Pedal Power: The Green Way to Get Around Your Plant

At the Field’s Point Wastewater Treatment Facility in Rhode Island, workers make their rounds via tricycle.

Pedal Power: The Green Way to Get Around Your Plant
Ausberto "Al" Montijo, an operator at Field's Point, tries out a tricycle that was purchased for the operators.

Come spring, you’ll likely find members of the Field’s Point staff cruising around the facility’s 23-acre site on tricycles — not the toys of childhood but sturdy, industrial trikes outfitted with utility boxes to transport tools. The idea behind the tricycles is twofold: to promote employee wellness and to realize some cost savings in the process. At about $1,000 each, the tricycles are considerably less expensive than the $14,000 golf carts that are commonly used to get around the plant. There’s also energy savings from using manpower instead of electrical power.

“You can see the economics of it,” says Carmine Goneconte, operations manager. “We can outfit almost everybody with a tricycle for what it would cost for a couple of golf carts. And we have a very aggressive wellness program. We really emphasize healthy living and good habits, and this is a way we’re trying to integrate that into our operations and maintenance staff.

“We’re very large as far as our 65 mgd design, but it’s only a 23-acre site, mostly paved and fairly flat,” he adds. “Most of our people used to walk around. Then over time we got golf carts — for the mechanics especially who had to bring toolboxes and equipment, because it was too much to walk with. Then before too long, operators started using golf carts and other vehicles as well.”

Returning to the days of walking the facility grounds was likely unrealistic, so the Field’s Point crew decided to give the tricycles a go. They purchased the first one this past September for use by maintenance staff.

“We weren’t going to force anyone to use it, but we asked for volunteers and got a couple,” Goneconte says. “One gentleman just had his knees replaced over the summer and was back at work. He was going to use it as a form of exercise to strengthen his legs, and he really liked it. So he was using it, and then several of the operators asked if they could use it, too, as they made their rounds.”

The plant then purchased a second tricycle for the operations staff, this one without the utility box needed by the mechanics. Cold weather forced the tricycles into storage not long after, so the transportation experiment at Field’s Point is still in its infancy. Goneconte is interested to see how much the tricycles are used this spring.

“In the nicer weather, we’ll have to see how often they’re used and if there is a desire for us to get some more. If there is, we will,” Goneconte says. “If we have a definite interest and people say, ‘I’d like to use one on a daily basis,’ then we’ll make the investment. We’re not going to force people to do it, but we’re hoping it will catch on.”

Goneconte is currently transitioning from managing Field’s Point to taking on operations at Bucklin Point, another treatment facility operated by Narragansett Bay Commission. He hopes to bring the tricycle initiative there as well.

“It’s at least double the size of Field’s Point, but as far as acreage where people are actually working, that’s basically the same size of Field’s Point. It’s very doable by tricycle.

“I don’t think we can ever get rid of the golf carts for days of inclement or cold weather,” he adds. “I don’t think we’d ever fully get rid of them, but I think we can lessen our dependence on them. And any day we don’t use them, we’re saving energy by not having to charge them. Plus it helps the employees to get them exercising a bit more instead of driving around.”


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