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Larned city wastewater director honored
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The Larned City Council, Mayor William Nusser, and City Manager Brad Eilts recognized wastewater plant manager Dale Vanderhoof at the meeting Tuesday night for his recent award from Fort Scott Community College. - photo by Veronica Coons


LARNED — The City of Larned is well on its way to bringing its ailing wastewater plant back to good standing with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. 

It’s in large part thanks to the guidance and expertise of Dale Vanderhoof. 

Tuesday night council members, Mayor William Nusser and City Manager Brad Eilts recognized Vanderhoof, congratulating him for his recent recognition as the 2019 recipient of the Jim Current Professional Excellence Award. He was presented the award at the KDHE Annual School in July.  

Presented by Fort Scott Community College, the award recognizes those who exemplify professionalism in the environmental technology industry. 

Eilts read from Vanderhoof’s bio on the FSCC website. 

He began his career in 1992 as an operator in training at McPherson. It took him only two years to receive his Class IV wastewater license. 

During his time there, the facility won numerous awards, among them KWEA Plant of the Year and the EPA Best Wastewater Facility in the United States. 

In 2002, according to FSCC, he began training at Salina Area Tech School, and soon became the department head for Environmental Tech. He became an OSHA trainer and created electronic training materials and taught more than 1,000 students and operators at plants throughout the state. 

After a round of downsizing, Vanderhoof formed WW Water and began teaching multi-week wastewater and collection system classes as well as 2-day workshops and custom training sessions. Through KDHE in conjunction with Fort Scott Community College, he also provides technical assistance to communities like Larned who need help with improving plant operations. 

It’s been nearly 11 months since the City of Larned received an administrative order from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment concerning the conditions at the city’s wastewater treatment facility. The letter detailed numerous repairs that needed to be made within 60 days of receipt of the letter. This prompted City Manager Brad Eilts to take a closer look at operations there, and what he found was disappointing at best. Several months of deferred maintenance and broken down equipment to the city’s state-of-the-art plant built in 2009 had rendered it ineffective in ensuring the water returned to the plant was cleaned to the state’s environmental standards. 

“Dale has been an incredible asset to the City in our addressing the megachallenge of getting the Wastewater Treatment Plant back fully functioning as it was intended,” Eilts said. “I am proud of him and his receiving this well-earned award”

The man for whom the award bears his name, Jim Current made his mark on the industry early on in his career which began with the KDHE in 1968. According to the FSCC website, after working as a Tech4 in Wichita, he became a training officer for water and wastewater operators, and went to work building and implementing Kansas Operator certification and regulations. His work took him all over the state for training workshops , and even after retirement, he stayed active through teaching workshops for the water and wastewater industry. 

Workshop addition considered

Eilts asked the council to consider a bid for a 30-foot by 30-foot addition at the sewer plant to provide space for staff to rebuild and repair pumps, actuators and other equipment required by the operation of the plant. This, he said, would allow the operators to implement a long-term strategy of maintenance, preventative maintenance and in-house repair. He made the case that the spending on a workshop would provide future savings.

“The current facilities do not have enough room to effectively perform the repairs needed,” he said. By repairing and rebuilding all the equipment currently being replaced, significant cost reductions can be realized, and future capital expenditures reduced, he said. 

However, city council members questions about specifications for the building indicted plumbing and electrical systems were not included in the estimates. Vanderhoof stated he had not had a chance to look at the final bids prior to the meeting. While council members were generally positive about the addition, they tabled the request until October so Eilts and Vanderhoof could clarify pricing.