STPUD’s award benefits its customers |

STPUD’s award benefits its customers

Emily Aughinbaugh

The latest award in a stream of honors granted to the South Tahoe Public Utility District may be especially interesting to South Shore residents.

The district was awarded the 2000 Waste Water Treatment Plant of the Year by the California Water Environment Association. The association judges district operations on everything from cost effectiveness to innovation of waste water treatment.

“It’s not just a feather in our cap but it’s dollars in your wallet,” said Dennis Cocking, district information officer. “Our mission to the customers is to be stewards of their funds and we’re taking good care of your money.”

Cocking said the district’s rates are average statewide and are some of the lowest among agencies in the basin.

Unlike other waste water treatment facilities, STPUD has to pipe all treated water out of the basin. Because of that, he said district staff has become innovative in its procedures while maintaining stellar compliance records.

Chief Plant Operator Jeff Lee said the plant has gone five years without a violation of water quality discharge standards. He said many plants will have 300 violations in a year.

By staying compliant and reducing energy and chemical consumption, Cocking said the district guards against the ever-growing trend of private sector takeover.

The plant has shifted pumping to off-peak demand hours for energy and has cut down on the amount of chemicals used to treat wastewater.

“It was nice a couple of years ago but it becomes much more critical now to run a tight ship as far as energy consumption,” Cocking said. “When you’re a public agency you’re ripe for privatization, so we operate more like a private company.”

Lee said one of the reasons the district operates so efficiently for the community is most of the employees, including himself and Cocking, are lifelong residents.

Lee is a 15-year employee, working his way up the ranks.

“I can speak for all of us that the work we’re doing is helping to protect the environment that is very dear to us,” he said.

STPUD is now being judged with other state winners for a Western states regional award. The regional winner will be announced this summer and will then compete for the Environmental Protection Agency’s national award, which the district won in 1994.

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