LA PLATA, Md. - Lenny Gold has seen a lot of water during his 23 years working for the Maryland Center for Environmental Training (MCET). The water is everywhere: flowing down streams, coursing through pipes and filtration systems and flowing into estuaries and holding ponds. The water comes in various states of cleanliness and drink-ability. But thanks to Gold, and the efforts of hundreds of Maryland residents like him, out local water ways and drinking water sources are the cleanest they can be.
A senior operations specialist for MCET at the College of Southern Maryland, Gold provides training, consultation and technical assistance to wastewater and water treatment facility operators as well as state drinking water regulators as part of MCETs fulfillment of two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants.
Waste Water Treatment Grant
The wastewater treatment training and outreach MCET provides is a result of several EPA reports in the 70s that indicated that some U.S. wastewater treatment facilities were failing to meet the standards set by 1972s Clean Water Act (CWA) due to a lack of operator training. The EPA realized that if operators were failing to understand the processes and standards for achieving effective and efficient wastewater treatment, the facilities wouldnt be able to meet the CWA standards no matter how easy the process was, said Gold.
MCET works with facility operators to evaluate and improve every step of the wastewater treatment process. We help them evaluate their operation design and processes to optimize performance and decrease nutrient loads in the water, said Gold. For example, in the last 10 years the state of Maryland has been working to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loads to the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways. This involves operators learning new and more complex treatment processes.
MCETs training process is two-fold. First, operators from different facilities around the state meet in an open enrollment training classroom. The sessions provide information on new state regulations and the treatment options operators can use to accomplish these new goals and standards. The second phase involves providing on-site assistance at the plant. We work directly with operation staff to address issues specific to they systems. The focus is on optimizing the performances of the treatment plant and producing the highest quality effluent (release water) possible. If a plant is in the process of developing upgrade plans, we will also provide assistance and feedback on operation and maintenance issues they will need to consider and possible solutions, said Gold.
Operators go through an immense amount of training and certification just to do their job. Being an operator is a huge responsibility and there is a great deal of pressure because you are in charge of peoples drinking water and wastewater systems," said Gold. "Cities need to ensure that their operators receive the financial and emotional support they need to do their jobs effectively.
Sanitary Survey Training Grant
MCET has been providing sanitary survey training for five years. Sanitary survey training is different than wastewater operator training because the focus is on drinking water-mainly drinking water processed by local treatment facilities-and state inspectors rather than local operators.
Depending on where you live, your drinking water can come from a number of sources including ground water aquifers, or surface source such as the Potomac River. As a requirement of the Safe Water Drinking Act (SDWA) (of 1974), states have to inspect water treatment plants to ensure that the water coming out of your tap is safe to drink.
MCET trains state inspectors and regulators on how to evaluate and inspect ground and surface water treatment facilities and systems. The sanitary survey training includes either 16 or 30 hours of instruction depending on whether the facility is a ground water or surface water system. We also arrange for the inspectors to take inspection field trips where they can apply what they are learning in the classroom to operating facilities, said Gold.
The training helps the inspectors learn, understand and implement federal SWDA regulations that identify sanitary risks in order to prevent contamination. We discuss the impact of water sampling techniques and the effectiveness of treatment processes on the overall quality of the finished drinking water, added Gold.
However, state inspectors and treatment plant operators are not the only ones who can help improve water quality. Consumers need to reduce the amount of kitchen waste they process with their kitchen disposal and should never pour grease down their drains," said Gold. Not only does grease collect in pipes and cause plumbing problems, but the grease causes problems and clogs through the whole collection and treatment process. Consumers should also be cognizant of the effects of fertilizers, pesticides and petroleum products on their water quality. Runoff from lawns, farms, and gas and oil leaks all contribute to harmful nutrient loads in the water.
I wish consumers realized the amount of effort cities and states undertake to ensure their residents have clean drinking water and flushing toilets, remarked Gold.
The EPA recently renewed MCETs wastewater operator training grant. The grant will provide funds for MCET to train operators at seven wastewater treatment facilities in 2007. MCET has provided wastewater operator training to over 81 Maryland towns and counties and several states in the last 23 years.
Through the Cadmus Group, Inc., the EPA has also renewed MCETs sanitary survey training which provides state regulators with courses on ground and surface water regulations relating to the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. MCET has been providing sanitary survey training for facilities in Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire and Ohio.
For information call 301-934-7500 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 7500 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7500 for St. Marys County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7500 for Calvert County or visit http://www.mcet.org/.