Congratulations to the Kawerau District Council Water team who won the annual IXOM Operations Award at the Water New Zealand Conference and Expo in Hamilton recently.

The award was for the team’s “resourceful solutions-oriented focus to improve their processes and operational outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The team comprises Riaan Nel, Wayne Brooking, Brett Cole, John Bremner and Glenn Penny.

The award recognised the team’s hardworking initiative under difficult conditions and ‘never say no’ work ethic and willingness to learn and develop new skills.

The past financial year was challenging for the team after ‘dirty water’ issue that stemmed from the chlorination of the district’s water supply. Led by Wayne Brooking the operator team built an air scouring system in their workshop and subsequently cleaned the district’s water reticulation system reducing dirty water complaints from 80 to less than two a month.

In early 2020, the small team operated all water plants during the COVID-19 lockdown, while training a new staff member and dealing with record water supply demand.

In addition, during the COVID-19 response, the team ensured compliance of the Wastewater Treatment Plant that accepts residential and industrial trade waste. The plant’s 10-year maintenance shut partly coincided with the lockdown and had the additional challenge of managing the industrial trade waste, which had been causing resource consent exceedances.

The team, led by new Engineer Riaan Nel, continued with the work in lockdown to ensure it was bought back to a compliant state. It was a huge undertaking that included evaluating each process and performance using plant design and historical data.

The shut entailed all the components being cleaned and serviced – some for the first time in 13 years. The shut also enabled some process changes including installing a polymer mixer which reduced the plant’s chemical usage by 40 percent. Optimising the processes also resulted in the bio-solids produced containing 20 percent less water.

Since the completion of the work in May 2020 the plant is in a fully compliant state and there were no resource consent exceedances recorded up to August.