The highest award the department won was a platinum award given to the James R. Stafford Water Pollution Control Plant. The platinum award recognized the plant’s ability to meet its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit requirements for five years in a row. It was an award, Director Bob Jones said, that highlighted the skill and diligence of the department’s employees.
“The platinum award is something that I think you can — you can sufficiently say you’re in elite company when you earn a platinum award. It’s not to say that there aren’t any other people that do that, but you put yourself in a very small group of permitted facilities that are able to do that consistently for five years like that,” he said. “In a lot of cases you have so many parameters that you’re tested on and held to and these things get tested — some hourly, some every two hours — frequencies that just give you so many opportunities to mess up.
“To be able to hold a process in that fine a control for that amount of time, it just, it speaks very highly of the operators who do it. That’s the key, in my opinion, to these awards is they get presented to the city of Cartersville, they get sent to me, but it’s those guys in the plant that make it work. We give them the resources to do it, but they ultimately are the ones who get it done.”
In addition to the constant testing, Assistant Director Sidney Forsyth said, the wastewater plant must meet fine tolerances set for discharged water. The Cartersville wastewater plant often then goes on to exceed those tolerances, he explained.
“Our influent wastewater, the sewage coming into the wastewater plant is 99.4 percent pure. So if you think of percentage, there’s not enough contaminants in the influent wastewater to be that 99.4 percent. What I’m saying is, 1 percent in water is 10,000 milligrams per liter. Our total suspended solids, basically the solids leaving the plant, have to be less than 30 milligrams per liter for an entire month. We typically average around 5 milligrams per liter,” he said.
To reach the permitted levels, and allow for testing, the water department must keep its equipment running on a constant basis, and then work around any breakages, Forsyth continued. Such an operational standard is why the plant met its permit requirements for five years in a row, he said.
“That is the big thing. It’s not hard to do it through one year. I say not hard, and it’s our job. But to get it for five consecutive years, that says something a little more about the plant and the operations, particularly in wastewater. That doesn’t just happen. You don’t just run out the gate and let it happen. It’s something that has to be continuously monitored. We’re mechanically and biologically treating wastewater, something that’s not very easy on our equipment. It’s made to tear stuff up and it does a good job at tearing things up and we just have to stay ahead of it, have intense preventative maintenance as well as corrective maintenance programs there at the plant,” Forsyth said.
The department also won a gold award for 100 percent compliance with all Safe Drinking Water Act requirements for the Clarence B. Walker Water Treatment Plant.
A second commendation for drinking water came in the form of a water taste test award for the department’s district. According to a press release from the city, it was the department’s first win since 1999.
“They start with the districts and they do a blind taste test with the districts, and generally they’re looking for a lack of taste as I understand it,” Forsyth said of the taste test. “We happened to win and it wasn’t like we were the only people in it. There were several other municipalities in the district and we won our district, District 1, taste test. ... There are several factors in it, primarily the source water and Lake Allatoona is probably as good a source water as any in the state to work with.”
When asked whether it was training or enthusiasm for the job that led his department to win the GAWP awards this year, Jones said it was a combination of the two.
“I think it’s both. In my experience we’ve certainly had varying degrees of each. It represents a good balance of the mix,” he said. “You can have folks who want to do the best job in the world, but if they don’t know how, obviously, they will have limited success, and [vice versa]. But we’ve got a good group of people here who want to do well that have sought out and gotten their licenses that actively participate in the operation of the plant. They’re not just bolt-in-the-hole people trying to make it to the end of their shift. They are actively involved in how the plants work and they want to see them do well.”