Chattahoochee Technical College graduate Paul Hardie has worked throughout the coronavirus pandemic to keep the community’s water clean and safe while also protecting the environment.
Hardie serves as a wastewater operator at the Cobb County Noonday Water Reclamation Facility (WRF), an award-winning wastewater treatment facility situated on 20 acres along Shallowford Road near Noonday Creek. This facility, which is one of four in Cobb County, serves northeast Cobb County and portions of Cherokee County. It has the capacity to process around 20 million gallons of sewage per day.
“We’re cleaning the water to put it back into the environment,” said Hardie. “I like being responsible for knowing that what comes into the plant goes out cleaner, and that it’s safe for the environment. We’re constantly cleaning up everything that people flush.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in the spring, Hardie and his team of wastewater operators remained on the job at the wastewater treatment facility as essential employees whose work was vital for the safety and well-being of the community. They were prepared to actually live at the plant if needed. “We couldn’t leave the plant unmanned. We had to be there,” said Hardie. Seven months into the pandemic, he and his team continue to work in shifts around the clock. They ensure that the wastewater is cleaned properly before it is released back into the environment.
A graduate of Lassiter High School, Hardie earned an associate degree at Chattahoochee Tech that prepared him for a career in environmental science. He also currently serves on a Chattahoochee Tech advisory board to confirm that the college’s Environmental Technology program is staying up-to-date with industry practices. The majority of these program graduates work in the water industry, according to Chattahoochee Tech instructor Stephen Anderson. “In the water treatment industry, there is a growing need for skilled workers,” said Anderson. “Over the next few years, around 50 percent of the workforce in the water treatment industry will be eligible for retirement in the Metro Atlanta area.”
In addition to the water treatment industry, Environmental Technology students at Chattahoochee Tech have career options that include soil testing and air monitoring. “Regardless of which industry they enter, they will be good stewards of the environment and treat it with the respect and attention that it deserves,” said Anderson. “These students all have a desire to work in the great outdoors and help keep our environment functioning and healthy for future generations.”