Filed under: Water Resources

Water and Public Works crews gear up for NC811 “Call Before you Dig!” changes

digging
The City of Asheville’s partnership with NC811 is a great way to keep people safe from injury and reduce damage to underground utilities by encouraging people to “Call Before You Dig.” Residents can call “811” and a technician will mark the underground utilities before digging begins.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has declared April 2014 as “Safe Digging Month,” and new legislation passed by the NC General Assembly goes into effect in October that increases accountability and the ability to track and find underground utilities. The City of Asheville is already preparing for the change.

In training session in April and May, the city’s Water Resources and Public Works Departments learned how the changes affect Asheville and the city’s performance as a partner with NC811.

811dig“We want the transition to be seamless, and for our people to have the information they need to perform at the highest level of professionalism,” says Water Resources Operations Manager Ivan Thomas.

In fact, Thomas says, crews are already implementing the changes described in presentations given by NC811 representative Mark Schuman.

“For years, the City of Asheville has been a great partner in spreading the message of NC811: Always call before you dig, not only to protect you, but also the public. No job is ever too important to not take the time to perform safely,” Schuman says.

Stormwater Services Manager McCray Coates says the changes back up the level of professionalism the division strives for.

“One of the incoming requirements is that all new stormwater facilities be made locatable,” Coates says. “This is a move that helps everyone – us, residents, developers and NC811. So we are glad to be moving forward and putting the new legislation into action.”

If you are planning an outdoor improvement project, safety starts before the shovel hits the dirt. Underground utility lines can be anywhere and accidentally running into one while digging could result in service outages, fines or even injury. Simply call 811 and technicians will mark underground utilities like water, sewer, power or phone lines for free before you even break ground.

The City of Asheville Water Resources and Public Works Department participate alongside many other utility providers in the area as part of the NC811 One Call service to locate and mark underground utility lines on your property so you don’t have to dig in the dark.

For more information, go to www.nc811.org or to www.ashevillenc.gov.

Leave a Comment May 8, 2014

City of Asheville Water Resources Department Distributes 2013 Annual Water Quality Report

The City of Asheville’s Water Resources Department continues to deliver water that meets or exceeds federal water quality regulations, and an annual report currently being delivered to water customers displays the results of water quality testing.
Waterquality
Each year, the City of Asheville distributes its annual water quality report in water customers’ bills and posts it to the City of Asheville website. The report, mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, presents the types and concentrations of substances found in samples taken from both the water plant and locations throughout the service area. That level of transparency is especially valuable considering the importance of water quality to the community. The 2013 report going out during March and April shows that Asheville’s water supply is cleaner in all categories than required by EPA standards.

“We are always proud to share the water quality report with the community. We are fortunate to have Asheville’s pristine water resources as well as the employees who work hard to ensure that our customers receive excellent water quality every day,” said Stephen Shoaf, Director of the Water Resources Department.

The City of Asheville Water Resources Department operates three water treatment plants, 37 pump stations, and 32 reservoirs, and protects and manages a 22,000 acre watershed. The North Fork water treatment facility processes an average of 15 million gallons of water a day, while the Mills River and William DeBruhl plants produce about 3 million gallons a day. System wide, the City of Asheville Water Resources facilities process 20.5 gallons of water per day and service more than 123,000 customers.

The City of Asheville’s water quality is closely monitored on a daily basis by laboratory technicians who collect and analyze water both at the plant facilities and throughout the distribution system. Lab technicians collect roughly 120 samples per month from sample sites throughout Asheville and areas served by City of Asheville water. Asheville has a large distribution system, therefore Water Resources staff regularly monitor, sample and flush portions of the system to ensure high quality drinking water.

Each plant routinely analyzes the raw and finished water for temperature, turbidity, pH, chlorine, total and fecal coliform bacteria. Routine distribution sampling and analysis consists of: pH, alkalinity, temperature, chlorine, total and fecal coliforms. The EPA requires the analysis of various other constituents and all of those results were below limits set by the EPA.

This informative report provides details about the quality of the water provided to the city’s customers as well as the water sources and how it is treated. Customers can find the report in their next water bills or see it online here, and may expect an update of this report each year.

