Video Pays Tribute to Treatment Plant Operators, America's Unsung Heroes

Video Pays Tribute to Treatment Plant Operators, America's Unsung Heroes

There are many reasons people come together to form a community, but one thing is constant from New York City to Nome, Alaska, and everywhere in between — the need for clean water to drink, shower with, run a small business, irrigate farms and create opportunities for play, such as community pools and waterparks.

When people wake up and turn on the faucet to drink a glass of water or fill the coffee pot, they rarely think about the process that ensures their water is safe to use, nor do they think about the folks who oversee their municipal water systems. However, every day across our nation, water treatment professionals bear a special responsibility to their communities, dutifully ensuring the water and wastewater systems in their communities are working at full capacity. They wake up and head to the town’s plant where they carefully treat, monitor and test the water in their communities so that America’s 330 million residents — and the millions who visit our country each year — don’t have concerns about its quality.

In the spirit of honoring treatment plant operators, Fargo, Minnesota-based engineering firm Ulteig recently released a video titled "A Drop of Respect: North America's Water Treatment Professionals." The video takes a short glimpse into the lives of two water superintendents in northern Minnesota who are responsible for maintaining the water systems for two small towns: Winger, population 192, and Menahga, population 1,068.

Ron Locken, water superintendent for Winger, and Ron Yliniemi, water superintendent for Menahga, share insights about their passion for treating their towns’ water. Like thousands of other water treatment professionals across the United States, these two go quietly about their business with little acknowledgement or fanfare from their communities.

“Water is central to the communities we’ve built,” says Aaron Lauinger, Ulteig’s market director for the water and wastewater sector. “I think a lot of Americans take it for granted until we experience a drought, for example, and we’re reminded how important water is to our lives, our communities and to our states.

“In my mind, water operators like Ron Locken and Ron Yliniemi are heroes, as are the thousands of other water operators who diligently work to keep our water clean and safe. That’s what the video is really about. It’s a celebration of them and their value to our towns and cities.”

Across the country, many municipal water operations are fighting uphill challenges, from accessing dwindling water resources to securing funding to aging water infrastructure. Winger and Menahga represent just two towns that were able to secure funding and update their water treatment facilities. The residents of their towns made a choice to invest in quality water infrastructure and give their water superintendents the tools and resources to maintain the quality and safety of their towns’ water supplies. 

Looking toward the future, it’s imperative for municipal, county, state and federal governments to provide the funding water supervisors need to treat and monitor water for their communities.



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