Operator, student honored with rural water awards

Two Homer residents have been honored by the Alaska Rural Water Association.

At its 14th Annual Training Conference in Anchorage in October, the association named Jerry Lawver of Homer the “Water Operator of the Year” for an area with a population of more than 1,000 and chose Fiona Hatton, a third-grade student from McNeil Canyon Elementary School, as one of three student winners in a water conservation poster contest.

Lawver is certified with the state of Alaska as a Level III Water Treatment Operator and Level II Wastewater Treatment Operator. He has 26 years of experience in the water-wastewater field, 22 of those years in Alaska and 21 of those years with the city of Homer.

Todd Cook, city of Homer treatment plant superintendent, said Lawver is the lead operator of the largest ultrafiltration plant in Alaska, and was part of the original crew when the plant was put into operation.

“Jerry has been very helpful in passing his knowledge on by training new operators on the system,” said Cook, who nominated Lawver for the award. “He has probably forgotten more about this plant than most operators will ever know. He is the ‘go-to guy’ in the wastewater department.”

Describing Lawver as a “team player that is appreciated by his coworkers,” Cook said Lawver is always looking for ways to optimize the operation to run as efficiently as possible.

“He is polite, courteous and friendly with the public and anyone else he has contact with,” said Cook.

Homer’s wastewater treatment plant was a one-of-a-kind in North America until August, when Dawson City, Yukon, installed a similar plant. Its in-the-ground tanks give it a small footprint and make it more suited to extreme climates. 

“(Lawver) is the only operator left that was here during the start up of our wastewater plant which was in 1991,” said Cook. “He had the challenge of learning a completely new type of treatment process in America with very few resources for help or information. He is responsible for training our newest operators also. He is an asset both to the Public Works Department and the city of Homer.”

The colorful poster designed by Fiona Hatton was one of 76 total entries in three divisions: grades K-2, grades 3-5 and grades 6-8. The theme was “Every Drop Counts” and posters were to promote water conservation. 

Hatton’s teacher, Melon Purcell, said the class had studied the water cycle, talked about water conservation and then the whole class submitted entries in the poster competition.

“Fiona is a very bright student who works quietly and thinks deeply,” said Purcell. “She is a careful, but very colorful artist. Art is part of every assignment she hands in, even if it is not expected.”

The posters were displayed at the ARWA conference. Votes from conference attendees selected one winner from each division. Each of the winning students will receive a $100 savings bond and school supplies for the young artists’ classrooms. The supplies are being sponsored by ARWA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office in Alaska.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

Fiona Hatton

Fiona Hatton