Wastewater Professional Spotlight Stories

Logo for the water and wastewater professionals Week 13/13/21-12/19/21.

Wastewater Operator Spotlight Stories

EGLE Water Resources Division wants to thank the wastewater and storm water operators in the State of Michigan for keeping our waterways safe and protecting the environment. Below are stories from District Staff members celebrating the work you do every day.

 

Baldwin Wastewater Treatment Plant with an operator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infrastructure Alternatives, Inc. operator at Baldwin WWTP.

 

Doug Suntken

Lakewood Wastewater Sewer Authority Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP)

Nominated by Chris Veldkamp, EGLE Grand Rapids District Office

Doug came to the Lakewood Wastewater Authority WWTP as an operator at a time when both the treatment and collection systems were in significant noncompliance.  There were ongoing, large discharges of untreated wastewater from the collection system and no industrial pretreatment program to control the discharges of three significant industrial users that made up over 70% of incoming wastewater to the WWTP.

When village leadership changed, Doug took on the monumental job of Superintendent and began to move the Sewer Authority toward necessary WWTP and collection system improvements. Doug never wavered in his commitment to do the right thing, even if it was difficult.  One of his biggest challenges has been navigating through the interests of two village councils, three township boards, two county road commissions, two county health departments, MDOT and other interested parties.  He continues to successfully communicate, negotiate, and coordinate these WWTP and collection system improvements to these organizations by explaining what is being done and why these improvements are important to them and the people they represent.

The final improvements are nearing completion and the Sewer Authority's IPP program has successfully worked with the industrial users to resolve past issues. This all takes skilled leadership which Doug demonstrates every day.

 

Nathan Filley

Infrastructure Alternatives, Inc., Haring Township

Nominated by Don Brady, EGLE Cadillac District Office

Nathan Filley of IAI is the operator of the Haring Township WWTP.  He is a young professional who was recently promoted to the lead operator at the WWTP.  The plant is an oxidation ditch plant and is challenged by the nature of the influent (mostly commercial flow).  The plant experienced problems with filamentous bacteria, settling, solids, nutrients, and pH.  When Nathan took over, he researched what could be done to improve plant performance and he started cycling the ditch aerators on and off (to promote more biological nutrient removal).  This greatly improved the effectiveness of the plant.  After Nathan made this change, the plant experienced fewer problems with bacteria/settling and the nutrient removal in the plant increased, improving the quality of the effluent.  Nathan continues to solve problems.  The plant was also experiencing problems with tertiary filter clogging and poor filter backwash efficiency.  The problem was severe enough that the Township thought they would need to stop using or replace the tertiary filter.  Nathan sourced replacement filter media/screens (the OEM is no longer in business) and noticed the filter backwash nozzles were not oriented properly during the original install.  The new screens and re-oriented backwash nozzles greatly improved the filter performance and allowed the WWTP to keep using the filter.

 

Chris Cossette

City of Ludington WWTP

Nominated by Jake Rilley, EGLE Cadillac District Office

Chris Cossette is the operator for the Ludington Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is just wrapping up a long overdue, large plant upgrade. The plant was an aging double lagoon system with multiple issues that led to the need for plant upgrades. The City began work to covert the plant to an Activate Sludge system pre-COVID, which finally went online this summer. Throughout the whole process Chris was able to somehow keep a level head and run the plant without any major issues. This was no easy task as it meant there were builders and contractors on site during the whole process and multiple other obstacles and issues that arose during the construction. I think Chris did a terrific job of keeping the plant running and in compliance during the construction and deserves a big kudos.

 

Ludington Wastewater Treatment Plant inspection with EGLE.

EGLE staff and Chris Cossette reviewing the Ludington WWTP upgrades.

 

Claude Rath, Kinross Township

Nominated by Tom Asmus, EGLE Marquette District Office

This photo (below) is of 49-year Kinross Township wastewater treatment plant operator Claude Rath, yes, he started work there in 1973 when the facility was operated under Kincheloe air force base.  In this photograph, Claude is measuring a wastewater discharge sample for ammonia to determine compliance with the facilities NPDES permit.  Ammonia is monitored at this facility to protect aquatic species in the wetland complex and stream that the facility discharges treated water to. By limiting the amount of ammonia released into streams, aquatic species can continue to thrive and serve as the bottom of the food chain for fish and other larger species.

 

Gogebic-Iron Wastewater Operator in the laboratory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gogebic-Iron Wastewater Authority (GIWA)

Nominated by the EGLE Marquette District Office

 

Wastewater infrastructure, though often out of sight and out of mind, is vitally important to maintain a safe and healthy environment for Michigan citizens and visitors.  It's a big part of what makes our society a successful and civilized one.  And like most things that have value, it costs money and requires a local collaborative effort.

As we know, collaboration doesn't just happen.  The GIWA, serving the Cities of Ironwood Michigan, Ironwood Township and Hurley, Wisconsin, its governing board, and its managers, current and past, have a culture of forward thinking on wastewater treatment operation and infrastructure issues, always keeping the safety and health of residents and visitors a top priority.  The GIWA is unique in that it serves communities in two different states. 

The GIWA has been working with its local partners and State environmental regulators to  continually improve treatment plant operations and reliability.  Some examples of these efforts include implementation of an asset management plan that has been in use a decade prior to it being mandated by the State, an innovative approach to residuals treatment in conjunction with Michigan Technological University, and continually innovative thinking in efficient treatment plant operations.   Staff at the facility have streamlined process control and asset management software to produce an integrated and seamless data management system to guide staff in future planning decisions.  It has taken a collaborative effort of the local governments to make these assurances, and these are just some of the examples that have resulted from long term planning and investment by local leaders. 

Given a declining service population and being a disadvantaged community, the GIWA remains committed to the value of effective communication, forward thinking and planning within the local government is vital in maintaining these efforts over the course of time.  By keeping long term infrastructure planning and operational treatment efficiency at the forefront and communicating that to its customers, the GIWA has not forgotten who they work for. 

 

Thank you, operators!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left Photo: Rick Mohr, City of Manistee, explaining to EGLE staff new construction at the WWTP.

Right Photo: Doug Waldrop, Grand Ledge WWTP, is showing EGLE staff the clean water after treatment (final effluent).