03/15/2017: BY BRIAN WILSON
NEWS EDITOR - The Star News
When it comes to city services success is measured by if clean water comes out when a faucet is turned on and waste goes away when toilets are flushed. As with most things, making sure that happens every hour of every day is a bit more complicated. This is especially true when it comes to handling waste. Medford has a population of about 4,500 people, but with the schools, industry and shopping, the service population of the city is closer to 8-10,000 people every day. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each person on average either directly or indirectly generates about 100 gallons of wastewater each day. These gallons add up and it is the job of the operators at the Medford Wastewater Treatment Facility on Whelen St. to treat it, remove the solids and release the treated water back into the Black River. Keeping the plant running smoothly and within state and federal parameters takes hard work and dedication. The city of Medford takes this work seriously and it shows with the plant and its operators being recognized as some of the best in the state. Tim Pernsteiner recently joined the ranks of current and former plant operators in receiving the Wisconsin Wastewater Operators Association (WWOA) “Operator of the Year” award for 2016. According to Ben Brooks, superintendent of the Medford Wastewater Treatment utility, in order to receive the award, an operator must be nominated and then the WWOA board decides who to recognize. Pernsteiner is the third operator at the Medford plant to receive the recognition. Brooks and city coordinator John Fales are past recipients. This shows a decades-long ongoing commitment to professional wastewater treatment plant operations. For Pernsteiner, the commitment to ensuring the water coming out of the plant is as clean as possible is a very personal one. “I like to know that the walleye people fish out of the river are good to eat,” he said. Pernsteiner is himself a fisherman who enjoys fishing in the Black River in Medford. “The number of species of fish found in the river is amazing,” Brooks said. He explained that the plant is currently in the process of virtually eliminating all phosphorus in the discharge, the plant is already well below the level allowed under its operating permits. As part of the process, the Department of Natural Resources did a fish count study to determine the health of the river and found numerous species including ones such as trout that are indicative of a healthy river ecosystem. Brooks praised the work done by Pernsteiner and other members of the wastewater treatment facility for their efforts.