Environmental Resources Training Center Receives Governor's Award

Saving lives is an everyday goal for this award-winning water and wastewater training center.
Environmental Resources Training Center Receives Governor's Award
Members of the Environmental Training Center include (from left) Kurt Neuhaus, David Wesselmann, Paul Shetley, Kim Bateman, Marcia Webb and Rick Lallish.

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The Environmental Resources Training Center (ERTC) at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville recently was the 2014 recipient of the Governor’s Sustainability Award, presented annually by the Illinois Sustainability Technology Center (ISTC), a unit of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois.

For the past 37 years, ERTC has provided water and wastewater treatment operators with the skills needed to ensure water quality.

Designed and built in 1977 for the sole purpose of training drinking-water supply and wastewater reclamation plant operators, the center includes a 30,000 gpd water and wastewater treatment facility. Each year, ERTC graduates 30 students from its water-quality control operations programs. In 2013, it trained 975 full-time students and provided 25,000 continuing education hours.

Director Paul Shetley equates the work performed by water and wastewater operators to that of medical professionals: By eliminating waterborne pathogens, they save more lives than medical doctors.

“There’s no doubt in that,” he says. “If we didn’t have the proper treatment and the proper sanitation of our drinking water and our wastewater, the waterborne diseases would be as bad as they were 100 years ago, except more so because we have more people.”

In 2011, ERTC expanded its commitment to sustainability by installing 144 solar panels and a 120-foot tall wind turbine. The investment has generated 175,000 kilowatts of electricity and saved the university about $12,000 in energy costs.

“Drinking-water operators do something that we take for granted in this country, and that’s supply us with safe, reliable water, delivered right to our house,” Shetley says. “That’s really special. You travel to a lot of countries and don’t see it. Then, of course, the wastewater treatment operator makes sure the water discharged from the plant is sanitary and does not do any harm to the environment.”


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