by Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE -- Public utilities staff recently won an award for keeping the city's water supply clean.
The Port Orange Water Treatment Plant was recognized by the Volusia County Health Department for excellence in drinking water plant operations, an award presented on behalf of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Steve Miller, chief operator of the water treatment plant, said his staff was "very glad" to receive the acknowledgment from the county.
"It's just a good thing because it keeps everyone motivated to keep the water treatment facility in the best possible condition ... and for us to be forward thinking and optimize the operation, save taxpayer money and produce a better product for public health and safety," Mr. Miller said.
He added this was the first time plant staff put the city's name in for consideration for awards for plant operations; besides winning at the county level, staff applied for a state award and was named a runner-up in a regional contest. Last year the plant won an award from the county for excellence in consumer confidence.
The plant submitted an extensive 10-page application in order to receive the award. To qualify, they must abide by numerous state and federal regulations related to the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Act. Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974 to regulate the country's tap water and its sources to protect against natural and man-made contaminants, according to EPA.gov.
The EPA states that over 160,000 public water systems provide drinking water to Americans, all of which must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Mr. Miller said the DEP promulgates the rules within the act as they apply to Floridians.
But Mr. Miller, who has been the plant's chief operator for 15 years, said plant staff does more than meet the regulations, implementing a number of special technologies in the plant's operations over the last few years to exceed expectations. These technologies include solar-powered tank mixing, a temperature control system at remote storage tanks, and an ultrasonic energy control system, he said.
"We don't put band-aids on things," he said. "We're forward thinking. We plan ahead as far as new regulations. In this industry every year, things get much harder to meet because regulations become more stringent. Instead of responding to those things when we have to, we respond in advance. And we do it cost effectively."
Patricia Carrico, an environmental specialist for the Volusia County Health Department who inspects the Port Orange plant biannually, said the implementation of new technology in the drinking water plant helped it stand out to her office in selecting the award.
"Our office selected (Port Orange) as one of the most proactive and best managed water plants in Volusia County," Ms. Carrico said. "They have installed some very innovative treatments in the past few years. We feel they are very worthy of being selected."
Mr. Miller credited the water treatment plant's staff for helping the city stand apart from others for how the water supply is kept clean.
"I think what sets us apart is we have a very experienced staff in both the water plant operations, maintenance and our laboratory staff," he said. "We have a lot of people here with advanced certification (and) a lot of us have worked here for decades."