Council Pays Tribute to Hermiston Recycled Water Department

The members of the city's Recycled Water Department were recognized Monday for the work they do. (Screenshot)

The Hermiston City Council gave special recognition Monday night to the staff of the city’s Recycled Water Department for its role in protecting the public health, economy, and environment.

Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan thanked the 11 members of the department for the work they do every day which he said is a “critical function in protecting public health and the environment while providing a bedrock service which supports all aspects of our growing local and regional economy.”

The city’s wastewater treatment plant was one of the first to recycle wastewater for reuse.

Morgan gave a brief explanation of how the plant operates. The system collects all household, commercial, and industrial waste which mixes with water and goes down the drain anywhere within the city. From there, that waste travels through more than 77 miles of publicly maintained sewer main spread across 37 basins serving more than 3,300 acres and more than 20,000 residents and businesses. “Our staff works daily to ensure that all of the fats, oils, greases, and other inappropriate items which make their way into the system, like tree roots, don’t cause blockages which could back up in to homes, businesses, streets, or local streams,” said Morgan.

“In addition to cleaning and maintaining lines, our staff works every day to maintain the nine lift stations spread throughout the community,” he said. “These crucial pumps and motors require constant attention to move the waste through the collection system to the Recycled Water Treatment Plant.”

Once the waste reaches the treatment plant, Morgan said the staff performs a highly unique, complex, and important process to transform the more than 1.2 million gallons into recycled water. Those 1.2 million gallons come to it every day from “wastewater,” which could otherwise cause harm to people, plants, animals, and property who may come in to contact with it.

“Our innovative treatment process requires the focus of our highly-skilled staff in performing dozens of chemical, biological, and mechanical treatment functions which results in “Class-A” recycled water,” Morgan said. That recycled water is then supplied to local irrigators to support the agricultural economy in the summertime, and discharged to the Umatilla River in the wintertime in a form clean enough for human consumption,” said Morgan.

“Our staff have always performed these functions day in and day out, rain or shine, whether it’s 118 degrees, or minus 18 degrees, and now even through a global pandemic,” Morgan said. “Our operators were among 40 wastewater utilities across Oregon to partner with the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon State University to collect more than 15,000 influent wastewater samples throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

The members of the department honored Monday night were:

  • Ron Bert, lab technician
  • Robert Curry, operator
  • Donald Dutcher, chief operator
  • James Hankinson III, operator
  • Roberto Herrera, operator
  • Donna Landreth-Phillips, general clerical
  • Rachel Muniz, operator
  • Jesus “Chuy” Perches, operator
  • Kent Schnell, operator
  • Bill Schmittle, superintendent
  • Tom Wiley, operator

Mayor Dave Drotzmann thanked each of them for the work they do.

“You guys go unrecognized and are often an afterthought in the process,” he said. “It’s an extremely valuable service. I brag about our system all the time across the state.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here