Grand Valley Magazine Spring 2015 - (Page 35)

ALU M N I N EWS Pictured left to right are Todd Wibright, '91; Fred Taylor, '99; Tom Syswerda, '99; Chris Guile, '01; Bill Poelma, '06; Jason Pullen, '04; Scott Yonkers, '05; and Brian Vu, '04. Not pictured is Dan Boss, '03. NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED PLANT LED BY LAKER GRADUATES Wibright, '91, oversees staff of nine alumni at Grandville City Water Plant The Grandville Clean Water Plant is overflowing with Grand Valley graduates who are leading the way in blue energy efforts. Nine of the 14 employees at the plant have degrees from the university ranging from chemistry to natural resources management. Todd Wibright, '91, oversees the crew as the superintendent of the facility that serves Grandville, Georgetown Township, Hudsonville and Jamestown Township in Ottawa County. "We were looking for people who were excited about the environment that had some biology and chemistry backgrounds and Grand Valley is a great resource for filling that need," said Wibright. Almost immediately after graduation, Wibright signed on as an operator at the plant. He worked his way up the ranks, and was promoted to superintendent in 2005. It wasn't long before his ambition for preserving the environment compelled him to assess the needs for a plant expansion. He found that the facility's growth was imperative in order to accommodate the significant need for wastewater resources in the sprawling Grandville area. "Water really does connect," Wibright said. "People, businesses and our social structure are connected to water in some fashion. When you use water at home and you go out to a restaurant, most people don't think about where it goes. It's all connected to a series of pipes. We have more than 75 miles of piping." The city of Grandville agreed to invest $25 million into the facility to double its size. With the plant's development, the city installed the first anaerobic digester in Michigan. The digester is an eggshaped tank that breaks down waste and converts it into fertilizer for local farmers. The digester also distributes methane gas to power a connected generator, which heats maintenance and laboratory buildings on the property. The entire multi-faceted concept is called "combined heat and power," and it is estimated to save the city $100,000 per year. "Wastewater comes to this central location and it is 99.5 percent water. The other 0.5 percent is organic material and excess nutrients. If all those nutrients had gone out to the environment, it would be a huge burden, causing algae blooms and other environmental issues," Wibright explained. In recent years, the Grandville Clean Water Plant has been nationally recognized for its dedication to environmental protection and sustainability. Wibright's team has received more than five state and national awards for the plant's unique process of treating wastewater, which is being duplicated in large cities like Boston, New York and Los Angeles. A graduate of Grand Valley's chemistry program in 2004, Brian Vu works with all aspects of the plant's operations, by Abigayle Sloan, '07 including lab testing and making sure the facility meets the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. "We have a bunch of different parameters we test for, including phosphorous and ammonia. We are making sure that what we put out to the river doesn't affect anybody downstream," Vu said. Approximately 6 million gallons of wastewater a day are cleaned and then returned into the Grand River watershed. By embracing the technology that makes sustainability and blue energy possible, Wibright and his staff of Lakers hope to ensure that future generations in West Michigan will enjoy the benefits of living near the water. Anaerobic digester GVM ONLINE Tour the Clean Water Plant by watching a video online at 35 Grand Valley Magazine

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Grand Valley Magazine Spring 2015

Campus News
Donor Impact
Behind the gallery
Beer boom
Reenactment takes center stage in classroom
Global GV
Focal Point
Q&A Harmon, DesArmo
Off the Path
Alumni News

Grand Valley Magazine Spring 2015