The “brains” of Seymour’s Water Pollution Control Facility are now in a new area about double the size.

Laboratory technicians have more room to perform water testing and other processes required for treating sewage and storm water.

Administrators, known as the “heart” of the facility, will have a more spacious working area to ensure operations run efficiently.

The expansion was greatly needed, officials said, with the sewer and stormwater lines and lift stations, or the “vessels,” around the city pumping domestic, commercial and industrial sewage and stormwater to the facility, which processes around 5 million gallons and produces about 5,000 pounds of solid biowaste per day.

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Upgrading the administrative building was 10 years past due, utility director Randy Hamilton said. It’s now expected to meet the department’s needs for many years to come.

Work on the building’s 3,100-square-foot extension was expected to be completed this week.

“Because we’re growing, Seymour is growing, and we’re going to need to be able to take care of that future growth,” Hamilton said. “Since the laboratory is the brains of the outfit, we’ve got to be sure we have that capability and it can grow. Our lab shouldn’t need to be increased in size for 20 to 30 years. It shouldn’t as long as the growth doesn’t overtake us.”

The project’s price tag is $818,818. The city borrowed money from the State Revolving Fund for the Third Street sewer separation project a few years ago and had around $583,000 remaining to put toward this project. The difference was made up through sewage and stormwater revenues, Hamilton said.

The new lab accounted for 70 percent of the cost. People began working in the new space March 5, moving from a 300-square-foot space in the back corner of the old office building.

“The lab that we used to have was very cramped and small; and to have everything going on in it, people were running into each other,” Hamilton said. “The new lab is spacious and has the ability to have things laid out so that, if you have to have more than one person working in the lab, they are not running into each other and so forth.”

With Hamilton and assistant utility director Rick Steward having a combined 76 years of experience in the wastewater treatment field, they helped design the lab in-house with some assistance from an engineer.

“I need and the operations personnel need the information that comes out of the lab to make decisions on what needs to happen within the actual treatment process — whether we need to waste more or pump more, recirculate,” Hamilton said.

Steward said influent sampling on a daily basis lets operators know everything that’s coming into the facility, and then they can react. Effluent sampling also is done to ensure everything is treated before it gets to the river.

“We can use those numbers (from the lab) to set up the facility to operate the way we need it to or we know that it’s going to need,” Steward said. “Those numbers provide the operators with the information that they need to make absolutely sure that the facility operates correctly.”

The new space allows for new, more modern equipment, which helps speed the testing process, Hamilton said.

“We have new meters, new testing equipment, and there’s something new created every day,” Hamilton said. “If we’re using old, antiquated equipment, we’re going to get results that may not be as good as we could get. With so much going on today and all the requirements on all the things that we have to do, to have a little bitty lab to try and accommodate that is very difficult.”

Carla Warner, lab technician and pretreatment coordinator, has worked at the facility for 12 years. She said she is happy with her new work space.

“We have a lot more room, a lot more new equipment,” she said. “A lot of it was outdated, it was really cramped, and a lot of things were on top of each other. Now, we can spread out and do the tests a lot easier. I can spend more time on pretreatment, which I like.”

The expansion, on the south side of the current administration office, also will contain a reception area, a couple of offices, restrooms and a shower room.

The old lab will be converted into offices for pretreatment services, collections, operations, stormwater and the information technology department.

The stormwater utility department was created by city officials in 2013 to help fund the increasing expenses of stormwater management and to have money available for related projects. The utility is funded through user fees the city collects from homeowners, businesses and other property owners.

The old area also will contain a library for training purposes, storage of blueprints and operational, safety and record-keeping books.

“The state and federal government required that we have to have all of these things on site. It’s all part of running the facility,” Hamilton said. “It will be a library that we can go in and find whatever we need if and when the state comes in to do an inspection. It makes it much easier than for this book to be here and this book to be down here.”

Hamilton said it takes all 20 people who work at the facility to maintain an effective and efficient operation. Five of those people are cross-trained in every position, and there are three people on call 24/7.

“I’ve got a great staff, a great group of people. This couldn’t happen, I couldn’t be successful without having that staff,” he said. “It’s not an ‘I’ thing. It’s a ‘we’ thing.”

Steward said there is a lot of accountability. When the lab produces results, they go through the operations staff, the foreman and Steward to ensure they are correct before reaching Hamilton’s desk.

If there are any mistakes and Hamilton doesn’t catch them, a fine and jail time could be the result.

“Our reporting is such that we don’t have a choice but to report only what we produce,” Steward said. “In this industry, we can’t pencil a number in.”

Since Hamilton was named utility director in April 2012, Steward said, the facility has made leaps and bounds to accommodate the public’s needs for sanitary and stormwater conveyance.

Hamilton said that, when he entered the profession at 21 years old, he never dreamed he would still be doing it 39 years later.

But a job like his is important for society to exist, and that makes it exciting, he said.

“If somebody would have said to me two months in, ‘Randy, you’re going to be doing this the rest of your life,’ I would have said, ‘You are out of your mind,'” he said with a smile. “But here I am today. I am one of those fortunate people. You know the old saying that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Well, I do. I really enjoy what I do and the business that I’m in.”

If you go

Seymour’s Water Pollution Control Facility offers tours.

For information, call 812-522-5351 between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The facility is at 5716 E. County Road 525N.

Pull Quote

“We have a lot more room, a lot more new equipment. A lot of it was outdated, it was really cramped, and a lot of things were on top of each other. Now, we can spread out and do the tests a lot easier. I can spend more time on pretreatment, which I like.”

Carla Warner, lab technician and pretreatment coordinator, on an expansion at the pollution control facility

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.