“Smooth Operators” Bring Home State & National Trophies

“Smooth Operators” Bring Home State & National Trophies

November 30, 2021

Hats off to our Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) “Smooth Operators” team for making history the week of October 17th – when they became the first team in the U.S. and Canada to place 1st Overall in the brand-new Division III of the Water Environment Federation (WEF) Operators Challenge! And they didn’t stop there. The week of November 15th, our team headed to the North Carolina stage to bring home more wins.  

WEF Competition 
To showcase how wastewater treatment operators and technicians overcome challenges and emergencies, WEF has developed what is considered the industry’s most rigorous professional development program – the WEFtec Operations Challenge. In October, a total of 32 teams from around the U.S. and Canada competed in the 34th WEFtec Operations Challenge in Chicago, Illinois. 

This year’s program marked the introduction of Division III, which consisted of teams, like ours, in which no members had previously competed in an in-person WEFtec Operations Challenge. Division III also included teams who made their debut in the 2020 Connect Virtual Operations Challenge, which our team participated in.  

GUC’s “Smooth Operators” team includes WWTP Operators Bryon Orr, Julius Phillips, Kyle Meeks, Charlie Buck, and Steve Hedgepeth. They competed against others for the highest score in five different events: Collections Systems, Laboratory, Process Control, Maintenance, and Safety. Each event is designed to test the diverse skills required for the operations/maintenance of wastewater treatment facilities, collection systems, and laboratories.  

To earn their Overall first place spot, they placed first in Collections, second in Laboratory, third in Process Control, first in Maintenance, and first in Safety. They also brought home the Spirit Award for the friendliest team, and their group photo (taken by Communications Specialist Erin Walton) was a finalist for ‘most creative team photo.’ 

“We have a highly-skilled staff that we are proud of,” said Chris Hill, WWTP Operations Coordinator and team coach, “and giving them this chance to showcase their skills and see how other teams operate is important. The guys really enjoyed the competition against the other teams and interacting with others from all over the country. Between events and the conference, this was a professionally run program with judges from all over the country and equipment directly from manufacturers. It was quite the experience for our team to play in this type of ball field.” 

State Competition 
In November, the team competed at the 20th annual Operations Challenge at the North Carolina Section of the American Water Works Association and Water Environment Association (NC AWWA-WEA) conference in Raleigh. This is the second time our team has participated in this competition, which included events in Collections (pipe tapping), Lab, Safety, Pump Maintenance, and Process Control (WWTP simulator and exam).  

Our team placed second Overall, second in Collections (pipe tapping), and first in Process Control, second in Lab, second in Safety, and second in Pump Maintenance.   

Congrats again to Bryon, Julius, Charlie, Steve, and Kyle on both competitions!