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Behind the Tap Spotlight: Water Reclamation Plant Operator Crystal Dodson

Meet Water Reclamation Plant Operator Crystal Dodson. Water reclamation, or wastewater treatment, uses physical, chemical and biological processes to treat wastewater and convert it into an effluent that can be returned to the water cycle. As a plant operator, Crystal is responsible for monitoring, sampling, and testing throughout the processes to maintain compliance with strict state and federal operating regulations. She works third shift at our award-winning Northeast Water Reclamation Facility in Rex. This plant is designed to treat up to 10 million gallons per day, running 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. The highly treated effluent is discharged to Panther Creek.

The Northeast WRF has won numerous industry awards from the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, including: 100% permit compliance for 12 years running, Plant of the Year Award for Advanced Treatment 6-9.9 million gallons per day (MGD) category in 2020, and Biosolids/Residuals Program of Excellence Award for Small Operating Systems this year.

“As a plant operator, a routine shift at the plant includes relieving the shift before me where I am given notes or anything that operator feels I need to know from their evening.” She then sets up the lab for the tests she will be running that night and gets ready for her rounds throughout the plant. “I make the first round about 1 a.m. and while out there I check pumps, blowers, clarifiers, etc. I make my way all around the plant making sure everything is in working order, get blankets readings, and grab my first effluent sample to run tests on.”

Crystal runs process control tests on phosphate (PO4), ammonia (NH3), and pH and writes them on the bench sheets. “If needed, I will make changes to the plant processes based on my findings.  I will keep an eye on SCADA (the system used to monitor, process and control real-time data), do paperwork, and run my second round later in the night.” During the second round, she gathers composite samples which are sent to our lab at CCWA’s W.B. Casey Water Resource Recovery Facility. Throughout the evening all the information gathered is placed in HACH Wims where is can be viewed by other Water Reclamation staff.

Her favorite thing about the plant is the shift work. “I enjoy being on midnights and working with my shift partner. I enjoy being able to work outside, but still have that feeling of being at an office as well,” Crystal adds.

Some of the challenges are spiders, the weather and shift work. “We do have to deal with working in storms which can cause power outages. The freezing weather and heat can affect the plant and how it operates.”

The pandemic has changed some things to accommodate social distancing. The changes mean bearing the load alone without her work partner.

Prior to becoming a plant operator, Crystal spent 11 years working in CCWA’s Conveyance section.
Conveyance maintains the 1,300 miles of sewer pipes that run throughout the county connecting homes and businesses to one of CCWA’s three water reclamation facilities. She now works on the other side, treating that raw wastewater and turning it into a highly treated effluent.

“I have been at CCWA for 15 years, but I am the happiest at Northeast. I enjoy the shift work. Some nights will go smoothly and then other nights I am forced to call the Chief Operator (Keith Kiblinger) at 3 a.m., which he loves by the way, for assistance getting the problem fixed.” #waterprofessional