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April 20, 2016

Contact:, (718) 595-6600

New York City Wastewater Treatment Workers Compete in the 29th Annual Operations Challenge

Workers Showcase Their Skills and Expertise in Wastewater Treatment Operations

Photos and Videos of the Event are Available on DEP’s Flickr Page

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today held the 29th annual Operations Challenge competition in which teams of wastewater treatment plant operators compete in events that test the skills and expertise required to operate and maintain New York City's 14 wastewater treatment plants and 96 pump stations. After competing in six events that represent a cross section of essential wastewater treatment operations, the two highest scoring teams will go on to compete against teams from across the northeast in a regional contest. The winners of that event will go on to compete in the national competition, which will be held in New Orleans this fall. Today’s event was held at the City’s Jamaica Wastewater Treatment Plant in Queens, and was sponsored by DEP and the Water Environment Association. A team from DEP has advanced to the national competition in each of the last 20 years.

“DEP employs 1,900 highly skilled men and women who protect public health and the environment by properly treating the 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater produced in New York City every day,” said DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd. “The Operations Challenge competition is a terrific opportunity for the teams to showcase their specialized skills and knowledge while building camaraderie that will serve them well in the future.”

“This Operations Challenge event brings the much needed awareness to the daily responsibilities water resource recovery professionals’ experience,” said Patricia Cerro-Reehil, Executive Director of the NY Water Environment Association. “DEP and NYWEA work together to help inform the public how these professionals protect public health and the environment. The Winners of this event get to compete in a regional challenge in Mystic, CT on June 7, and ultimately go to the international Water Environment Federation competition in New Orleans in September.”

This year’s six teams hail from the North River, Coney Island, 26th Ward, Rockaway, Newtown Creek and Jamaica wastewater treatment plants. Each team competed in four timed and judged events, including:

  • Collections: Teams respond to a leaking pipe and repair it while it remains in service.
  • Maintenance: Contestants remove damaged submersible pumps, make the necessary repairs and return them to service.
  • Worker Safety: Teams compete in a timed, confined space rescue of a fellow employee and perform CPR while checking air quality.
  • Pump Maintenance Event: Teams compete to respond to a severe weather condition that results in a pumping outage. They must restore the main pumps to service, and program them for emergency use.

In addition, this year’s competition included two events which the teams completed earlier in the week.

  • Water Quality Testing: Teams perform tests on water samples to determine if they meet discharge standards.
  • Wastewater Treatment Process: Teams are tested on their knowledge of the wastewater treatment process.

The Operations Challenge was developed by the Water Environment Federation, the largest professional organization representing the wastewater treatment industry. Today’s event at the Jamaica Wastewater Treatment Plant was sponsored by a local chapter of the organization in conjunction with DEP, which has participated in the Operations Challenge since 1987.

Over the past decade, DEP has invested more than $10 billion in upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and related efforts to ensure that all the wastewater produced in the city is properly treated and, as a result, New York Harbor is cleaner and healthier than it has been in more than a century.

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than one billion gallons of water each day to more than nine million residents, including eight million in New York City. The water is delivered from a watershed that extends more than 125 miles from the city, comprising 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes. Approximately 7,000 miles of water mains, tunnels and aqueducts bring water to homes and businesses throughout the five boroughs, and 7,500 miles of sewer lines and 96 pump stations take wastewater to 14 in-city treatment plants. In addition, DEP has a robust capital program, with a planned $14 billion in investments over the next 10 years that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year. This capital program is responsible for critical projects like City Water Tunnel No. 3; the Staten Island Bluebelt program, an ecologically sound and cost-effective stormwater management system; the city’s Watershed Protection Program, which protects sensitive lands upstate near the city’s reservoirs in order to maintain their high water quality; and the installation of more than 820,000 Automated Meter Reading devices, which will allow customers to track their daily water use, more easily manage their accounts and be alerted to potential leaks on their properties. For more information, visit, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600