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DES MOINES – A DNR supervisor calls them, “The angels of our communities.”
Governor Reynolds honors them, proclaiming Aug. 16 to 22 as Water and Wastewater Workers of Iowa Week. The Governor urges Iowans to recognize the valuable role clean water plays in the lives of all Iowans this coming week.
The professionals who train and learn to operate Iowa’s 1,822 public water supplies and 814 wastewater facilities can be easily overlooked. But, to Jessica Montana, supervisor of the DNR’s southwest Iowa field office, “These are angels in a community.”
“As essential workers during COVID-19, they’ve demonstrated their dedication and willingness to do anything—even put their lives on the line—to provide safe drinking water and protect Iowa’s natural resources,” said Laurie Sharp, DNR’s operator certification coordinator.
This dedication to public health and environmental protection is nothing new for this resourceful workforce. When flooding closed Interstate 29 and Highway 2 in southwest Iowa in March of 2019, towns along the Missouri River struggled to provide safe drinking water and effective wastewater treatment.
As floodwaters encroached on Hamburg and Glenwood, the towns drilled emergency wells to bring drinking water and wastewater services back online. It was essential to test water from potential wells.
“DNR was collecting many samples to evaluate the quality of water from each emergency well,” said Montana. Delivering samples to the University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory in Ankeny took about three hours. When the city of Council Bluffs stepped in to analyze water samples in their certified lab, it saved DNR field staff many hours.
Operators working with the Iowa Rural Water Association also assisted DNR by providing tools and technical assistance between communities. “It was an incredible team effort that helped DNR staff direct their energy to flooding efforts,” Montana added.
“The dedication of water and wastewater professionals in each of these communities was humbling,” she said. “Operators in Glenwood and Hamburg worked around the clock, literally, to get the systems back online quickly.”
Iowa has 2,642 certified water operators and 1,771 certified wastewater operators.
“These frontline professionals have once again, in dealing with this week’s storm, earned a kudos for their resourcefulness,” Sharp added. Please thank an operator for the work they do to provide safe drinking water and properly treated wastewater in your community.