PHOTO: Jim Tjaden, wastewater operator in charge, recently received a plaque for Region 1 Operator of the Year from the Iowa Water Environment Association. Tjaden said this award signifies the hard work of the whole city department, not just one person. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
At the recent IAWEA (Iowa Water Environment Association) Region 1 fall meeting, Jim Tjaden was awarded the Region 1 Operator of the Year. Tjaden is the operator in-charge for the City of Monticello’s water/wastewater department.
“Our region includes several hundred operators,” said Tjaden.
This award signifies the hard work Tjaden does for the city’s water department; however, he said he couldn’t do his job alone. Tjaden was quick to give credit to all of the city guys who work for several departments including streets, water, sanitation and cemetery (Dana “Diz” Edwards, Jay Yanda, Nick Kahler, Mark Cigrand, Billy Norton, Tim Schultz, Wayne Yousse, Chris Taylor and Dan McDonald).
Tajden said the DNR and IAWEA look at a lot of criteria when considering this award.
“Lack of violations is big,” he said. They also tour the water and wastewater facility and plant. Tjaden has to submit monthly operator reports as well and keep them updated on things going on at the plant. They also perform lab inspections. “We’ve been good at getting passing grades,” said Tjaden.
He said this award shows the residents of Monticello that he and the city crews are doing their job, and doing it right.
If everything is running smoothly, it’s a good day, Tjaden said. But after the facility experienced three floods since 2001, some changes had to be made. The office and lab building was rebuilt and relocated to keep it high and dry.
The average person may not know a lot about what goes on at the wastewater plant.
“I’m amazed by what people don’t understand about what we do,” admitted Tjaden.
He explained when it comes to treating the city’s water everything is done naturally.
“No added chemicals are used to treat your water,” said Tjaden.
In the past, Tjaden used to give tours of the wastewater plant to school classes, but said he doesn’t receive too many requests anymore. The offer still stands. He said these tours gave the kids an eye-opening first-hand experience.
Tjaden and all of the guys working for the water department maintain their continuing education by attending seminars and classes to keep up on government regulations, which Tjaden said are constantly changing.
“Every two years we have to have two continuing education credits,” he said.
Growing up in Monticello and now raising his family here, Tjaden said, “For a small city, we all work together to get things done around here. If we do our job right, the public doesn’t have to worry.”
Of receiving the award, Tjaden said, “It’s not about me, but all of the city departments. We all pitch in around here.”