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~Awards presented to four Northwest Florida recipients for innovation at both wastewater and drinking water facilities~

Whiting Field

DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. presents an award to a representative of Naval Air Station Whiting Field for its efforts in treating wastewater.

PANAMA CITY  Florida Department of Environmental Protection Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. today presented the 2013 Plant Operations Excellence Awards to Northwest Florida wastewater and drinking water facilities at the annual "Focus on Change" Seminar in Panama City.

“One of DEP's top priorities is getting Florida's water right. We have to ensure that we have a sustainable supply of clean water for the people and the environment. The utility owners and operators, are our front-line partners in this critical undertaking,” Secretary Vinyard told approximately 250 seminar participants. “Today’s Plant Excellence Award recipients are prime examples of your hard work and dedication, and represent many of the best water treatment and conservation solutions in the nation.”

The 2013 Northwest Florida Wastewater Treatment Facility winner recognized today was:

• Military Point Regional Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility

The 2013 Northwest Florida Drinking Water Facility winners recognized today were:

• Bay County Water Treatment Plant

• Destin Water Users, Inc.

• Naval Air Station Whiting Field

Each year, the Department presents awards to domestic wastewater and drinking water facilities around the state that demonstrate excellence in operation, maintenance, innovative treatment, waste reduction, and pollution prevention, recycling or other special achievements. These awards are presented to recognize facilities that demonstrate a special commitment to excellence in management through dedicated professionalism.

"We are proud of this long standing tradition to promote excellence in plant operations and the environmental protection these awards promote," said DEP Division of Water Resource Management Director Mark Thomasson.

The Department is awarding a total of 22 facilities, including nine domestic wastewater facilities and 13 drinking water facilities statewide. The remaining awards will be presented at district ceremonies during the additional five “Focus On Change” annual seminars to be held in Lake City, Punta Gorda, Tamarac, Haines City and Ocala.

Facilities go through a rigorous judging process, with every aspect of their operation scrutinized. The facility must maintain an impeccable history of recordkeeping compliance. Facility activities, such as malfunctions, maintenance or upgrades must all be documented and demonstrable to Department environmental specialists during unannounced inspection visits throughout the year. Facility upkeep is paramount, as well as making sure facility personnel have all of the proper, up-to-date certifications and training on the latest water monitoring rules and techniques.

Wastewater facilities have the opportunity to provide evidence of innovative solutions to water conservation problems, suggest improvements to the maintenance process, or highlight unique areas in which they may excel.

Drinking water facilities are required to have a spotless record of monthly bacteriological reports, having at no point breached upper limits of any potential contaminants. In addition, each facility must keep constant record of the number of days and length of hours spent at the facility. Drinking water plants are also afforded the opportunity to display areas of expertise and innovation, such as alternating flow patterns to allow storage tanks to be cleaned and inspected more frequently.

This is the 24th year that the Florida Rural Water Association has presented the “Focus on Change” Seminar in conjunction with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The sessions are designed to provide the most current regulatory information available to utilities.