Water and wastewater employees seek higher pay through training
Published 7:00 am Saturday, February 21, 2015
Water and wastewater system operators from a number of Mississippi’s coastal counties attended three days of training at the Pearl River County Utility Authority treatment facility in Picayune.
PRCUA Wastewater Treatment Foreman Tony Hall said operators from West Jackson County, Long Beach, Ocean Springs, Harrison County Utility Authority and Diamondhead were in Picayune from Wednesday through Friday undergoing certification training.
In all 13 operators received the training, three of which work for the Pearl River County Utility Authority.
The training was conducted in preparation for testing through the Mississippi Water and Pollution Control Operator’s Association in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
If these operators pass that test next week, they will receive certification in their respective fields. Hall said the classes are typically held twice a year.
By becoming certified, the employees will know the proper procedures to ensure safety is maintained on the job, as well as how to look for proper pump flow, pressure, suction and discharge rates for water and wastewater systems.
Each day’s classwork focused on a separate aspect of water delivery and treatment. The coursework also focused on things the employees would use everyday, such as simple math, electrical maintenance of the equipment and how to properly video and clean a wastewater line.
Certification not only ensures the employee is properly trained, it also qualifies them for a raise. Hall said by training their employees and providing them with pay increases, it helps curb employee turnover.
“People don’t want to leave if you pay them right,” Hall said.
It also ensures the Utility Authority has a well-trained staff on hand that can handle any situation when other employees are unavailable.
Mike Switzer, former project manager for Southwest Water, the company that was contracted by the PRCUA to run their facilities, was on hand to lend his more than 30 years of water and wastewater facility knowledge. Hall said under Switzer’s training, students have an 80 percent success rate in passing the test, if they pay attention in class.
Hall hopes the training will help his employees as they continue their work to rehabilitate Picayune’s wastewater collection system. While many fixes to the system have dramatically reduced the amount of rainfall that comes to the treatment facility on Neal Road, the more that rainwater intrusion can be reduced the better. When rainwater comes to the facility it causes the system to work harder to treat water that would otherwise not require it.
Prior to the fixes crews have already completed, Hall said a minor rain event would bring the facility’s water level to maximum. Now it takes a major rainfall event to cause the same effect, Hall said.