Sheila Hyatt, Cherokee Water Treatment Plant manager, was given the 2014 Indian Health Service Operator of the Year Award on Monday, March 3.
“It’s an honor to receive this very prestigious award,” said Hyatt. “I would like to commend the water treatment plant employees for their dedication and determination in surpassing EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Regulations and proving that we’re not the average water system but becoming the best! We work as a team and win as a team. Thank you!”
Hyatt started working in the lab at the Cherokee plant and continued her education and training to the point that she now holds a North Carolina Class “A” Surface Water Treatment License. She also recently obtained a bachelor’s of science degree in environmental science.
Hyatt has been the manager of the Cherokee plant for the past eight years. Under her direction, in 2010, the plant completed a major upgrade at a cost of over $9 milllion which increased the treatment capacity from 3 to 6 MGD in preparation for future development.
“In 2013, the Water Plant won USET’s drinking water contest,” she said. “Water systems entered from EPA Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. Cherokee’s drinking water ended up winning this outstanding award. Water plant employees have diligently strived to meet or exceed EPA’s drinking water requirements.”
Hyatt continued, “We take our profession seriously and constantly work to keep ahead of upcoming rules and regulations, and achieving higher licenses. In our profession, education is an ongoing process, whether it’s achieving higher licenses or staying informed of EPA regulations and water treatment processes.”
The Cherokee Water Treatment Department operates four water treatment systems within its service area; three ground water systems with the largest and most complicated being the central surface water treatment plant producing 1.5 to 2.5 MGD of potable water each day. The plant uses raw water from the Oconaluftee River as the source followed by chemical pre-treatment, sedimentation, and multi-media filtration of the water prior to disinfection.
The Cherokee Water System serves approximately 2,300 customers (service taps) including homes and businesses on the reservation as well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
– IHS release with One Feather staff contributions