Washington has more than 300 wastewater treatment plants tasked with treating wastewater and protecting water quality. These complex facilities deal with everything homes and businesses flush down the drain. While every facility is unique, they all rely on certified wastewater operators for proper operation and maintenance.
Each year, the Washington Department of Ecology honors some of these wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) with the agency’s Outstanding Performance Award for achieving excellent compliance with their water quality permits.
"I invite everyone in our state to join me in saying ‘thank you’ to our local wastewater treatment plant operators and staff," said Vince McGowan, Ecology's Water Quality program manager. "We rely on them to keep wastewater treatment plants running 24/7. Their expertise, planning, and hard work benefits all of us and protects water quality every day."
There are 109 facilities earning recognition for their operations in 2022. Here are a few of the award highlights:
- Two facilities are receiving the award for the first time: Williams Lake Sewer District No. 2 and Cascadia wastewater treatment plant.
- 2022 marks the 25th consecutive year that the Port Townsend wastewater treatment plant has earned the award.
- Ecology is recognizing 28 facilities this year that have earned the award at least 15 times in the past: Anacortes, Asotin, Benton City, Big Gulch, Birch Bay, North Bonneville, Bremerton, Douglas County Sewer District, Elma, Eatonville, Forks, Gig Harbor, Grand Coulee, Holmes Harbor Sewer District, Kennewick, Lyle, Klickitat, Okanogan, Olympic Corrections Center, Omak, Penn Cove Park Sewer District, Post Point, Salmon Creek – Clark County, Seattle City Light – Newhalem, Sequim, Stanwood, Vancouver Westside, Wishram.
For the full list of recipients, see our list of current awardees on our webpage.
What this recognition means
What does it take to run a top-performing facility? We talked to employees at WWTPs to get a better sense of what this award means to them.
“It’s all about the staff,” said Bob Thurston, Kitsap County Sewer District #7 Plant Manager. “We have not had any turnover in more than seven years. Our staff has the most responsible and conscientious operators I have ever seen in my 40-year career.”
Eric Burris, Wastewater Manager for the City of Bremerton, said, “Our job is not a glamorous job, and people do not comprehend how involved it is to effectively operate and maintain wastewater treatment plants. Even though most of the time operators’ hard work goes unnoticed, they continue to take great pride in their work. This award acknowledges our efforts.”
“The wastewater treatment plant staff take pride in their outstanding record, in spite of the challenges associated with an aging and outdated plant,” said Brent Kirk, City Manager for the City of Granite Falls. “We look forward to our ongoing partnership with Ecology to modernize and upgrade the original 1981 equipment. With help from Ecology’s Clean Water funding, the plant upgrades will help improve and protect water quality in the Pilchuck River, while providing the additional capacity needed for our growing community.”
John Simmons, Public Works Director for the City of Zillah, said "Our current lead operator has received this award every year since he took over. Our plant has had some complicated issues and our staff consistantly go above and beyond, to keep our community within compliance. This award is well deserved!
To determine the awardees, Ecology evaluated wastewater treatment plants on permit conditions such as regularly meeting numeric effluent limits, conducting monitoring, and reporting data as required.
Be a part of the solution
With the state’s growing population, more wastewater treatment plant operators are needed. If you have experience as a welder, machinist, mechanic, laboratory technician, engineer, or as an operator at a similar facility, you might have the right type of experience for this work. Ecology’s certification program for wastewater operators website has more information.