TORRINGTON – With just under two months to go in his career, Torrington Water Department Senior Operator Jeff Craig received one of the best send-offs he could have ever gotten.
Last week, at the Wyoming Rural Water Conference in Casper, Craig received the 2019 Louise Cordova Award, which recognizes outstanding commitment to Wyoming water and sewer utilities. The award will stay in Torrington until next year’s conference, when a new name will be added to the trophy. When it goes on to its new home, and its next home and the next, Craig’s name is permanently etched on it, alongside some of the most influential contributors to Wyoming water utility.
It’s an honor to be there, Craig said.
“All of these people were really influential in helping out,” Craig said. “It’s really neat to get it. It’s neat that they do that every year because it recognizes the people who work on it.”
Craig is set to retire from the City of Torrington in the near future – he’s got the date down, as his co-workers made a long paper chain, with each link indicating a day. Each day, Craig tears off another link. When all of those links are gone, Water Utility Department Head Tom Troxell will have to replace an operator with more than 18 years of experience who is licensed in water and wastewater treatment, distribution, collections, and ASSE backflow tester/surveyor.
According to Troxell, Craig left his mark on the industry when it came to training operators.
“One of the reasons is because he has been very influential in training, not only the people who work for Torrington, but other operators throughout the state. He has done training classes at water conference.
“This isn’t an easy gig. You pull someone in off the street that left high school a while ago, and we have to get them licensed through the State of Wyoming. To get licensed, you have to take tests. These tests have math questions, hydraulics, treatment – all sorts of different things. Right now, I’ve got two employees who are working on a correspondence book three inches thick just to get one license.”
During his time in the field, Craig served nine years on the Wyoming Water Quality board. According to him, that was one of the highlights of his career.
“That was a great experience for me and I enjoyed the heck out of it,” Craig said. “I got to go to meetings a few times during the year and I got to be gone for a week during the actual conference. I got paid for it, got to hang out with other operators, it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.”
Craig also devised a flushing process for the city’s reverse osmosis water treatment system that saved the city some tax dollars and made the whole operation run a little more efficiently. The system used to be flushed with well water, but according to Troxell, Craig figured out a way to use RO treated water to flush the system. That idea was huge, Toxell said.
“At the treatment plant, I could show you things he designed and made both on the telemetry side in the controls for the water treatment plant,” Troxell said. “Jeff suggested a treatment with RO treatment. We were the first in the industry with reverse osmosis treatment to implement to this RO flush. Now it’s starting to take off nationwide
“What has happened since we implemented is that is has extended the life of the membranes. It has saved us money. It has been huge.”
Making the water treatment process run more smoothly has been fun, Craig said, and he’ll miss it when he hangs it up in a few weeks.
“It’s been a lot of fun working and being a part of it and coming up with ideas,” Craig said.
“All of these guys who have been here have been here a long time. We’ve all licensed up really well and it has just been a unique experience. I never would have dreamed I would have gotten into this line of work. I never would have thought about it.”
That said, he’s excited for life after the water department.
“Of course, I’ll miss it, but then again, I’ll have a lot more time to do the things I like to do,” Craig said. “I have a lot of hobbies I like to do and a lot of around-the-house things I want to do. I will stay busy.”