Brad Alcorn

Every year, the Water Industry Operators Association celebrates the best of the industry with its Operator of the Year awards. We spoke with 2018/2019 winners from around the country, all of whom have demonstrated excellent performance, initiative and all-round attention to detail in their roles as operators of water or wastewater treatment facilities.

Adam Panozzo, Victorian Operator of the Year

Adam Panozzo

Adam Panozzo, North East Water – Victorian Operator of the Year

My current role is as a Treatment Technician within our Systems Optimisation group, which involves process optimisation, troubleshooting and/or modification of our treatment processes as well as installation, maintenance and calibration of equipment such as inline water quality analysers and chemical dosing systems. I also provide operators with
back-up and assistance in their day-to-day operations.

A typical work day for me usually involves quite a bit of driving to get to the many sites we have! I could be working on the optimisation of a water treatment plant (WTP) which has chemical dosing issues or dirty raw water in the catchment, stripping and rebuilding dosing pumps, calibrating water quality instruments or working alongside other treatment technicians, operators or contractors on plant upgrades and modifications.

Some of the recent innovations I’ve seen at North East Water include the use of drones to conduct inspections of water storages, negating the need to climb ladders and work at heights.

More generally in the water industry, I’ve noticed the use of less invasive excavation methods (e.g. hydro vacs vs excavators) to locate underground assets and the increasing use of technology in online instrumentation, such as radio-frequency identification scanning and Bluetooth compatible units.

The sheer amount of different equipment and options available to the water industry and operators now is also impressive.

The main challenge I face in my role is climate variability impacting on our source water and treatment processes more frequently due to fires, floods and droughts.

We must ensure that we have robust processes, procedures and infrastructure to deal with this increasing variability. Another challenge is ensuring our processes continue to meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines into the future as the guidelines become tighter.

I love working in the operations side of the water industry because I get to work outdoors in fantastic country, on a number of different issues/projects simultaneously, with operators from around our region. I also enjoy the variety of problems, issues and challenges that come my way.

Danny Roberts, NSW operator of the year

Danny Roberts

Danny Roberts, Port Macquarie Hastings Council – NSW Operator of the Year

I’m currently a Water Treatment Supervisor, coordinating a team of six WTP Operators and two trainees. In addition to managing four Membrane Water Treatment Plants, one Recycled Water Treatment Plant, four re-chlorination sites and one fluoridation site, I coordinate NSW Health compliance sample runs, manage projects and upgrades, and develop Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

My typical workday involves SCADA control, monitoring and trend analysis, coordination of tasks to water process staff, liaising with contractors, internal trades staff and Council customers, strategic planning, and project works
and commissioning.

Some recent innovations I have seen in the operations side of the water business involve the emergence of digital technologies, such as the modernisation of SCADA and remote control of WTPs, and the use of app-based data management systems.

I have also seen advances in membrane and reverse osmosis technologies, the introduction of closed loop flow and residual trim control in disinfection systems and trials of ice pigging and NODES cleaning systems in the water delivery network.

There have also been improvements in the planning and process for new water mains disinfection.

The main challenge I face as an operator in the water industry is keeping up with changes in technology; support from industry associations, specialist suppliers and Council’s technical staff helps me do this. Other challenges include managing water quality and managing my team and their workloads, which is achieved with support from the relevant management teams.

I love working in the operations side of the water industry because it is diverse and requires a wide range of skills, and provides essential services to the community.

I enjoy working with my team to find innovative ways to improve systems and solve daily challenges, as well as the opportunity to get out and about in the beautiful area I live in.

Brad Alcorn, South Australian Operator of the Year

Brad Alcorn

Brad Alcorn, SA Water – South Australian Operator of the Year

In a nutshell, my role involves monitoring the water and wastewater networks in the outback town of Leigh Creek in far north SA, including fielding customer enquiries and assessing water meter and water main leaks and repairs.

I’m also extremely fortunate that I get to work alongside my son Joel, who helps service the water and wastewater network in Leigh Creek.

A typical day involves starting with manual checks of the wastewater lagoons to ensure the aerators and flow levels are operating as normal for our customers, before doing any required network operations tasks or repairs to maintain the reliability of the network.

I also help maintain a small number of smart water meters installed in Copley and Lyndhurst, which help us to best manage the water network in the two small townships.

The largest challenge I have faced so far with SA Water has been learning how to manage the water networks for our customers in Copley and Lyndhurst, given my previous experience was solely in Leigh Creek.

It has taken a while to learn and understand the ins and outs of the intricate network which changed to SA Water management in 2018, but I have embraced the challenge and enjoyed maintaining the network for more than 70 additional customers in the two townships.

I love working in the operations side of the water industry because I really enjoy getting to ply my trade every day, knowing that the work we are doing is delivering essential services to the local region and is important to the health and wellbeing of the wider community.

As an added bonus, getting to spend my career alongside my son as the two-person team in Leigh Creek and seeing him develop over the years is also very rewarding.

I’m extremely proud to be recognised for this award and the work we do for our customers in Leigh Creek and the surrounding regions.

I wasn’t expecting to pick up the award, so being able to be recognised for my work has been a real feather in my cap, and I look forward to furthering my professional career in the industry.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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