New York City Wastewater Treatment Workers Compete in the 31st Annual Operations Challenge

Wastewater treatment plant operators show off their skills at New York City's 31st Operations Challenge. Photo courtesy of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today held the 31st annual Operations Challenge where wastewater treatment plant operators compete to showcase the expertise and skills required to operate and maintain the city’s 14 wastewater treatment plants. After competing in five events that represent a cross section of essential wastewater treatment operations, the two highest scoring teams will go on to compete in the statewide competition in June in Lake George. From there, winners of the statewide contest will participate in the national competition to be held from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3 in New Orleans. The morning-long event was held at the Jamaica Wastewater Treatment Plant in Queens and was sponsored by DEP and New York Water Environment Association.

“We need a greater understanding of what happens when more than 8 million New Yorkers flush the toilet multiple times every day. Events like this bring this unseen amazing process to light! The water resource recovery operators, also known as ‘silent heroes,’ work 24/7 to protect public health and the environment,” said Executive Director of New York Water Environment Association Patricia Cerro-Reehil. “Today, we salute all operators and commend the individuals who are competing to show off their amazing skills that have such a great impact on the quality of our daily lives.”

This year’s teams represented the Jamaica, Bowery Bay, 26th Ward, Rockaway, Hunts Point Newtown Creek and Lower Hudson wastewater treatment plants. Each team competed in three timed and judged events, including:

  • Collections: Repairing a leaking pipe while it remains in service.
  • Worker Safety: A timed, confined space rescue of a fellow employee. The teams had to perform CPR while checking air quality and change a defective check valve.
  • Maintenance Event: Responding to a severe weather condition that results in a pumping outage. The teams had to restore the main pumps to service and program them for emergency use.

In addition, this year’s competition included two events which the teams completed earlier in the week:

  • Laboratory Event: Tests were performed on water samples to determine if they met discharge standards.
  • Wastewater Treatment Process: Teams were tested on their knowledge of the wastewater treatment process.

The Operations Challenge was developed by the Water Environment Federation, the largest professional organization representing the wastewater treatment industry. A team from DEP has advanced to the national competition in 30 out of the last 31 years.

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