Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
Sometimes bacteria are good.
Workers at the Clayton County Water Authority (CCWA) reclamation facilities rely on the microorganisms to consume the millions of gallons of sewage that flow through the aeration tanks every day. Without the combination of bacteria and aeration, the tank would become one big, stinky mess.
Two of those facilities, the Northeast plant in Rex and the Shoal Creek plant in Hampton, have been recognized for the professional, safe and efficient way they are operated. Officials received awards recently for Wastewater Treatment Plant of the Year from the Georgia Association of Water Professionals.
"I'm happy about the award because I know I am doing my job right and everything is working like it is supposed to," said Bruce Wilson, Northeast plant superintendent. "All the data is there, the equipment is maintained properly and won't break down. It will last for 20 years."
This is the sixth award for the Rex plant since 1989. The plant opened in 1971, and Wilson has seen it through three upgrades in 40 years. He plans to retire in September. The plants were recognized because they have had no permit violations and the safety programs are the best.
"An inspector comes in and spends all day looking at our records," said Wilson.
Wilson's plant won in the 6-9.9-million-gallons-per-day advanced treatment category, and the Shoal Creek facility took the award in the smaller 3-5.9 MGD category. Staff members from both facilities were honored May 5 during the Clayton County Water Authority board of directors meeting.
"Our employees continue to show that they are the best in the industry," said Pete McQueen, board chairman. "We compete against the best in the state for these awards. It is important to us as board members to make sure our employees have the tools they need to be successful, but we wouldn't win these awards it if wasn't for the talent and skills our employees bring to the job every day."
When Wilson started 40 years ago, operating the plant was done manually and hands-on. Over the years, the plant became automated and Wilson got educated in technology. He can throw around words like "magnesium hydroxide" and "activated sludge." The result is the same, however. "We put out very clean, filtered water," he said.
Unlike Shoal Creek and the main plant in Jonesboro, the Rex facility does not recycle the wastewater into potable water.
"It's called 'indirect recycling,'" said Wilson. "We don't have the acreage to do it."