant award application,” he says. Bobik says the quality of the application carried a lot of weight. He says if the application looked unprofessional, or questions were left blank, the nomination essentially had no chance. 

Timeliness also counts, says Kelsey Hurst, program manager for the Water Environment Federation awards program. “It might seem obvious, but getting the nomination materials submitted in a timely manner is very important,” she says. Make sure you’ve covered all the criteria, she adds, noting it’s much better to have too much information than not enough. 

At Spring Hill, Tenn., where Water Plant Superintendent Caryl Ann Giles and her team has won several Kentucky-Tennessee AWWA section awards, appearance is just as important. 

“Cleanliness is the single most important thing any system can do,” she says. “We do everything possible, every day to maintain equipment, even if it means a coat of paint. When you walk into any business, especially a water treatment facility, it is expected to be clean.” 

Lastly, personal commitment — from the top of your organization to the bottom — is critical. 

The McCarron’s water treatment plant in St. Paul, Minn., has won a number of awards from the AWWA’s Partnership for Safe Water program. Jim Bode, water quality supervisor, says the program takes people who are committed and have the necessary skill sets. “It also takes support from the administration,” he adds. 

Bobik credits enthusiasm and attitude on the part of plant staff. When the review team visits your facility, they’d better be met by staff members that are eager to show them around, he advises. “We let our most enthusiastic staff member handle the tour by the evaluators,” he recalls. 

Positive attitudes from staff members aren’t just cosmetic. Bobik says they result from a management style that respects and cares about employees. “In all the years I’ve been here, I don’t think we’ve ever turned down a request for vacation,” he says.

Has your facility been recognized with a local or national award? How do you recommend other plants get recognized? Leave a comment below.


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