Every year, the Water Industry Operators Association of Australia (WIOA) presents the Operator of the Year award to an outstanding operator, recognising excellent performance, initiative and all round attention to detail. In April, the NSW Operator of the Year was awarded to David Cashen, Bulk Water Supply Supervisor at Bathurst Regional Council.

Mr Cashen has been a supervisor at Bathurst Water Filtration Plant for nearly a decade and has worked with the Council for 23 years. He is a fully trained Water Filtration Plant operator and motor mechanic who ‘lives and breathes’ Water Filtration.

During his time working at the Water Filtration Plant, Mr Cashen has been involved in everything from coordinating multimillion dollar upgrades, to conducting tours for school groups. His idea to add water injection to the flocculation chamber channel has allowed for greater mixing and improved its settling ability in sedimentation but also stops sludge accumulation in the channel from turning anaerobic and reducing
water quality.

David Cashen (L) from Bathurst Regional Council was named NSW Operator of the year at the NSW Water Industry Operations Conference at Tamworth in April.

Mr Cashen said his current role as Bulk Water Supply Supervisor for the Council is a challenging and changing role.

“As technology and processes improve you have to be able to adapt to new methods but also be able to understand and direct my staff to be the best they can be while still maintaining quality, and also very importantly value for our ratepayers money,” he said.

“My expertise does not only relate to running and managing the Water Filtration Plant but is far more diverse when you add in both supply dams, pump stations and approximately 34 reservoirs spread out over the Bathurst area.

“Part of my day-to-day tasks involve liaising with local contractors, businesses, sales reps on new products and equipment, and of course answering the public’s questions relating to water quality.”

The Bathurst Water Filtration Plant
The Water Filtration Plant is designed to treat raw water to remove undesirable material, and make it fit and safe for drinking.

The raw water is lifted into the plant by four 11m-long pumps which are installed on a platform beside the river. The water is delivered into a pit chamber where chemicals are added and the mixture agitated by a propeller-type ‘Flash Mixer’ before it is distributed into one of three flocculation tanks. From here, the water moves to the sedimentation tanks where any large particles settle to the bottom under gravity.

A sludge rake is used to collect the settled particles, or sludge, and pushes it towards hoppers at one end. It is then released into the sludge lagoons where it dries and is removed.

Once the heavier floc has settled, the water passes through sand filters to collect smaller particles. The filtered water then drops into underground concrete water tanks, where it is pH corrected, treated with Chlorine and Fluoride.

The water is then pumped from the underground tanks into the town’s water supply system. To supplement the use of pumps, water is held in reservoirs located at high points in the system where it is then fed out to maintain pressure in the system when the pumps are not in use.

The plant has a complex control and monitoring system, allowing the equipment to be operated automatically or manually from a central control area, and a telemetry system complements the original electrical control system.

Mr Cashen said his job requires him to complete various tasks on a day-to-day basis to ensure the plant equipment is maintained and working efficiently to ensure the water produced meets Australian Drinking Water Standards.

“A typical work day involves facts and figures, from checking what has been consumed over the previous 24 hours, to quality testing on the day. Paperwork is also a big job because there is so much to check, repair and/or replace, and all this needs to be documented, ordered and of course paid for,” Mr Cashen said.

“Chemicals that we need to treat the river water to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) 2011 and to comply with Council’s own CCP’s (Critical Control Points ) for quality fit for consumption need to be maintained and stock rotated. Maintenance is also a major part of our day-to-day activities to keep things running smoothly.”

A changing workplace
Mr Cashen said there have been a number of recent innovations that the plant has adopted, and it is import that frequent training occurs to ensure everyone is aware of and knows how to use new technology and methods.

“Recent innovations that we have adopted are WiFi for internal data communications, optic fibre which allows for previously off system treatment units to be placed onto the network, allowing all operators to remotely monitor and adjust parameters.

“Online monitoring equipment which will automatically adjust chemicals based on certain quality parameters. On system (alarm/shut off) with adjustable set points, system processes with graphing availability and microwave link capabilities.

“One of the challenges with new technology is keeping up-to-date with current training and new innovations within the testing and monitoring fields. We overcome these by always upgrading our skills and having good networking programs using RISK EDGE, WIOA,TAFE NSW, Office of Water, DPI, EPA and also liaising with other Council operators around the region.”

Servicing the public
Despite the challenges that new innovations and technology brings, Mr Cashen said this was also one of the reasons he enjoys working as a water operator.

“I find it enjoyable that every day is different, from upgrading and designing new ways and methods, to researching new technologies. Providing good quality water to the public and having great pride in what we do makes the job.”

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