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First Utility District of Knox County Honored for Its Drinking Water Performance

Tuesday, April 06, 2021 | 02:38pm

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has honored the First Utility District of Knox County for its performance in meeting drinking water goals in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program.

TDEC awarded the utility district with a certificate recognizing its success in meeting program goals for its performance managing disinfection byproducts. The program is part of the EPA’s Area-Wide Optimization Program (AWOP), an initiative administered in Tennessee by TDEC’s Division of Water Resources.

“The First Utility District of Knox County has earned this recognition with its commitment to clean drinking water and quality service,” Greg Young, deputy commissioner of TDEC, said. “We are pleased to honor its team for its hard work in this area.”

Disinfection byproducts form when chlorine disinfection and organic matter combine. Water systems can limit disinfection byproduct by limiting organic matter at both the water treatment plant and in the distribution system. The utility district met both short-term and long-term optimization goals for the AWOP program.

AWOP provides technical assistance and resources to systems that have water quality issues or simply want to enhance water quality. The First Utility District of Knox County has excelled in its own right, but TDEC provides AWOP tools to further assist them in optimizing the water system and consults with them in areas where the utility thinks it could improve.

“At the end of the day, we all want clean water not just for ourselves but for our neighbors, our friends and our families,” Young added. “TDEC is a resource in this effort, not just a regulator, and we are happy to have played a role in helping the First Utility District of Knox County achieve its goals.”

The First Utility District of Knox County is one of Tennessee’s largest water and wastewater utility districts, serving over 36,500 customers. Its staff engages in public outreach by attending schools and other public events to educate customers about water quality. The utility district becomes an inaugural member of the Tennessee AWOP program, along with the South Blount County Utility District, which was also recently honored for its performance.   

The Area-Wide Optimization Program is a multistate effort where states work together to optimize particle removal and disinfection capabilities of surface water treatment plants. The program provides tools and approaches for drinking water systems to meet water quality goals and provide an increased, sustainable, level of public health protection to consumers. 

The national AWOP program is implemented in more than 20 states, with the goal of optimizing and improving the treatment of drinking water. TDEC became a member of the program in 2019, joining five other states in the Southeast in EPA’s Region IV. The First Utility District of Knox County and the South Blount County Utility District participated, submitting water quality data to TDEC and achieving national goals.