For further information or additional copies of the City of Asheville’s 2013 Annual Water Quality Report, call the City of Asheville Customer Services Division at (828) 251-1122.

Leave a Comment April 7, 2014

Asheville Fire Chief, Water Director tapped for top Professional Association roles

The City of Asheville is proud to announce that two of the organization’s top leadership have been recognized by professional associations as top practitioners in their field.

Image 6029 Burnette
Asheville Fire Department Chief Scott Burnette was awarded Career Fire Chief of the Year by the North Carolina Fire Chiefs Association at a Feb. 8 ceremony. This is the highest honor the NCFCA can bestow upon a member and speaks to the outstanding professionalism of Chief Burnette as well as the esteem with which he is held by his peers.

ImageShoaf
Water Resources Director Steve Shoaf was chosen by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) as vice-president of the international organization, which advocates and educates for clean water across the North American Continent. Shoaf has served as North Carolina Section Director since 2012 and is one of only five people chosen for the position by the organization’s board of directors. He was elected to the post on January 19.

“We are extremely proud of Scott and Steve for these well-earned positions,” said Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson. “This kind of recognition at the state and national level speaks not only to the quality of their professionalism and leadership, but also to the level of service the City of Asheville provides.”

Burnette joined the AFD in 1995 and was appointed Fire Chief in 2009. Under his leadership, the department has achieved Accredited Department Status, a status achieved by less than two percent of departments worldwide. Burnette oversees a department of 256 uniformed firefighters.

Shoaf Joined the City of Asheville in 2009 after serving as Utilities Director for the City of Burlington for 21 years. He has been an AWWA member since 1990 and has served three terms on the North Carolina Section of the AWWA board.

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Leave a Comment February 10, 2014

Water Resources employee receives state and national awards

A professional association dedicated to quality water services has recognized a City of Asheville Water Distribution Operator with back to back awards for outstanding efforts and contributions to water services.

Timothy Burdine, an 11-year employee of the city’s Water Resources Department, received awards from the North Carolina American Water Works Association and the North Carolina Water Environment Association (NC AWWA-WEA) as well as the AWWA’s national body.

Tim Burdine at the awards ceremony with NC AWWA-WEA Chair Jackie Jarrell.

Burdine was awarded the NC AWWA-WEA’s Water Operator of the Year Award and the AWWA’s Operator’s Meritorious Service Award Plaque at conference in Concord, NC earlier this month.

Water Maintenance Superintendent Ivan Thomas says that actions such as Burdine’s handling of traffic, communications and remediation after a recent water break on Swannanoa River Road cut off a major route for ambulances to Mission Hospital led to his nomination for the awards.

Burdine, Thomas says, also has impacted the department by standardizing operational procedures and upgrading them to utilize new technology, reducing water loss throughout the system.

“We are proud of Tim and the great work he does for Water Services,” Thomas said. “And these awards highlight the kind of dedication he brings to his job every day.”

Burdine supervises three work crews that head up construction projects, valve assessment and leak detection and recently oversaw two water construction projects replacing 700 linear feet of galvanized water lines with new pipe. This summer, he began attending Southwestern Community College.

Click here for more on the City of Asheville’s Water Resource Department.

Leave a Comment November 25, 2013

EPA recognizes Asheville water treatment plants for high quality

The City of Asheville water treatment plants at the North Fork and William DeBruhl reservoirs have been recognized for outstanding water quality by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

North Fork water reservoir

The North Fork water reservoir

Both plants exceeded EPA regulatory standards and achieved health and safety goals set by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources for optimized performance. Under the Area-Wide Optimization Program, water service providers like the City of Asheville can voluntarily participate in providing increased water quality, maintaining a lower level of turbidity (particulates in water) than required by the EPA.

Click here to see letters from the EPA.

“This shows we have a very good process in place, as well as an excellent water source,” says North Fork plant supervisor Bill Hart.

Under EPA regulations, water turbidity testing should reveal a maximum of 0.3 NTU. To comply with the AWOP program, finished water turbidity can test at no more than 0.1 NTU 95 percent of the time.

North Fork computersThe City of Asheville also exceeds testing requirements by analyzing its water every two hours instead of the required four hours.

“The City of Asheville is focused on providing water of excellent quality and superb customer service,” said Director of Water Resources Steve Shoaf. “It is nice to be recognized for the diligent work of our employees and the resulting service to our citizens.”

