Sulphur Springs Utility Director James Jordan returned from the annual Water Environment Association of Texas conference with a plaque and flag recognizing the City of Sulphur Springs Wastewater Treatment Facility as the Category 2 Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant of the Year.
“The award is a really big deal for us. I can’t be more appreciative for receiving this award, because, for one, it’s never been accomplished. So that says a lot,” said City Utilities Director James Jordan. “I make the statement all the time: I feel like a turtle on a fence post. I didn’t get up here by myself. There are a lot of people who played a role in this. It’s very heartwarming.”
WEAT, or Texas Water as it’s sometimes called, is a state organization that’s over operations and new innovations in water treatment in Texas. WEAT presents one award each year per category, which are based on population of the area served, to a Texas water treatment facility deemed to have “consistent outstanding performance of daily activities beyond the normal call of duty.”
WEAT notified the City of Sulphur Springs at the end of 2021 that the Sulphur Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant had been nominated for the award based on the facility’s performance. Once nominated, city officials had to provide documentation, including the facility’s monthly operating reports, safety plan, asset management and risk management plans. When all of the information had been evaluated from all nominees, the Sulphur Springs Water Treatment Facility was awarded WEAT’s Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant of the Year Award for Category 2.
“It’s truly an honor to receive that. But, one of my biggest thank yous is to the WEAT organization for recognizing the due diligence that we put forward to be able to accomplish something like this,” Jordan said. “The staff that we have here at the City of Sulphur Springs goes above and beyond on a daily basis. The mindset we have here at the plant keeps the bar held high. We always walk in the door expecting excellence and we achieve it this time.”
The award is due largely to the successes with the recently upgraded and redesigns Sulphur springs wastewater treatment plant and each worker’s commitment to excellence. The wastewater plant currently employees five certified operators, according to Sulphur Springs Utilities Director James Jordan.
In 2017, the City started the preliminary design for the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The plant was created in 1968 and the most recent upgrades at that point had been a sludge storage tank at the back of the plant in the early 1990s.
“As far as an operational stand point and parameters, none of our parameters really changed, because what we were doing was we were exceeding those limits set by the state before we went into a rehabilitation. So now, with the rehabilitation complete, we are able to now operate within those parameters and under those parameters,” Jordan said.
For example, on parameter the state monitors is suspended solids the city sends down the creek after it’s been treated at hte wastewater treatment plant. That, Jordan said, is based on a seasonal approach, where the city is allowed to send 12 to 15 parts per million of suspended solids to be send down the creek. Currently, the wastewater treatment plant is maintaining well below 0.04, far below the standard.
The city’s Water Treatment Plant staff during the 2017 re-design process expressed the wants and needs for the facility to the engineers, who came up with an effective plant that not only factored wants and needs for 2017, but the future needs and standards as well.
“We were to the point as a treatment stance we could either take one more industry on or we could take on about 5,000 more residences. So, we took the approach during the design to make room for more residents and along with industrial growth as well,” Jordan said.
The community also played a key role in the Sulphur Springs Wastewater Treatment facility receiving the WEAT plant of the year award, Jordan noted.
“Fats, oils and greases are one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome here at the wastewater treatment plan. When the citizens go to pay their water bill at the utility building office, we have free to the customers the oil and grease bags. Where they can be disposed of properly besides sending them down the drain, because that does cause us problems here at the plant,” Jordan said. “But, luckily, I think we have some really good citizens that are aware of that situation and they do take advantage of stuff like that.”
The plant’s redesign also included elements, looking ahead, which would allow the facility to be in compliance with state regulations for years into the future, not just then or the current day. Aware the plant would require more modernization, the city incorporated that technology in the design process, so the software equipment can hep monitor pumps, flows and things of that nature it’s already in place and meeting standard before the change become effective, the computer screen in the office that allows plant employees to track all facets of the operations at the click of a screen or mouse, to potentially identify areas that maybe aren’t running as effectively as they could or to look and track back to identify where an issue throughout the city’s infrastructure may require more measures or less, the utilities director noted.
While available, the program is used more in a monitoring capacity than an as standard operational use. It can be used by any of the five certified operators to make changes as needed.
“We always want to make sure our operators are knowledgeable of the situation and can react to any situation, not based off a computer screen,” Jordan said. “They are stellar, second to none, in my opinion.”
Jordan also credited Garver Engineers for the successful renovation, for not only listening to but putting into effect the needs and wants city staff conveyed to them during the redesign and renovation process. Garver staff were very attentive and responsive to all needs queries expressed by the City of Sulphur Springs.
In fact, the City of Sulphur Springs also recently signed another contract With Garver Engineers for renovations at the city’s water treatment, using federal COVID funding to improve the infrastructure there. While the funding will not afford a full revamp of the facility, the money will enable the city to begin making improvements at the Water Treatment Plant in phases. The first phase will address filters, getting the work horses of the water treatment facility all back up to a good operating standard.
“Most of that stuff there is structural issue that we have. That plant was also constructed in the 1960s as well. As you well know, it’s had a lot of water go through it, so it’s time to pay a little attention to that. In the meantime with the filters, we are going to try to get a plant re-rate. Right now, at the water treatment plant we are rated for 10 million gallons per day and we would like to see that go anywhere from 12-to-15 million gallons per day,” Jordan said.