September 14, 2021
Recognized nationally for their expertise in protecting municipal drinking water supplies and systems, the City of Portsmouth Department of Public Works Water Division received the Distinguished Public Involvement Award from the New England Water Works Association (NEWWA) “for outstanding achievements, leadership, commitment and support of professional, proactive public relations efforts.” The award was presented during the NEWWA annual meeting, September 7-10, 2021.
In presenting the award, New England Water Works Vice President James DeCelles (below, left) and NEWWA Board member Thomas LeCourt (below right, with DPW Deputy Director Brian Goetz in center) recognized the City of Portsmouth “for demonstrative leadership in creating public education and information programs around emerging contaminants and drought management. Under the leadership of the Deputy Director and Water Supply Operations Manager, the City of Portsmouth has led Southern New Hampshire and New England through two challenging threats - PFAS contamination and drought.”
Detailing the specifics, NEWWA said, “Since 2014 staff have worked tirelessly to promote solutions and share information regarding PFAS monitoring, treatment, public education and drought management response. In 2014 when PFAS compounds were identified in three major wells supplying the City-managed Pease International Tradeport drinking water system, the Portsmouth DPW Water Department embarked on a campaign to educate the public, regulators and other water utilities in New England on methods to remove PFAS from drinking water. This education program included work groups with New Hampshire DES, the EPA and the Air Force Civil Engineering Center, to evaluate the extent of the contamination. The city implemented emergency treatment while piloting cutting-edge ion exchange technology for future treatment consideration. Results of their efforts were shared with citizen groups, the regulators and the Air Force. as well as with members of NEWWA and NH Water Works. During the same period, southern NH experienced extreme drought conditions. The City Water Department convened meetings with other coastal community water systems to develop drought mitigation strategies and discuss opportunities to share water resources -- strategies which resulted in the protection of their water resources and a sustained production rate, regardless of the water quality and quantity threats.”
During the NEWWA conference, Department of Public Works Deputy Director Brian Goetz and DPW Water Resources Manager Al Pratt also presented a case study, “City of Portsmouth Keeps the Water Flowing During Major Treatment Plant Upgrade.” In 2019, the City began construction of an upgraded multi-process treatment system to address the PFAS discovered in the drinking water. The new treatment system was constructed in the existing treatment building and required close collaboration with Water Department Operations staff to ensure that water customers’ needs were being met while construction continued. The presentation detailed how the team approach among all stakeholders was able to bring the new treatment system on line in Spring 2021.
Established in 1882, the New England Water Works Association is a membership organization for those working or interested in the drinking water profession. Headquartered in Holliston MA, the association brings together water utilities, consultants, manufacturers, vendors, regulators, academics and other interested parties to network, educate and advocate. The NEWWA vision is “to inspire excellence in the drinking water profession, public confidence in tap water, and water resource stewardship. The NEWWA mission is “to promote public health, safety, quality of life and environmental stewardship through education/training, advocacy and outreach relating to safe drinking water, and to advance the membership in partnership with the American Water Works Association.”