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Dirty job? Wastewater treatment plant operator says it's a rewarding career

Dealing with what gets flushed down the toilet may not sound like a glamorous job, but Kevin Turner, a wastewater operator at the Scappoose Wastewater Treatment Plant, has found his niche.

Recently he was honored as “Wastewater Treatment Operator of the Year” by the Oregon Association of Water Utilities, a statewide association that lends support to wastewater treatment facilities.

“This is for us a key award, to show that we are developing our next leaders,” said Scappoose City Manager Jon Hanken. “For many people those are things that they never think about: When you flush a toilet or turn on a sink. Somebody’s there to make sure that it’s handled, that the water’s clean and meets all the standards.”

The following interview with Turner has been edited for space and clarity.

by: KATIE WILSON - Kevin Turner, Scappoose wastewater treatment operator, received an award recently for his work with the city's plant.

Q. How long have you been with the plant?

A. I’ve only been there five and a half years. I was in the Air Force and worked in loss prevention in California, then did my hobby wood-working for about 11 years. I just realized that wasn’t going to be my future, but never knowing what I really wanted to do.

Q. What about this job?

A. Before I got the job I never even thought of it. I just saw the ad in the paper, was looking for something different and applied. But there’s so much going on there. There’s stuff to learn all the time: microbiology, the pump mechanics, hydralics. It’s never-ending. There’s a lot of new technology coming out as well.

Q. What does your job look like?

A. We do lab work every day, keep the pumps running and just make sure everything that people send to us gets processed and clean water gets sent to the river. Citywide we don’t do just the minimum to meet our permit. We do above and beyond, planning for our future to make it as clean as we can.

Q. What happens to the sludge, the waste, after treatment?

A. We have our own field, 28-acres, that we apply it to. It’s farmed. We rotate wheat and clover on it.

Q. What does it mean to win this award?

A. You have to be in good standing with the organization and you have to show leadership, just people who are out there doing more than their everyday job.