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Behind the Tap Spotlight: Water Production Plant Operator Dennis Ward

Meet Water Production Plant Operator Dennis Ward. As a drinking water plant operator, Dennis is responsible for ensuring that safe, clean drinking water is produced for customers every day. CCWA’s three water treatment plants can produce up to 42 million gallons per day (MGD) of potable water. Potable (which rhymes with floatable) means it is safe to drink. Dennis works at CCWA’s J.W. Smith Water Production Plant along the Flint River in the south end of the county. This plant can produce up to 12 MGD.

Dennis has close to 20 years as a plant operator, working for CCWA for 14 years, plus four years he worked as a plant operator for DeKalb County.

“I absolutely love my job,” he says. “I love being around water. Being that I can serve the public in this compacity is a big plus.”

As a plant operator, Dennis ensures all equipment is operating properly before bringing raw water into the plant from the J.W. Smith Reservoir and starting the production process. He takes hourly and bi-hourly test of PH, Chlorine, Turbidity and Manganese. He also cleans or backwashes filters once they hit a certain number of hours or if the filter gets dirty (this is known as headloss). Operators must start this wash and monitor the wash cycle to make sure the filters are washed properly. He also ensures the clearwell and J.W. Smith reservoir are at the proper level.

A huge challenge for an operator is storms. While he loves the rain, years of experience has taught him to watch the weather closely and plan if it looks like it will be bad storm with lots of lightning.  When storms lead to power outages, that is the worst, he adds.

He has lived through the challenges that come along with a plant renovation/upgrade and learning new systems. He seems to take it all in stride with a calm approach to life. The current pandemic hasn’t impacted Dennis’ job in a negative way. Schedules shifted but he says adjusting to the schedule wasn’t bad at all.

“I honestly wish I knew about this earlier in my life,” Dennis adds. “I truly enjoy what I do. 14 years here at CCWA and 4 years at Dekalb before here. It’s been fun.” #waterprofessional