By Laura Martin
Wastewater treatment plants, while critically important, often go unrecognized, even when they do exceptional work.
But in Washington, 119 wastewater treatment plants are receiving the recognition they deserve.
Every WWTP that achieved full compliance with its water quality permit in 2015 received the Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance Award, presented by the Washington Department of Ecology.
One-third of all the WWTPs in the state received the award, in stark contrast to when the awards program began in 1995 and only 14 treatment plants had perfect compliance, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.
“We appreciate the extraordinary level of effort plant operators demonstrated throughout 2015. Talented and proficient operators are critical to successful plant operations and protecting the health of Washington’s waters,” said Heather Bartlett, manager of the Washington Department of Ecology Water Quality Program, in a release from the organization.
Compliance requirements include meeting pollution limits, monitoring and reporting requirements, spill prevention planning, pretreatment, and overall operational demands.
State funding has helped more WWTPs meet compliance. The Department of Ecology recently offered $96 million in grants and loans to WWTPs to pay for 26 wastewater treatment facility projects. They also oversee a certification program for wastewater operators to ensure that the most stringent compliance requirements are understood and properly executed.
Six Washington plants are receiving this award for the 10th straight year. These include Penn Cove Water and Sewer District/Penn Cove Wastewater Treatment Plant in Island County, Kitsap County/Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant, Public Utility District No. 1 of Klickitat County/Community of Lyle Wastewater Treatment Plant, Eatonville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Pierce County, Gig Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant in Pierce County and Tacoma Wastewater Treatment Plant #1 in Pierce County.
Receiving the award for the first time are the Washington State Parks and Recreation/Dosewallips State Park Wastewater Treatment Plant in Jefferson County, Brightwater Reclaimed Water Treatment Plant in King County, Concrete Wastewater Treatment Plant in Skagit County, Kettle Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant in Stevens County and Cathlamet Wastewater Treatment Plant in Wahkiakum County.
The Washington Department of Ecology created the award program to draw attention to the importance of WWTP and encourage employees to strive to do the best work possible. The department referred to the work done by wastewater treatment operators as “critical” in the release outlining the award.
“Wastewater plants are the first line of defense to protect public health and clean water,” stated the organization in the release.
Bartlett also personally encourages people to consider a career in wastewater treatment.
“Washington’s growing population creates a greater need for wastewater treatment every day and we encourage people to go into this field because there are jobs to be had,” she said in the organization’s release.