University water plant wins Turbidity Optimization Award

Western Carolina University’s water plant received its fourth Turbidity Optimization Award from the North Carolina Division of Water Resources.

WCU water plant supervisor Kristy Maddy (right) receives the Turbidity Optimization Award from Kimberly Powers, environmental engineer at the Asheville regional office of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

The water plant was one of nine facilities in Western North Carolina to receive the award for 2016 and one of 49 from across the state. The facilities had to stay under goal limits for turbidity in the filtered and settled water 95 percent of the time. The goals are set by the North Carolina Area Wide Optimization Program.

“It’s kind of hard work because you have to work toward it all year long,” said WCU water plant supervisor Kristy Maddy. “You have to constantly watch the water and do the tests. It’s an accomplishment we’re all very proud of. We’re doing testing all day long. We take samples to see what the turbidity is in the settled and the filtered water.”

Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by large numbers of individual particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye. The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality. Maddy said the hardest part in remaining under the limits comes in the winter when air wants to get trapped in the water.

“It’s difficult because sometimes the air is read as turbidity, so that makes it more difficult to stay within the goal limits,” Maddy said. “It’s harder to get the turbidity to settle out during the colder months.”

WCU also won the award in 2002, 2012 and 2014. Plant operators contributing to the award are Martin Brow, David Ross and Pete McNeely.