Clayton water facility earns state's top award

The W.B. Casey Water Reclamation Facility has been named Wastewater Plant of the Year by the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, which is made up of officials from water authorities around the state.

The Jonesboro plant, the largest water-reclamation facility operated by the Clayton County Water Authority, beat out 25 other facilities in Georgia, based on its safety, documented procedures, aesthetics, and environmental compliance.

"This is the first time in this category [water reclamation], which is a little different than the categories we have competed for in the past," said Clayton's Water Reclamation Manager Jim Poff.

"In the past, we have competed using the land application technology [spraying treated waste water onto vegetation]. This is the first time we have competed using our constructed wetlands system, which actually discharges water directly into the waterways."

The water authority won in the category of plants that treat and discharge more than 10 million gallons of water per day. The competition pitted the Casey facility against facilities owned by the City of Atlanta, and Gwinnett County, that discharge treated effluent into large bodies of water, such as Lake Lanier, and the Chattahoochee River, said Poff.

In February, Poff said, state water professionals gave the Casey facility a top-to-bottom inspection, reviewing standard operating procedures, monthly and annual reports, safety procedures, equipment, preventative maintenance, lighting, and appearance.

He said receiving the award is proof that the water authority is "being a good steward of our water resources. This is a very comprehensive inspection by a lot of our peers," he said. "It is recognition by people in the industry with inside information. That is what makes it so gratifying."

Jack Dozier, executive director of the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, said the Casey facility excelled "in every area" against stiff competition. He added that all six of the county's water-production and-reclamation facilities received, either gold awards (for a full year of 100-percent compliance), or platinum awards (for at least five consecutive years of 100-percent compliance).

"There were a whole lot of high-tech facilities in that category," he said. "They decided this time to apply for the toughest one. It [the Casey plant] is one of the most environmentally friendly waste water facilities that you can have. The inspectors can take those good ideas they find at the Clayton plant and apply them to their plants, so it's a win-win for everybody.

Poff said weather-related disasters, such as floods and power outages can impact the water authority's ability to treat water, and as such, have an impact on a plant's compliance.

"It might seem funny for somebody from the outside that we get an award for 100-percent compliance, but there are so many things that can go wrong in the water-treatment business, and things can happen so quickly," he said. "If you aren't properly staffed, and can't deal with it, compliance can slip away very easily. It's a validation that we're doing things right."