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RMW - May 2017

18 | ROCKY MOUNTAIN WATER MAY 2017 FEATURE RETROSPECTIVE AND PERSPECTIVE INTERVIEW with Mary Gardner Past Industrial Pretreatment Administrator and Environmental Compliance Manager, Littleton/Englewood Waste Water Treatment Plant By Tanja Rauch-Williams, Ph.D., P.E. WASTEWATER WAS NOT YOUR first career choice. What did you do before joining the Littleton/Engle-wood Waste Water Treatment Plant? I grew up in Indiana. In 1972, I visited friends in Colorado when I took a summer off from college to travel. I decided then that I wanted to work in a medical lab. I got my associate’s degree in medical lab technology from Arapahoe Community College and then worked in bacteriology and serology at St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver for three-and-a-half years. What motivated you to change your field of work? I loved the work in the hospital but it was very stressful. It was about life or death every day. There was also a strong hierarchy between doctors, nurses, and lab staff. I liked working in labs but started looking for a different field when I came across a newspaper ad for a position in wastewater. I was hired by the Littleton/Englewood Waste Water Treatment Plant (L/E WWTP) and it set me on a whole new path. In wastewater, we have so many different people working together—blue collar, white collar, people with differ-ent educational degrees. I enjoyed that. When I started, we were implementing secondary treatment when many facilities still just had primaries. Later on we were one of the first facilities to implement ter-tiary treatment in Colorado. It was thrill-ing to come together and figure out how to make our treatment work. After six years of working in the lab at L/E, I was able to get my bachelor’s degree in technical management. Right at that time when I was ready to move into a new position, the industrial pretreatment program was opened up. Did L/E not have a pretreatment program before that? The program was established quite a bit before that time, but now EPA was putting administrative orders out to facilities that had not yet set a pretreatment system up. L/E was one of them. Littleton and Englewood both had their own small programs and now these were to be combined into a single centralized position. I applied, got the position, and stayed in it for 17 years. What memories do you have from the first years in your new role? I started out working with Black and Veatch who trained me on inspections and where to sample. They wrote a pro-gram for us. I did a lot of work for about two years before we added another person. Having to do all the fieldwork and having one-on-one experience with manufacturers and businesses was an education you cannot get sitting at your desk. I was directed by my manager and totally agreed that this needed to be a pragmatic program. These are our busi-nesses in town. I loved finding a balance between enforcing regulations and work-ing with businesses to help educate them. As a regulator you think: “Here are the regs and I am going to tell these people what to do.” But until you walk into a manufacturing company, even a small business, you have a preconceived idea of what they should be doing. It humbles you when you realize you have no idea how they operate. I had a small role with them—to apply regulations and assure compliance. However, they educated me so much on what their industry did. Once I understood their operation, it was easy to apply the regulations in a reasonable fashion. Every single business is different, and I found that almost everyone was willing to do what they had to do within reason. We definitely had to enforce the regulations, and we did have a variety of enforcement cases, but most industries wanted to do the right thing. Did you notice a shift in industries in L/E over the years? Initially, we had many metal manufactur-ers in Littleton and Englewood. Gradually they either contracted out their finishing work or left and moved to countries with cheaper labor. I believe the pretreat-ment regulations contributed to this to a certain degree because a business will look at the bottom line and move to a place where production is cheaper or find another facility already doing the work. Englewood and Littleton still have some manufacturing, especially small facilities, but the growth has been in technology, service, some research, and other non-water contact manufacturing. Under your guidance, L/E’s pretreatment program grew into a successful example for others in the state. What advice did you give to your staff?


RMW - May 2017
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