Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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March 15, 2013

A Big Splash: City continues to win awards for superlative water filtering process

JACKSONVILLE — Take a glass of  “untreated” water directly from Lake Jackson-ville. Place it next to a glass of H20 that has been through the city of Jacksonville's filtering process. Compare and contrast the two.

There's no getting around it. The difference in water quality between the murky, yellowish Lake Jacksonville liquid and the crystal-clear treated water is the difference between night and day.

With just the rights amounts of fluoride, aluminum sulfate, chlorine and lime, staff at the city's water plant make it their mission to ensure water in Jacksonville is always safe for human consumption. On average, one glass of water is said to take about six hours to get from Lake Jackson-ville to a thirsty resident.

The quality of their work is the reason Jacksonville water treatment plant staff keep winning awards – most recently for “Water Fluoridation Quality” from the Centers For Disease Control. The city's water department also recently received a perfect score from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality following a comprehensive inspection of every aspect of their water filtering process.

The reason? City officials say its definitely George Crawford, chief operator of the Jacksonville water treatment plant and his workers, Brian Gay and Cory Hicks.

Crawford credits the efficiency in part to improved technology. Computer systems and their remote accessibility by Iphone have replaced the wrenches and elbow grease of yesteryear.

But Crawford said the largest reason for this success is the professional latitude he, Gay and Hicks receive from their city bosses. This is due to an obvious respect for their professional opinions, Crawford said.

“Management lets us do the job,” Crawford said. “It didn't used to be like that.”

City Manager Mo Raissi said it's easy to trust the judgement of employees such as Crawford, Gay and Hicks because of their high ethical standards.

“They really take care of business,” Raissi explained. “These guys work night and day and on weekends, setting their own schedules when they need to come in. … Health and safety is at the forefront of the job they do for us every day.”

Such standards also are reflected in the city's entire public works department and in city public safety employees in general, the city manager said.

This career is certainly not for the lazy-minded. Employees are constantly trained and retrained.

And the payoff is: the city is capable of taking in as much as six million gallons of surface water to its plant each day should the need ever arise. Currently, only about a million gallons is processed out of the plant daily.

An additional two million gallons are pro-cessed out of the city's five local water wells at different sites throughout town.

Water from Lake Jack-sonville is first processed through a mixer, where a coagulant known as aluminum sulfate is added. The water goes from there a device known as the “floccultator,” which has two large wing paddles which go in a circular motion to cause impurities to flock together so they can be filtered out.

From that point, water flows to the center of the plant’s massive “clarifier,” where it is distributed evenly to all sides to be settled.

What is not settled goes to the last four filters, concluding this process. The water then is chlorinated, and goes to the storage tanks, ultimately pumped into the system.

Every morning, the water staff runs tests to determine what’s in the water, the turbidity of it – otherwise known as how dirty the water is in parts per million — and pH tests.

Many tasks can be performed using the plant’s computer operating system, known as SCADA. Wells can be turned off or on from the console. The SCADA acts as a controller that turn the pumps on and off. It is accessible by Iphone.

The one million gallons of water a day the city's water treatment plant treats escalates to three or four million gallons during the summer months. That level also tends to fluctuate depending on the time of year and the demand at the time – such as, for instance, if a great amount of water is needed to fight a fire.

The plant has a rotating tank system to make sure there is always water for an emergency.

Once upon a time, the city's water was run through its old plant, built in 1929 and retired around 1980.

Whereas all tasks then had to be performed manually, many today can be provided by a few taps on the Iphone.

In addition to supplying water to the over 5,000 customers in the city, the water department supplies to local co-ops as well, including the North Cherokee Water Corporation, the Craft-Turney Water Supply Corporation, Gum Creek Water Supply Company, and Afton Grove Water Supply Corporation.

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