Online update: The TRA CReWSers from the Water Environment Association of Texas took Division 1 and the Pooseidens also of the Water Environment Association of Texas won Division 2 in the 2018 Operations Challenge.
With final results too close to call at the print deadline, the 31st annual Operations Challenge came to a flurried conclusion on Tuesday afternoon.
Activity levels remained high throughout the day, as teams were either doing last-minute planning and coordination for their own events or observing the competition in action.
“We competed on the maintenance event earlier today,” offered Caeleb Butler, a member of the South Mesquite Rangers (Dallas, Texas). “We got just over 8 minutes – 8:02 to be exact – on our run. We only had a couple of penalties, so we’re looking pretty good compared to last year.”
Butler said that 2018 is his first year competing in Operations Challenge, offering, “I’m both excited and grateful. I mean, if you had told me 8 months ago when I started this job that I would be here, with my boss, competing and able to further my education and learning, I would have laughed at you. But it happened, and I’m grateful for it.”
Asked about his team’s training process prior to WEFTEC, he was quick to express an appreciation for “upper management” and their assistance in acquiring training hardware for the competition.
“We have a setup just like this at home, on our plant,” he explained. “We have the exact same setup for maintenance, the same setup for collections, and the same setup for lab. We have all of that at our facility at all times. When we get close to competition, it’s a straight hard push. We’re pushing ourselves. We’re pushing our teammates. Other people are coming in with their advice. We’re taking that and using it to our advantage where it works for us.”
Emphasizing that plant operations “always come first,” he added, “but this is something that we do every day. So if something pops up at our plant, it’s straight to operations, then back to training. But I’m grateful that we have all of this equipment so that when I’m looking at these events, I’m thinking, ‘We got this.’”
Butler said that the next event for the team would involve cutting some pipe, adding, “We’re going to try to get our best time. No penalties – that’s our goal. Slow and steady usually is going to win that race. So the plan is just to get the clean cut pipe. Everything clean and put back together with no leaks and we’ll be good.”
The Franken Foggers (New Haven, Connecticut) may have lacked some of the training equipment advantages enjoyed by the Rangers, but there was no lack of enthusiasm as the team completed the KSB Maintenance Event on Tuesday morning.
“We haven’t had too many opportunities to practice, since getting the equipment can be difficult,” said teammember Chris Findley. “But we think we did very well.”
Findley said that 2018 marks his second year on the Franken Foggers, with all four members returning for their second full year of competition.
In terms of training, Findley observed, “We have all the lab equipment, so lab and process are our strengths. We have some opportunities to practice the Collections Event, since we get the tables from [New England WEA]. But the pump was really hard to come by. We had it at a regional event, and then it went away. But we did our best.”
Looking toward the team’s final event on Tuesday afternoon, he added, “That’s the Safety Event. And we don’t have the platform, so it’s a bit tough. We do have the harnesses, and we did purchase an Xtirpa™ [portable manhole guard], so we can practice setting it up and breaking it down. But we do the best with the limited resources that we have.”