Health Department Honors Quick Action

Spanaway Water Co. Manager Jeff Johnson was at home nursing a nasty cold when the call came: Employees had just gotten the word that E. coli bacteria had been detected in some routine water samples.

Within a few hours, Johnson and the Spanaway Water Co. staff had worked with the Washington Department of Health to issue news releases in time for the evening news, alerting the 20,000 people served by the water system that there might be a problem. They worked with state and local agencies to notify schools and food service establishments, set up a station for customers to get drinking water, and staffed an after-hours call center.

Johnson and his staff received one of five awards the Department of Health presented during Drinking Water Week. Gov. Chris Gregoire proclaimed May 4-10 as Drinking Water Week in Washington.

"Assuring safe and reliable drinking water requires commitment and dedication," said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. "These water systems operators went above and beyond to protect the health of their customers."

For their efforts, Johnson and staff will receive the Office of Drinking Water's "Grace Under Pressure" Award.

The other winners are:

• Edward Bush, who recently retired as water system manager for the city of Washougal in Clark County. He was given the "Lifetime Achievement Award."

• Sharon Germano, who led the Forest Glen Estates homeowners association's efforts to overhaul its failing water system, will receive the "Going Above and Beyond" award.

• Lorna Parent, environmental health specialist for the Skagit County Health Department, is the "Friend of Drinking Water" recipient.

• Kathy Small, manager of Pasadena Park Irrigation District No. 17 in the Spokane Valley, is "Operator of the Year."

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