Tim Smiley, superintendent of Glasgow Water Co.'s water treatment facilities, discusses the significance of the GWC's getting the Microbial Area-Wide Optimization Program Champion Award, in front of him, during Thursday's Glasgow Water and Sewer Commission meeting.
GLASGOW – Tim Smiley was living up to his last name during Thursday's Glasgow Water and Sewer Commission meeting while he repeatedly placed his hands along the top edge of the wooden plaque representing the 2018 Microbial AWOP Champion Award sitting on the table in front of him as he explained its significance.
AWOP stands for Area-Wide Optimization Program, and the award was presented for the Glasgow Water Co. Barren River Lake Water Treatment Plant at Lucas by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Division of Water last month during the Kentucky Water and Wastewater Operators Association's annual conference. The program, as outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, establishes water quality standards that exceed minimum state and federal requirements through optimized filtration plant performance.
A water treatment facility that exceeds the requirements set for the program 95 percent of the time, based on continuously tested water samples, can receive AWOP certification. In 2018, only 25 percent of Kentucky’s water treatment plants qualified for that AWOP designation, according to the press release. A higher-level certification comes when those levels are met 100 percent of the time, and last year marked the first time GWC received that designation, continuing with it this year. Only one utility from each of two size categories is chosen for the Champion Award specific to removal of microbial material, though, and it's based on three years' worth of data.
GWC, which the commission oversees, had distributed a press release earlier in the day about the award, which is one in a series GWC has racked up over the past several months. Smiley said this one is “really special.”
“This one is the most important to me as a superintendent and a treatment plant operator,” Smiley said at the meeting, “because it's based on data. It's not a popularity contest. It's not who you know. ... Not to diminish anything we've won before, I'm proud of everything that we've done, but this one is based on data, … and you're comparing with all of the larger systems' that serve greater than 10,000 people. And so we beat ... all these large systems. When I say 'beat them,' it's based on microbial [removal] optimization and water quality, and it goes back to the clarity of the water – turbidity. Turbidity is that you shoot a light through a water sample, and it tells you how clear the water is. … And that clarity is the No. 1 measuring stick for water quality.”
He said the more microbes and other things you can remove, the better your water quality is, and that's reflected through the clarity.
“I think winning this award is kind of like, it's like a wave. I didn't want to come up here just to brag; I wanted to thank y'all, too," Smiley told the commission members and management of the utility that produces and delivers more than 2.8 billion gallons of drinking water to its customers. “It's part of what you guys allow us to do. The wave starts, and we see an issue at our plant, and we do filter profiles and we do different things like this to think [of] something that we could do that would keep our plant optimized and running properly,” he said.
He takes that issue to the general manager, Scott Young, or another manager, to see whether they should proceed with a change, and then they take it to the commission for approval of those ideas. For example, he said, a couple of years ago, they did a cleaning of filters and replaced the anthracite.
He said recognitions like this could not happen without the entire chain of personnel from the commission to the "highly skilled" staff of operators. He said they all have college degrees except one, but he's the one they usually go to if something goes awry, because he has the most experience.
“I'm really proud of them and they've gone above and beyond. And, God love him, Chris Gentry, he was the same way, fighting at Beaver Creek [Water Treatment Plant] all the time to try to make …. To make Beaver Creek, a plant that was originally built in the '30s, AWOP compliant, is a miracle,” Smiley said.
Smiley continued for a few more minutes, discussing the challenges of dealing with turbidity in water from a creek after a big rain, for example, when it jumps from something like 7 or 10 to 100, with lower numbers being better, and how the work there is often more difficult than at the Barren River Lake Water Treatment Plant at Lucas.
Young added that they could have all the best and newest technology, and make improvements to the plants “all day long,” but the skilled operators really do make the difference. He said he's visited a virtually new facility with all state-of-the-art technology that doesn't have the results GWC's water plants do.
“What that award represents is that we have THE best water quality in the state of Kentucky over a three-year period. Nobody else has water of a quality that's better than ours, and that's something to be extremely proud of, and like he said, it's based off scientific data,” Young said.
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Jerry Botts, who chairs the commission, had said via the press release: “Our people make us an industry leader and an organization for which our community can be proud, and our staff is dedicated to the customers of Glasgow Water Co. and our mission to provide the highest quality water and wastewater services at the lowest possible cost.”
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