Water Plant Receives Two Prestigious Awards

Water Plant Receives Two Prestigious Awards

November 20, 2020

Our Water Treatment Plant (WTP) recently received two awards, the prestigious North Carolina Area Wide Optimization Award as well as the national Partnership For Safe Water Directors Award. 

This marks the fifth year in a row that our WTP has received the state award. The NC Division of Water Resources has included Greenville Utilities among the 55 out of 149 water treatment plants in the state honored for surpassing federal and state drinking water standards in 2019. The award recognition is a state effort to enhance the performance of existing surface water treatment facilities.  

In 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed new regulations to reduce the risk of biological contamination. The EPA then partnered with states to form the Area Wide Optimization Program (AWOP). This program introduced more stringent water quality goals and helps water systems meet those goals. North Carolina has participated in AWOP since 2000 and is one of 23 states involved in the program. 

AWOP Award Background and Challenges 

The focus of the AWOP award is turbidity removal, a key test of drinking water quality. Turbidity is a measure of cloudiness of water caused by individual particles that can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth. Eliminating particles lessens the amount of chemicals needed to process water, which reduces byproducts in the water. The Tar River has high turbidity because its water comes from tributaries that run through swamps. 

It is difficult for water treatment plants in the eastern part of the state to achieve the AWOP turbidity goals. Most of the winning plants are from the western part of the state, while GUC, Martin County, and Neuse Regional Water and Sewer Authority are the only honorees out of the Washington region. With 28 counties making up the coastal plain area, GUC was one of only six water systems in this area to be recognized. 

“Every year, our Water Treatment Plant staff outdo the previous year’s numbers for these AWOP goals, and every year I’m amazed and really proud of them,” said Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Julius Patrick.  

National Directors Award 
Our WTP also received the “Directors Award” from the Partnership for Safe Water. This is a program developed by the EPA and American Water Works Association (AWWA) to guide water suppliers towards improving water quality by optimizing system operations. It is similar in nature to AWOP, but goes a step further with a four-phased approach and a peer review, with Phase IV being the highest level of achievement. 

GUC was the only award recipient from North Carolina this year and the eighth water treatment plant from the state to ever receive this prestigious award. 

GUC’s WTP was presented the award for successfully achieving the program’s Phase III Directors Award level of performance. It took our WTP staff three years to accomplish this by completing the self-assessment and peer review phase of the program. This phase included a comprehensive 140-page evaluation of treatment plant operations and performance, identification of performance limiting factors, and the development of action plans to achieve optimization. GUC was one of a select group of utilities honored by the Partnership at the virtual conference of the AWWA, the largest and oldest worldwide organization dedicated to safe water.  

The WTP was also required to form a Self-Assessment Team as part of the Phase III program. This team represented each section of the WTP (operations, lab, maintenance) and was responsible for compiling information for the report. The team included Ryan Gregory, Chad Flannagan, Dail Booth, Robert Veale, Don Sullivan, Jesse Chadwick, Cheryl Irwin, Anthony Whitehead, and Julius Patrick. 

“We are honored to receive this award,” said Randy Emory, Water Resources Director. “Our utility’s goal is to continually strive to optimize operations and improve the quality of water we deliver to our customers. Achievement of the Directors Award demonstrates our ongoing commitment to protecting public health.”  

Our WTP is now eligible to receive this recognition every five years by continuing to provide the required annal reports to the Partnership.  

Congratulations to our Water Treatment Plant staff for working hard to obtain these awards!