Water Heroes: Pedro Grondin

Name: Donald “Pedro” Grodin

Job: Chief Operator at the Newport City Water and Wastewater Systems

Tell us about your utilities. 
We’re a team of three: myself, Tim Degasse, and Alex Russell. The water system serves a population of 4,400. It uses arsenic removal treatment, we also fluoridate and chlorinate. The wastewater treatment plant is an activated sludge process, currently the average flow is between 0.5 to 0.6 MGD.

We’ve taken on a lot of projects the past couple of years. We’re proud of the new Prime Solution rotary fan press because we installed it ourselves which saved about $30,000 We also repurposed two Penn Valley pumps for the primary sludge pumps and replaced two old blowers with new Atlas Copco Rotary Screw blowers. We only needed to hire outside contractors for electrical and welding.

Pedro Grondin at the Newport City Water System.

Your wastewater facility was recently awarded the GMWEA Wastewater Facility Excellence for Exceptional Service in 2019.
We are proud of this award and attribute it to all the hard work and the continuing improvements by myself, Tim, and Alex.

Do you have any advice for other water/wastewater utilities in Vermont?
One of the biggest things I look at is the new technology that is out there. Stay up with what is new and more energy efficient. To sell improvements to your manager, show the financial benefits or how it will reduce manpower or improve water quality.

What is your vision for the future of these utilities?
I want to change the look of the facility. Maybe have high school students come up with a design for painting the wastewater tanks, buildings, and water tanks to make them more appealing to the public. Reduce odors at the wastewater plant. Continue providing tours of both the water and wastewater treatment plants to make the public proud of this facility.

How did you prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic?
We had plenty of masks and sanitizer and are taking our temperatures every day. A staffing plan was developed, keeping staff separated, only one person was allowed to use the truck. We were prepared to go to single person staffing but did not need to. All the communications from the Wastewater Management Program, the Drinking Water Ground Water Protection Division, and Vermont Rural Water was extremely helpful.

What is different in your day-to-day work right now?
Not really anything at this point.

Have you had any challenges in recent weeks?
The City is concerned about people’s ability to pay their bills and taxes, but I do not handle collections. It may still be too early to know with respect to the billing cycles.

This can be a hard job that gets little thanks—especially now. What keeps you going?
I enjoy the job and I like to look at ways to improve on the process. When you can do think of ways of doing it better and apply those ideas, that is reward enough for me.

Thank you, Pedro, and to all of Vermont’s water and wastewater operators who continue performing essential services to protect the health and environment of our communities!

Do you know a Water Hero who should be featured here? Email info@vtruralwater.org

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.