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EPA: Gainesville treats its water well
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Michael West is a man with spiked hair who drives a big blue Harley.

He also runs one of the best wastewater treatment facilities in the nation.

West, manager of Flat Creek Water Reclamation Facility, received two awards for the way he runs the plant this year: one national and one regional.

Both achievements were recognized by the Gainesville City Council and the Environmental Protection Agency at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

Back in April, West and the Flat Creek staff were informed that the plant had been named the best wastewater treatment facility in the EPA’s Region IV or Southeastern region, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and six tribes.

Wayne Aronson, of the EPA Region IV, attended the council meeting to give West and Flat Creek employees the plaque for the award for the first time.

"Thank you very much for protecting the waters of Georgia," Aronson said to the Flat Creek employees present at the meeting.

Aronson also re-presented a national award, a second-place National Clean Water Act Recognition Award that West and Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall received in San Diego last month.

Stanley Mize, superintendent of Gainesville’s wastewater treatment operations, said the award is significant, because the plant competed in the competition’s largest category. The plant received second-place nationwide in the "treats more than 10 million gallons per day" category. Mize said Flat Creek barely fit into the category, and competed "against the heavyweights."

West said the accolades were due to a group effort of all the Flat Creek employees. He recognized his assistant plant manager Randall Hulsey, the plant’s shift supervisors Kent Kilby and Ron Carver and Velma Woods, the plant’s operator trainee as a large part of the reason for the plant’s success.

West has said that the plant’s staff pushes the envelope in ensuring that the plant reduces the amount of priority pollutants, such as phosphorous, it releases into the stream. The EPA has standards on how much can be released into a stream without degrading it, and the Flat Creek staff consistently exceeded those standards.

Council members expressed their pride and appreciation for the staff of Flat Creek Water Reclamation Facility.

Gainesville Mayor Robert "Bob" Hamrick said that there was once a time when Flat Creek plant had "all sorts of problems."

But now, "You fellows and ladies have just turned these things around," Hamrick told the staff at the meeting.

Councilman George Wangemann said the plant’s national recognition showed the strength of Gainesville’s public utilities department.

"There are absolutely no weak links in this chain," Wangemann said. "And that (strength) starts with great leaders like Michael."

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