The City of Asheville operates three water treatment plants, supplying 20 million gallons per day to approximately 53,700 customers. The Water Resources Department is made up of 146 employees, including the city’s Customer Service Division.

For more information about the City of Asheville Water Resources Department, go to www.ashevillenc.gov.

More from the coablog:

You spot it, we fix it: City of Asheville launches Asheville App

City of Asheville offers email billing

Local middle school students tour City of Asheville Water Treatment Plant

Leave a Comment August 23, 2013

Heroism, accomplishments by city employees, recognized by Mayor and City Council

Six city employees were recognized by Asheville City Council at its August 13 meeting. Council thanked for their hard work, drive for improvement, and, in one case, heroism.

Darlene Barnwell, who works in the city’s Customer Service Division, received a standing ovation for her heroic rescue of an 8-year-old boy who was being attacked by dogs in a neighbor’s yard. In May, Barnwell was drawn away from a cookout she was hosting to assist in a search for the boy. When she found him in a neighbor’s yard being attacked by the dogs, she climbed a barbed wire fence, managed to distract the dogs, then pick up the boy and carry him out of the yard.

“We’re so proud of you Darlene,” said City Manager Gary Jackson. “And it touches our hearts that you would do that.”

Council also recognized Asheville Fire Department Battalion Chief Joy Ponder for completing the four-year National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program. Last year, while going through the program, Ponder became the AFD’s first female Battalion Chief.

The City’s Purchasing Manager Amy Patterson was congratulated for earning the title of Certified Local Government Purchasing Officer through the North Carolina School of Government. The certification means that Patterson and the City’s Purchasing Division are recognized as providers of efficient, fair and transparent business practices.

Darryl Rice, Rob Martin and Kevin Haughinberry of the City’s Fleet Division were recognized for completing specialized training and certification to inspect low-emission CNG vehicles in the city’s fleet. Their training saves the city time and money when using the low-emission vehicles.

Click the screen above to see a video of Council’s City of Asheville Employee Recognition from August 13.

Leave a Comment August 14, 2013

Water Services employee steps up for children’s charities

Last Friday, Brandon Buckner, the City of Asheville’s Meter Services Superintendent sat down before his peers (and a dubious looking set of pruning shears) and donated his hair to Locks of Love, the nonprofit that creates hair pieces for children who have lost their hair due to medical procedures, including treatments for cancer.

Buckner prepares to take the leap. Operation Manager Ron Kerns does the honors.

“There was a chance to get some recognition for these causes,” Buckner said. “I don’t know if there is a person who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way. And if we can provide something that will make these children feel better about themselves, that’s a good thing.”

Buckner also used the event to drum up donations for another good cause, challenging city employees to donate to the group Caring for Children, a locally-based nonprofit that serves abused and emotionally challenged children and nurtures families in need.

“It’s wonderful what these folks do for the kids,” Buckner said. At the event, he presented a check for $600 to the organization’s Executive Director John Lauterbach.

A freshly-shorn Buckner

“We can’t thank him enough for thinking about us,” Lauterbach said. “And to combine the thought of us with Locks of Love really touches my heart.”

Buckner has been with the City of Asheville Water Resources Department for 11 years and was recently featured in this article spotlighting the department’s efforts to convert the city of Asheville’s water meters to automatic meter readers. The upgrade improves customer service while reducing the time staff needs to collect information from meters.

For more information about groups mentioned or to find out how to donate, got to www.locksoflove.org or www.caring4children.org.

See video below for an interview with Brandon and footage of the main event!

Leave a Comment August 1, 2013

You spot it, we fix it: City of Asheville launches Asheville App

The City of Asheville is excited to announce the launch of the Asheville App, an easy-to-use online tool that allows users to notify the city about issues like water line leaks, potholes, or illegal dumping that need the city’s attention via smart phone or computer, then track the results.

“This is the kind of technology that really enhances connectivity in the city,” says Project Manager Eric LaRue. “We are always exploring ways to make it easy and efficient for people to interact with city government.”

