Gail Tiffany, laboratory director for the Bennington WWTF, is retiring after 35 years of service. She is truly a hero of Vermont’s water resources industry!
Tell us about your career.
I was hired as the laboratory director in 1985. I had previously been a laboratory technician for the WWTF in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I hold an associate degree in Environmental Science from Berkshire Community College, a BS degree from Southern VT College in Environmental Studies, a Grade 5DM certification with the State of Vermont, and a voluntary certification as a Grade II laboratory analysist through NEWEA. I have been honored by my peers in both GMWEA and NEWEA with awards over my career, served as director for GMWEA and a member of its Lab Standards and Golf Tournament committees.
Gail Tiffany (front row, center) with the crew at the Bennington Wastewater Treatment Facility.
What’s your proudest moment?
My proudest moments—and motivation—has been working with an amazing crew (current and retired) and the honor of knowing and learning from so many wonderful people throughout the years. I will miss you all.
How has the facility changed over the years?
The Bennington Wastewater Division put its first primary wastewater treatment facility online in 1962. It consisted of bar screening, primary clarification, and disinfection by chlorination. Sludge handling was done by anaerobic digestion, and drying beds for digested sludge with final transportation to the landfill.
In 1983-85 the treatment facility underwent a major upgrade. The facility upgraded its process to a tertiary treatment process with added RBCs and secondary clarification, sand filtration, disinfection with chlorine, and dichlorination with sulfur dioxide. This was upgraded in the 90s to disinfection with hypochlorite and dichlorination with bisulfite. Sludge dewatering was added in 1990 and eventually a state-of-the-art composting facility in 1992.
The Bennington Wastewater Treatment Facility receives wastewater from Bennington, North Bennington, and Shaftsbury. It’s a 5.1 MGD facility. There’s a crew of seven that maintains approximately 67 miles of sanitary sewer mains, five pump stations, and 1,300 sewer manholes. The operators and the facility have been recognized for their efforts with numerous State of Vermont and New England Water Pollution Control awards for their outstanding efforts. The treatment facility has recently gone through a $9.85 million upgrade with Aldrich & Elliott overseeing the project.
How have you been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown some challenges at all facilities. Like most of you we stocked up on items such as chemicals and PPE that we could see possibly being hard to come by in the months ahead of the onset. We split the crew for the first month so that we could continue operations if anyone became ill, limited exposure by closing buildings to all but employees, and monitored our health.
I don’t think this will be the last viral pandemic we will see in our lifetimes and I think the past months have taught us valuable lessons for the future. Like Hurricane Irene, we learn to prepare better by listening and learning from our peers and being better prepared for the next time disaster strikes.
Do you have any advice for young water/wastewater professionals?
To those new—and old—to the profession of water and wastewater, KEEP LEARNING. The industry is ever changing. SHARE your experiences and be willing to take advice. My proudest moments—and motivation—has been working with an amazing crew (current and retired) and the honor of knowing and learning from so many wonderful people throughout the years. I will miss you all.
How are you planning to spend your retirement?
I plan to continue teaching First Aid and CPR as an AHA instructor and Red Cross swim lessons at the Bennington Recreation pool—as well as enjoying time and travel with my husband and two daughters.
Thank you, Gail, and to all of Vermont’s water and wastewater operators who perform essential services to protect the health and environment of our communities!
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