Again we sit perched at the beginning of a new year full of potential and possibility. For some reason, each year we choose January as the right time to set ambitious goals, both personally and professionally.
Maybe being shut indoors by cold weather gives us time to think. Maybe the holidays give us a break from the everyday grind and put things into perspective. Maybe tradition dictates this is what we do in January. In truth, the timing is unimportant.
What is important is the desire to keep improving. Good is fine, but better is best.
This issue looks at two utilities where employees wanted something better than what they had. In, “Striking Contrast,” what the operators at the Dallas Water Utilities Southside Wastewater Treatment Plant had was a messy, underperforming headworks screening system. They spent years hand-raking screenings while facing extreme odor problems, insect infestations, and high landfill costs.
Finally, they were able to implement a project to install a new flume water-transport system to collect and convey its screenings. The new system led to significant improvements in operations efficiency, labor costs, and appearance, but more importantly, it led to improvements in operator morale, health, and safety.
Likewise, the operators at the wastewater treatment plant in Bend, Ore., were facing a headworks screening system that was beginning to fail. This led to more maintenance tasks throughout the plant.
“From Rags to Reliable” details how the plant staff planned their upgrade project to set goals beyond just addressing their checklist of problems. They took advantage of the situation to build an inherently safer system and tap into onsite resources. The headworks’ liquid stream is separated from the work area to prevent problems with hazardous gas buildup in the building, and excess biogas from its digesters heats washwater for the headworks. Those improvements are on top of increased solids capture from screenings and reduced downstream maintenance needs.
In both of these plants, the desire to make progress led to better working environments, safer working conditions, and more robust treatment. Whether these projects were conceived in January or July doesn’t really matter; what’s important is to never stop improving.
— Steve Spicer,