June 2011 • TPO Magazine
ACING IT IN OKLAHOMA
Strong skills, preventive maintenance and good planning lead to success at the Coffee Creek Treatment Plant in Edmond.
The Coffee Creek Wastewater Treatment plant in Edmond, Okla., has had near-perfect compliance in 38 years and has won several awards, most recently 2010 Large Wastewater Plant of the Year from the Oklahoma Water and Pollution Control Association (OWPCA).
It all has happened with a staff of five, despite rapid population growth, several upgrades, and various episodes with collection system inflow and infiltration. “When you have only five staff, you have to focus on working smarter, not harder,” says Fred Rice, water resources superintendent for the city. This means preventive maintenance, SCADA monitoring of critical alarms, and ongoing equipment and safety training.
It’s also a matter of teamwork. Kris Neifing, chief plant operator, hired in 2004, supervises two operators, a maintenance specialist and a lab technician and is also responsible for one lift station at the plant and nine lift stations located throughout the collection system.
Rice credits Neifing and his staff for the plant’s track record. “Kris has really pulled everyone together as a team,” he says. “All the credit for what we’ve achieved in the last six years is due to Kris and his staff. My role is like coaching a sports team. You can coach them, but the team executes the plays.”
Says Neifing, “What makes us successful is that everybody has different skills that collectively make us the best we can be. Some are better at maintenance while others prefer operations. We believe that no one knows how to do their jobs better than the ones who do it every day.”
The plant’s compliance and safety record does not mean the staff is complacent. “We strive to continuously improve,” says Rice. “There is no process out there that can’t be improved, especially on the maintenance side.”
Rice and Neifing frequently attend the WEFTEC conference and other trade shows to check out the latest equipment. This has led to several innovations, such as vibration analysis and laser alignment equipment to help ensure that pumps and motors operate normally with the lowest possible maintenance. Rice and Neifing also read trade journals and network with others in the wastewater treatment business to glean ideas.
“The staff comes to us with ideas, like getting air compressors for maintenance, and suggesting better equipment or ways of doing things,” Neifing says. “We empower them to make suggestions, and we listen.”
Adds Rice, “The city started a program based on the general concepts in the Good to Great book, because we believe that organizations that excel are successful from the ground up. We give our employees responsibility and then hold them accountable.”
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