Williamsburg’s drinking water is some of the cleanest in the state.
Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet has recognized 36 surface water treatment plants in Kentucky for meeting the goals of Kentucky’s Area-Wide Optimization Program (AWOP) for 2016, including the Williamsburg Water Department.
“What it actually means to everybody here in Williamsburg is that the people of Williamsburg have the cleanest drinking water available in the state of Kentucky,” noted Chris Brewer, supervisor of maintenance for the Williamsburg Water Department. “It’s a pretty big deal. Not that many cities in Kentucky get it, especially those that pump off a river. This is what makes it so special about Williamsburg.”
Brewer noted that most water treatment plants, which received the recognition, pump their water out of a lake where turbidity levels (how clear the water is), remain relatively constant. Levels from a river, which is where Williamsburg gets its water from, can change by the hour.
“To get this recognition, you have to exceed federal standards for clean drinking water. You have to exceed them all year long,” he said.
The Williamsburg Water Department has received the award for the last eight consecutive years.
“It is not just a unique thing this year. It is something they strive for and do every year,” Brewer added.
The federal standards are that water plants can’t have water that exceeds 0.3 NTUs (nephelometric turbidity units) when it leaves the plant, and to receive the AWOP certification, water treatment plants can’t exceed 0.1 NTUs at any point during the year.
The water is tested every four hours, and not only didn’t the water exceed 0.1 NTUs in Williamsburg in 2016, but it never got close to that level, Brewer noted.
“The guys at the water plant work really hard to make sure they beat that goal,” Brewer said. “That is really tough to do. If you look at the number of water treatment plants across the state that are getting this AWOP award every year it is a really small percentage.”
AWOP is a multi-state initiative administered through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of AWOP is to encourage drinking water systems to achieve optimization goals that are more stringent than the regulations. A total of 26 states, including Kentucky, participate in AWOP.
AWOP provides tools and approaches for drinking water systems to meet water quality optimization goals, which in turn provides consumers an increased and sustainable level of public health protection. In particular, the program emphasizes optimal turbidity removal through the drinking water treatment process.
Turbidity, or cloudiness, is a measurement of particles in water, including soil, algae, bacteria, viruses and other substances. The program also focuses on improving existing facilities rather than implementing costly capital improvements.
Participating systems that meet the high standards of AWOP receive certificates that recognize their accomplishments.
“Together, these 36 drinking water treatment plants serve more than 1.7 million Kentuckians,” said Joe Uliasz, supervisor of the Compliance and Technical Assistance Section for Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet. “Drinking water treatment plant operators deserve our recognition and appreciation for their daily efforts to exceed the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.”
In addition to receiving the AWOP certificate of achievement in 2016, Williamsburg received the Kentucky Division of Water’s Champion Award in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, which is a high honor, according to Jackie Logsdon, a Kentucky Division of Water official.
Each year, the Champion Award is presented to one recipient of each of the two following categories: large drinking water treatment plant (produces three million or more gallons of water per day) and small drinking water treatment plant (produces less than three million gallons of water per day).
Williamsburg is classified as a small drinking water treatment plant for the purposes of this award. A total of three years of turbidity removal performance and overall compliance status are evaluated when selecting the recipients, Logsdon said.
A total of 11 AWOP drinking water systems received special recognition in 2016, with a gold seal on their certificate for achieving the AWOP goals 100 percent of the time in 2016.
These included Barbourville Water and Electric, Cave Run Regional Water Commission, Green River Valley Water District, Greensburg Water Works, Jackson County Water Association, Jamestown Municipal Water Works, Laurel County Water District No. 2, Liberty Water Works, Logan Todd Regional Water Commission, Madisonville Light and Water, and Rattlesnake Ridge Water District.