Quinhagak and Toksook Bay win water and water system awards

The Alaska Rural Water Association has honored Quinhagak and Toksook Bay at their 19th Annual Training Conference where they recognized rural water systems, wastewater systems, and their operators for outstanding achievements. The Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) in Quinhagak received the Water System of the Year Under 1,000 Population award. And the City of Toksook Bay won the Water Taste Test.

LKSD took compliance to the next level and added point of use reverse osmosis skids under sinks and fountains used for drinking and cooking water at the school. The city water they were purchasing was aggressive, causing high lead and copper levels. This added equipment means the school district can ensure safe drinking water to their students. It also comes with increased sampling costs as the system is now regulated as a continuous system. This demonstrates a commitment to providing safe drinking water to the community’s children at a higher cost even though it is not required by regulation.

Attendees of the conference were asked to submit water samples from their systems to be judged in the annual water taste test competition. A total of nine samples were submitted this year and the winner, judged on clarity, taste, and odor by a three-judge panel, was the City of Toksook Bay. As the 2017 Water Taste Test champion, Toksook Bay will send another sample of their water in February to Washington, D.C., where it will represent the State of Alaska in the 2018 Great American Water Taste Test, a national competition.

Other Award winners for 2017 are:

Water System of the Year – Over 1,000 Population: City of Valdez

Valdez has three different systems, which are fed by snow pack source waters. The aquifers are so clean the well water does not need to be treated. As a previous water taste test winner, the proactive approach by the operators ensure the system maintains exceptional water quality without having to add chlorine.

Wastewater System of the Year – Over 1,000 Population: City of North Pole

North Pole operates a Level 1 secondary treatment wastewater system using four aerated lagoons, disinfection and de-chlorination, and a Level 2 wastewater collection system with 520 connections and 13 lift stations. A plant upgrade was completed in January 2015 with improvements to the wastewater plant building, a new emergency generator, new boilers and heating controls, new lighting, chemical feed pumps, lift station pumps, lagoon aerators, and replacement of rusted pipes.

Port Lions is a small Level 1 wastewater collection system with 114 connections. It has one lift station with a force main to multiple septic tanks. The operator is certified to system level but is seeking higher level training to advance his knowledge. Recent construction of a small lagoon was made to accept septage pumped from local septic systems. Recent repairs have been made to their outfall line.

Water Operator of the Year – Over 1,000 Population: Matthew Lazarus, City of Kotzebue

Matt has been with the system for 12 years. He started as an operating-in-training and now has a Level 4 water treatment certificate, and is the plant supervisor. He is proactive in providing exceptional drinking water by conducting jar testing and adding powdered activated carbon while using eight different chemicals in the treatment process. His input was vitally important during the plant’s upgrades to a modern SCADA system with automation.

Water Operator of the Year – Under 1,000 Population: Shanna Smith, City of Port Alexander

Shanna is a dedicated, capable operator with over 20 years of experience running their system. She uses her intelligence and creativity to solve their system’s issues and has unwavering support from the community and water system.

Wastewater Operator of the Year – Over 1,000 Population: Todd Cook, City of Homer

Todd operates and supervises a Level 3 wastewater treatment plant which treats up to 1.4 MGD with over 1,500 connections. The system includes pretreatment, secondary treatment with an innovative deep shaft well activated sludge process, secondary clarifiers, sludge thickening and dewatering, sludge stabilization with aerobic digestion, sludge disposal with onsite sludge lagoons, off-site sludge disposal, and UV disinfection. His facilities, both water and wastewater, are very well maintained, organized, and exceptionally clean, and he routinely provides training opportunities to his staff to maintain their operator certifications and enhance their professional development.

Wastewater Operator of the Year – Under 1,000 Population: Eric Tremblay, City of Fort Yukon

Eric has worked for his system as the water and wastewater operator for over 20 years. He maintains the City’s wastewater collection system with six lift stations and a wastewater lagoon system with three cells. He is vigilant in keeping small and critical parts in inventory, submits a monthly utility report to the city manager, and attends monthly safety meetings.

Source Water System of the Year – Over 1,000 Population: City of Homer

Homer had a source water protection plan before they were put in place in Alaska. Through proactive efforts, the watershed is protected from avoidable sources of contamination, such as incompatible development, waste dumping, and erosion. The source water plan in effect allows for multi-use of the watershed for homes, recreation, and education while still protecting the quality of their drinking water. Homer should serve as a model for other communities that use surface water for their drinking water systems.

Source Water System of the Year – Under 1,000 Population: City of Yakutat

Yakutat has an active source water plan with realistic approaches and broad community support. It expands when new challenges appear and incorporates regulatory requirements into their source water planning. Continuous monitoring of their backup source further protects the public health of the community.

The Alaska Rural Water Association (ARWA) is a member-based non-profit association that focuses on providing training and technical assistance to rural water and wastewater utilities throughout Alaska. ARWA is an affiliate of the National Rural Water Association, the nation’s largest utility membership organization with over 31,000 system members throughout the country. The annual conference was from October 30 – November 2 at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel in Anchorage.