SACO — Clean water is important to Howard Carter, the City of Saco’s wastewater treatment deputy director, and so is energy conservation.

Carter recently received the 2012 William G. Hatfield Award at the New England Water Environment Association annual conference. The award recognizes operators of wastewater plants who exhibit outstanding performance and professionalism.

As well, in 2011, Carter received the eco-excellence award from Ecomaine’s recycling committee. The award recognizes environmentally friendly initiatives of citizens, municipal and business employees.

“It’s a team effort,” said Carter.

About 2.4 million gallons of water from about 4,800 Saco residences and businesses goes through the plant on Front Street every day. Through a multi-step filtering and cleaning process, water is run through a series of holding tanks and waste products are removed, and finally, pumped into the Saco River.

“It’s very clean,” he said, of the final product.

Water at the plant goes through routine tests and must meet certain standards, and staff send regular reports to the state.

Typically, wastewater treatment facilities use a lot of energy, said Carter. About 3 percent of energy consumed in the country is used to operate water and wastewater treatment plants, said Carter.

Improvements have been made to the plant in recent years to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used and to conserve energy.

Outside the administrative building is a small wind turbine that generates about $70 of electricity a month. Rooms in the administration building are equipped with sky light tubes that stream in natural light. Not only does it save on energy costs, but it’s better for your eyes than fluorescent lighting, said Carter. Heat generated from a solar panel on the side of the building is drawn to a vent in the hallway ceiling.

Solar heat is also used to heat the headworks building, where dirt, sand, grit, paper products and the like are separated from water.

Effluent water is pumped through a geothermal system used to heat and cool the maintenance and processing buildings. The effluent water is warmer than the air in the winter and cooler than the air in the summer.

“With 21⁄2 million gallons of water going through every day, there’s plenty of water,” said Carter.

Over the last few years, the plant has reduced it annual oil consumption by 88 percent, said Carter.

Waste products are sent to New England Organics in Unity and made into Class A compost, which is suitable for public use, said Carter. Through an agreement with the company, the wastewater facility gets a load of compost every year. Some of the compost will be used in a garden city staff are cultivating on the grounds of the facility.

Carter is looking at other energy saving initiatives with the dream of one day being “off the grid.”

Mayor Mark Johnston said that Carter is very innovative and has moved forward on initiatives that other people are only talking about.

“He’s another example of a dedicated employee that Saco is lucky to have,” said Johnston.

Johnston said that Carter and his staff take a lot of pride in their work.

“The water that comes out of there is cleaner than the water you drink,” he said.

The plant is in line with the Saco’s goals as a green city, said Johnston, and he gives credit to city councils that supported Carter’s goals.

“It’s an unbelievable facility,” said Johnston. “I love showing the place off.”

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, Ext. 325 or [email protected].

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