KINGSPORT -- Kingsport’s Water Treatment Plant has earned the EPA Partnership for Safe Drinking Water’s Director Award for a fourth consecutive year, and is one of only three water treatment plants to receive the award in Tennessee for 2012.
The Partnership is a voluntary effort between six drinking water organizations and more than 200 surface water utilities throughout the United States. The goal of the partnership is to push water utilities past treating to state and federal standards and toward optimizing for maximum protection against microbial contaminants including Cryptosporidium, Giardia and E-coli.
The award recognizes a continuous commitment to maintaining the highest level of water quality through ongoing plant optimization, according Water/Wastewater Facilities Manager Niki Ensor.
“Producing clean drinking water is all about reducing microbial risk through plant operations and continuous improvement,” Ensor said. “Turbidity, which is the cloudiness of water coming into the plant, is a key factor. It’s caused by run off. It is on those suspended particles that Cryptosporidium and Giardia like to attach themselves. If you lower the turbidity prior to filtering and disinfection, you lower the overall risk.”
Ensor says the City’s water source is dependable and stable, with raw water intake located not far from Fort Patrick Henry Dam.
“Our intake location buffers our supply from wide swings in turbidity,” Ensor said. “At the same time, our water treatment operators constantly monitor turbidity coming into the plant, the filters that remove turbidity and disinfectant treatment levels.”
Kingsport’s Water Treatment Plant is permitted to produce up to 28 million gallons of potable water a day, with current demand in the range of 14 to 15 million gallons per day.
“It’s all about maintaining plant operations and having a clear plan ready at all times to provide optimal performance, in the event of high demand or a serious rain event,” Ensor said. “We monitor the filters constantly so no turbidity breaks through, and backwash on a regular basis.”
Other than Kingsport’s Water System only two other utilities in Tennessee have achieved Phase III status and received the Director’s Award, Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) and Tennessee American Water – Chattanooga, according to the Partnership. Less than one percent of the nation’s water utilities have earned this honor.
Should the plant achieve the Phase III award again next year, Ensor said Plant Superintendent, Sam Thomason, is already working towards meeting the criteria for the Partnership’s elite Phase IV Award for Excellence in Water Treatment.
Phase IV is an intensive, peer-reviewed process. Only six water systems in the United States have completed Phase IV.
“Our strong staff and efforts at our Water Treatment Plant, as well as our Wastewater Treatment Plant, demonstrate the City’s commitment to protecting our citizens and our environment while providing the best possible services at the lowest possible cost,” City Manager John Campbell said. “By making the key investments our Board of Mayor and Aldermen have made over the last few years, we have first-class treatment facilities that are prepared to meet and exceed all foreseeable federal regulations for the next decade and beyond.”