Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater Operations Superintendent Bob Soltis or “Aqua Bob” as he is affectionately known throughout his service area, is incredibly passionate about his work at the 14 Aqua wastewater plants he oversees in Northeast Pennsylvania. In fact, one could say Soltis eats, sleeps and eventually drinks wastewater. He holds Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection class A and E wastewater licenses, and subclasses 1, 2, 3 and 4, which equate to the highest operations licensure available in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“The wastewater we discharge has to be clean and clear or I can’t sleep at night,” said Soltis. “Somebody, somewhere is going to eventually drink this water, whether it is an animal, a human, or the aquatic life in the receiving waters!”
By cleaning wastewater for discharge into streams, or for reuse like irrigation, water treatment plants speed up the natural process of water purification. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency considers wastewater treatment one of the most common forms of pollution control. Because of this, Soltis considers his number one job to be one of the greatest examples of environmental stewardship.
“Aqua acquired the Washington Park treatment plant about five years ago. Before we took over operations, the water was so dirty that the entire stream was devoid of any life,” said Soltis. “Now, there is vibrant plant and animal life living around the stream and that is a testament to Aqua’s dedication to putting out quality water.”
(Above) Original Washington Park wastewater treatment facility.
(Below) New Washington Park wastewater treatment facility near completion.
Treating wastewater presents a set of challenges that are completely different from those faced when processing drinking water. Not only is it technically, physically and financially more difficult to operate these plants, but treating wastewater is a biological, chemical, and mechanical process that requires constant vigilance from operators.
“The nutrients and the raw sewage entering the plant changes hourly and we are constantly monitoring the wastewater,” said Soltis. “We do some testing, but being able to do an empirical assessment of what is happening during the treatment process – what the wastewater looks and smells like – and making proper adjustments based on that is what makes the water Aqua discharges great.”
Over his 10 years at Aqua Pennsylvania, Soltis has managed the complete overhauls of several wastewater plants acquired by Aqua including Masthope, Bunker Hill, Washington Park, Laurel Lakes, River Crest, Pine Crest and Lake Harmony. Each treatment plant now runs incredibly efficiently.
“I take great pride in my work, but the spotlight really belongs on my operators and wastewater treatment plants,” said Soltis. “The performance of each treatment plant is a team effort. I cannot accomplish anything I do on my own and that’s what makes this organization shine.”