Plainfield Water Department earns double honors

New telemetry system to save $30,000 annually

Surrounded by the world’s largest bodies of fresh water, West Michiganders may be forgiven for taking water quality for granted. In Plainfield Township, clean water is protected with a passion that gained statewide accolades from people who know the value of this natural resource. At the 20th annual Michigan Rural Water Association (MRWA) conference held March 17-19, the Plainfield Township Water Department and its superintendent were recognized as among the best in the state.

“We are one of the first to get an ordinance in place that has some teeth to it,” noted Rick Solle, employee at the Plainfield Township water plant.

Controlling contamination and spills are critical in efforts to protect water sources. Plainfield Township has passed a wellhead protection ordinance that will likely be adopted by other townships. It allows the township to demand cleanup of industrial or household leaks that threaten water sources.

Don Petrovich is the superintendent of the water plant and was largely responsible for the ordinance. That, among other criteria, is what put the township in line for recognition at the conference. Petrovich himself was named Michigan Water Operator of the Year for the state, and the department was named Utility of the Year by the MRWA. Located on Plainfield Avenue, the plant has the capacity of providing 16,000 gallons a day of water, although the average is around 4,000 gallons. It provides water to Plainfield Township and parts of Alpine, Grand Rapids and Algoma townships.

In addition to the Wellhead Protection ordinance, the township also received an Awards of Excellence on Consumer Confidence Report, and five booster pump stations and 12 water tanks were switched from radio phone lines to radio telemetry. The radio telemetry system will save the department $30,000 a year—great news at any time, but especially welcome as townships everywhere are struggling with budgets.

Assistant Superintendent Mark Bogdanik nominated Petrovich for the award, and credits his leadership with the innovative improvements to the department. He said Petrovich implemented the telemetry radio system, submitted the township’s water quality Consumer Confidence Report and chaired the Wellhead Protection Program.

Petrovich has been at the plant for 32 years, and remembers back before computers were used there. “We did everything manually with charts and switches,” he recalled. He was one of the first to take to the computer systems, lucky to have a wife who was in the field of computer programming back before the Internet was public.

Other responsibilities Petrovich undertakes are tours for the community and legislators of the plant, taking a leadership role in dealing with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources & Environment, township governing board, local businesses and personnel. “We have tours from second-graders on up to state legislators,” Petrovich stated.

According to Petrovich, the congratulations do not belong with him alone. “There are hundreds of licensed operators in the this state that deserve this honor. I feel both humbled and honored to receive it.”

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