Award Winning Utility: Operator Ingenuity Awards

Have you ever thought there was a better or more efficient way to get something done? Well that’s exactly what a couple of our employees thought here at Charlotte Water when they decided to create unique tools to make a part of their job easier, safer, and more cost-effective for themselves and their coworkers!

Every year, WEFTEC (The Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibit and Conference) holds their annual Operator Ingenuity Contest. This contest is open to anyone in the water industry who has developed a creative tool to use on the job. The ideal invention should be unique, cost-effective, and it should make your job easier and potentially safer. It doesn’t matter what area of water you work in, all ideas are welcome in this contest – ideas range from treatment processes, safety measures, human resources, and everything in between. In the past there have been multiple winners, based on the types of entries that are received. In 2018 there were three categories that won an award, and in 2019 there were seven categories that won an award.

Charlotte Water is proud to claim winners for each of those years. In 2018, Brian Avino, a Treatment Plant Mechanic Assistant, won for his invention of the “Goop Scoop,” and in 2019 Johanna McHone, a Plant Operator, won for her invention of the “Polymer Peeler” (or also referred to as the “Tight Squeegee”).

Brian actually created his idea before even knowing about the contest. For his invention of the “Goop Scoop,” he created a device used to remove clumps in the polymer tanks that resemble “fish eyes.” To do this, he created a sifter by drilling holes in the bottom of a plastic container, and attached it to a pole so that he could lower it into the tank for scooping. The holes in the container were small enough to drain and preserve the “good polymer” (which is very slippery) back into the tank, while also preventing a potentially dangerous spill. Prior to his invention Brian was using a mesh net to remove the “fish eyes” from the tank. This tool worked to remove them, but it also removed much of the good polymer and would often times leave behind a slippery mess.

Before his invention of the “goop scoop” Brian was using the mesh net, pictured here, to capture and remove the “fish eyes” from the tank.
Now, Brian uses the “goop scoop” to remove the “fish eyes” from the tank, preserving the good polymer and without leaving any spills behind.

Johanna’s invention was called the “Polymer Peeler.” This tool was used to peel off the polymer slime that would often build up on the insides of the tanks. She created this tool using a dust mop, a squeegee, a pipe clamp, and a zip tie. Prior to her invention, she was using a heated pressure washer that would often put her and others at risk for back-splashing of the extremely hot water and/or chemicals. The washer was also using a lot of energy and water – whereas the “Polymer Peeler” eliminates the use of both altogether.

Johanna with her invention, the “Polymer Peeler”

We are so proud of these two contest winners, and we can’t wait to see what unique entries will win in 2020!