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Gallon-sized recognition for Hyrum’s water treatment facility

February 19th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Rhett Wilkinson

HYRUM — Clean water. It’s something that many of us may take for granted on a regular basis, but is something surely noticed and desperately sought after when it’s suddenly not available anymore. Hurricane Katrina, anyone?

Yet Kevin Maughan and the folks at the Hyrum city water treatment plant appreciate the opportunity to be able to provide such a life vitality to the thousands who live within their corner of Cache Valley.

For that dedication, Ovivo, a nationally-renowned wastewater treatment organization, recognized Maughan and his team by presenting them with the EnviroQuip award, given to recognize a water treatment plant much like Hyrum’s own for the quality of their operation and of their facility’s equipment.

For Maughan, who received recognition in 2006 as the best water treatment operator in the state from the Water Environment Association of Utah (WEAU), it’s praise that only helps encourage the labors they perform day after day.

“It’s always nice when people note your skill and effort, to know that somebody recognizes that,” says the eight-year veteran of Hyrum’s plant.

Hyrum City Corporation has also been nominated for the Biosolids of the Year award by the WEAU. The winner for Best of the Year for the biosolids branch and several other niches within the field of water quality will be announced next month.

Ovivo representatives personally visited the valley to take a tour of the Hyrum facility and judge its operation and the equipment that drives it.

Hyrum Lions Club president Mike Larsen, a self-described “dear friend” of Maughan’s, said his pal was deserving of the recognition. “He’s one of those guys that reads something and remembers it forever,” Larsen said. “He can teach something once, and knows it the rest of his life. It’s a real gift.”

The recognitions are a capstone of sorts primarily for Maughan, who helped bring the Hyrum plant out of the ashes soon after being hired. The rebuilding project began as a solitary labor, and in many ways, continues the same to this day for the plant’s head man. When Hard News Café asked other plant employees what they knew about the recognition or the plant’s recent rise, they all requested Maughan to be the sole authority and source to speak about the recent news.

The Utah native said he was initially hired in 2002 as a maintenance man in the wastewater treatment branch of the plant. It wasn’t long, however, before all of the other employees except Maughan had left the plant, leaving him to seek certification to be involved with other levels of water treatment, including oxidation. Now, the plant is operated by a half-dozen employees. Not bad for a guy who didn’t plan on being involved in the water treatment business for long, let alone nearing a decade.

Now, a plant which had been hanging on by a thread is receiving national notoriety.

“When I came here, it never was a first field for me,” Maughan said. “Once you get into it, it’s been a good job.”

The plant received what Maughan described as a “major upgrade” in 2004 in order to enable it to function longer than its anticipated 20-year life span. He now expects the facility to endure longer than its expected croaking date. It’s a confidence that Maughan must display as he and the crew move forward.

“If I use it until it’s been tested and proven, after being used on ballparks and things like that, we need to remain confident that it won’t let us down out there,” said Maughan regarding the trust that the plant needs to have that the sewage can successfully be directed to the plant for cleaning. He said that lifespans can be shortened if unexpected, outlying weather patterns hit the area and bring unexpected wear-and-tear to the plant.

The journey is one that Maughan has enjoyed immensely. “It’s been great,” he said before explaining how many changes the plant has endured since a completely new plant was built in 1976, in consequence of a massive freeze-over before the 2004

“Because it’s an automated system, it’s kind of a pleasure to operate, even with maintenance problems. Hopefully I can still be at the top of my game.”

He just sends an alarm to those who are looking for a drink as they climb amongst the valley’s mountain ranges: don’t drink the water there before it goes through the cleansing process in his and other city’s plants.

“If parents knew how dirty that water is, they would never let their kids get even close to it,” he said.

And for that award, and the others he’s accumulated over the past decade? At least it makes the facility’s interior a bit more decorative, he says.

“We have the plaques on the walls — after all these years of operation and certification, we get used to it, but if someone comes down to see us, I guess we’ll point it out,” he said.

The observation didn’t come without bringing it all into perspective.

“Let’s be honest, no one cares about sewage water,” he said. “When they flush it, it’s gone. We all take clean water for granted.”


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