Bay County's utilities have been recognized as among the best in the state by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The agency's list of 2012 Plant Operations Excellence Award winners includes the Bay County Water Treatment Plant and Military Point Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. The award program judges three size categories within each plant type; Bay County won for facilities that serve 3,300 to 50,000 customers. The water treatment plant also won the drinking water award in 2011.
To qualify for the DEP awards, facilities must maintain an impeccable history of record keeping; activities such as malfunctions, maintenance or upgrades must be documented and demonstrable during inspections; and facility personnel must have up-to-date certifications and training on the latest monitoring rules and techniques.
According to Paul Lackemacher, Utility Services Director, the county's water plant treats about 50 million gallons of water daily and delivers it through nearly 300 miles of pipe to 15,000 connections. About half the output is potable water and the other half is for industrial use. "When you turn on the tap, you don't realize that this is seven days a week, twenty four hours a day," he said. "Somebody is here watching this all the time."
Meanwhile, the county's state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant on Tyndall Air Force Base is also a DEP award winner. "That is an unusual occurrence to win both the water and the wastewater side in the same year," said Lackemacher.
An average of 3.5 million of gallons flow into the AWT facility daily, Lackemacher said. No chemicals are used in the process; "natural" chemistry renders the water clean enough to be pumped into St. Andrew's Bay after treatment. "We take great care in providing an environmentally sound process," said Lackemacher.
Both plants undergo extensive annual maintenance programs. Each year, basins are emptied and equipment gets a thorough inspection. "There's a lot of mechanical equipment in our processes and it requires a lot of attention and technical ability to repair and maintain these things," said Lackemacher.
The utility services director attributed the plants' success to a dedicated staff and strong support from the Bay County Commission. Lackemacher said his department won't rest on its laurels. "We've got to keep raising the bar," he said. "Looking at reducing costs [and] looking at more efficient ways to do things is an ongoing process."
In addition to the DEP awards, the American Water Works Association recognized the county with a 2012 Distribution System Award for excellence in delivering water to its customers.