Photo by Heather Middleton
By Maria-Jose Subiria
Clayton County is the home of the "Wastewater Collection System of the Year," according to the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, a state group that also decided that the county's water authority has the "Public Education Program of the Year for Large Systems."
The dual honors were awarded, recently, during the Fall Conference of the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, according to Suzanne Brown, public information officer for the Clayton County Water Authority.
"I always say that we have the best employees in this industry, bar none," said Pete McQueen, board chairman of the county's water authority. He said its employees have enabled the authority to remain "top-tier" and achieve these awards.
"They take tremendous pride in their jobs and work hard to develop and improve their skills" he said. "They also keep us ahead of the curve by looking for innovative ways to make us an even better water utility."
Charles Ecton, capacity management operations and maintenance compliance foreman at the authority, said the water-service agency is serious about customer service, and ensures that the system runs appropriately for county residents. "Running for the award is not about winning, it's about getting better," said Ecton, during a telephone interview.
According to the Georgia Association of Water Professionals' web site -- www.gawp.org -- it is not-for-profit organization of more than 4,000 members, including water and sewer operators and managers.
"The [Wastewater] Collection System of the Year award is a reflection of our conveyance staff's hard work and the team effort that exists among departments here at the authority," said Herbert Etheridge, distribution and conveyance manager for the Clayton County Water Authority. "I believe it is our intangibles -- our employees and the support of our board of directors and management -- that put us on top. We are always looking for ways to step up our game, and are fortunate to have a board of directors with foresight to implement programs that often become role models for others."
The wastewater collection system programs, also known as conveyance system programs, maintain the sewer lines that collect sewage from homes and businesses. There are 1,079 miles of sewer lines in the county. The system safely transports the sewage through a network of pipes to the treatment plant, Brown explained.
Prior to the Fall Conference, where the awards were given, a committee of the Georgia Association of Water Professionals visited eligible water and sewer providers to inspect their collection systems, Brown said.
"The evaluation includes hundreds of pages of documentation, plus specific areas are surveyed, such as, employee certifications, management information systems, sanitary sewer overflow notifications ... and employee training," said Brown.
Brown said the water authority has vigorously worked to increase its public education/community outreach efforts over the past two years, and the results are reflected in the recent award.
Water Authority General Manager P. Michael Thomas added, "We see public education as part of our mission -- along with providing quality water and quality services. I am very proud of the work our employees have done to ramp up our public education efforts and make us more visible in the community."
The authority's focus for its public education/community outreach program is the Melvin L. Newman Wetlands Center, in Hampton, said Brown. In addition, she said, various employees participate in school presentations, festivals and community events. The authority, she added, conducts three big annual events, including: "Household Hazardous Waste Amnesty Day;" the "Wetlands and Watershed Festival;" and the "Rivers Alive Stream Cleanup."
She said the water authority received an award notification letter from the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, which stated: "Your public education program shows a commitment to environmental stewardship and community education that every water provider in the state should aspire to."