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January 19, 2014

EPA webinar highlights Norman for environmental accomplishments

NORMAN — When people know their jobs count, they can make a difference. Starting in 2005, the city set a course to implement green strategies, in part by energizing employees in every department to look for ways to conserve energy, reduce waste, and make Norman more environmentally friendly.

The city’s Green Team is made up of city employees from every department, and nowhere have results been more successful than in the utility division.

On Thursday, Norman’s efforts were recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as the city was featured in a nationwide webinar.

“It’s a huge honor. There are thousands of wastewater treatment plants just in Oklahoma alone,” said Utilities Director Ken Komiske. “For them to pick us is an acknowledgment that Norman is proactive. We have the support of council and our customers. We couldn’t do it without them.”

The webinar highlighted Norman’s energy efficiency accomplishments and green initiatives which resulted in the reduction of an average monthly electric bill from $43,00 to $30,000.

Water Reclamation Facility Superintendent Steven D. Hardeman told webinar viewers that city green initiatives in 2007 caused utility employees to look at the energy management at the southside water reclamation facility — the city’s sewer plant.

Power is one of the highest expenditures at the plant which uses advanced secondary biological treatment of wastewater. Employees who work in the plant and have daily experience made some of the first power saving suggestions, then the city’s partnership with Garver Engineers resulted in more ideas and more savings.

Hardeman said that 63 percent of the operations and maintenance cost at the wastewater treatment plant is utility cost, and 85 percent of the electric used is spent at the aeration basin.

Microbes clean Norman’s wastewater, eating harmful bacteria and other waste products so that the reclaimed water can be released into the river where nature finishes off the job of cleaning and filtering the water. Just like human beings, those microbes need oxygen to survive and the more they work, the more oxygen they use.

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