Here’s how it works: Asheville App users who spot a problem submit a service request at www.ashevillenc.gov/ashevilleapp or on their smart phone using the downloadable app. Users can submit their location and even a picture of the problem spot. The Asheville App then sends the service request to the relevant city department personnel so they can quickly resolve the issue. A tracking tool allows users to monitor progress on the repair, and City employees can even communicate directly with users if they need further information. The app notifies the resident when the repair request has been completed.

The City of Asheville strives to provide excellent service in a timely and efficient manner, and the Asheville App will play an important role in fulfilling that goal.
“The ease of use of the Asheville App will not only give people more ways to relay information to us, it will also streamline our ability to respond to customer service needs,” says Customer Services Division Superintendent Florie Presnell.

The City of Asheville enlisted the services of PublicStuff (www.publicstuff.com), an innovative CRM software company, to create the app and digital communications solution. “We are excited to add Asheville to the PublicStuff family” Founder and CEO of PublicStuff Lily Liu said. “Asheville is a city with a rich cultural heritage and PublicStuff aims to work to provide an easy way for residents to stay in touch with their local government.”

The Asheville App can be found and downloaded at www.ashevillenc.gov/ashevilleapp.

1 Comment March 12, 2013

Answering the call: Customer service goes above and beyond

The City of Asheville Customer Service Division receives thousands of calls in a month. It’s not unusual for a customer service representative to field 100 calls in a day. Though Customer Services is part of the Water Resources Department and primarily handles water billing questions and payments, the division fields calls about everything from potholes to streetlights to bus service.

Customer Service Representative Linette Sieben was named Water Resources Employee of the Year

“We assist with calls all day long and try to help everybody that calls in,” says Customer Service Representative Linette Sieben.

So when Sieben got a call last September from a woman who was having trouble breathing, she began to suspect that something was wrong. “I asked her if she had been running to the phone and she said ‘No’ and that she didn’t know why she was out of breath,” Sieben says.

The woman had called to pay her water bill, but as the conversation progressed, her breathing grew more labored and eventually, she no longer responded to Sieben’s questions.

Sieben called the police. Since she had the woman’s address on her water account, police were able to respond and likely prevented a tragedy. Police found her unresponsive and she was transported to the hospital. When the woman called back in a few days, she told another customer service representative that Sieben’s quick action saved her life.

In February, Sieben was named Water Resources Employee of the Year and presented with a plaque in appreciation of her initiative.

“We are very proud of the attitude and service delivery of all of our Customer Service staff,” says Water Services Director Steve Shoaf. “Linette’s intervention exemplifies the level of service we all strive to achieve. She is deserving of this special recognition.”

The City of Asheville’s Customer Service Division assists with billing questions at (828) 251-1122. Service representatives are available via telephone from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 8:15 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Fridays except on holidays. The City of Asheville offers email billing for water customers. Sign up by emailing egovutility@ashevillenc.gov.

Leave a Comment March 8, 2013

City of Asheville offers email billing

Want to cut out one more envelope from your bill basket? Sign up for emailed billing by the City of Asheville Customer Service Division and get your combined services statement sent directly to your inbox.

Since the beginning of September, Customer Services staff have been stuffing notices into combined services statements, which include billing for water, sanitation, recycling and stormwater utility, that inform customers of the ability to sign up for email billing and opt out of a paper statement.

“People have been requesting this for awhile. There’s a lot of interest,” says Customer Services Superintendent Florie Presnell. “We’ve been excited to see the response.”

Since the division was upgraded to the city’s Munis data managing system in 2011, the e-billing option became a possibility, and already several hundred people have opted for email statements since the start of September.

The switch to the Munis system came out of the Business Technology Improvement Project, approved by Asheville City Council in 2009.

Email billing represents a real cost savings to the city, Presnell says. The Customer Service Division sends out roughly 300,000 statements a year to 56,000 water customers. Moving the entire operation to email would save the city thousands in postage alone, not to mention greatly reducing paper usage.

“It is the environmentally friendly thing to do,” Presnell continues. “And customers with email billing will get their bill on the same day it is processed.”

Want to sign up for e-billing? Look for the form in the latest combined utility bill and return it to the enclosed address. Or email egovutility@ashevillenc.gov.

Click here for information about paying your combined service statement online and eliminating paper from billing.

Leave a Comment October 8, 2012

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