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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Christopher Farinacci serves as a quality controller at the Pittsburg Wastewater Treatment Plant

  • You don’t even want to know all the crud that’s in the waste water when it leaves your home, the storm sewers, etc., but the workers at the Pittsburg Waste Water Treatment Plant know, because it’s their job to clean it all out.

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  • You don’t even want to know all the crud that’s in the waste water when it leaves your home, the storm sewers, etc., but the workers at the Pittsburg Waste Water Treatment Plant know, because it’s their job to clean it all out.
    Christopher Farinacci is one of them. Serving as quality controller, he’s been at the plant the past 4 1/2 years.
    “My first year I was an operator, then I was moved up to quality controller,” he said.
    He’s classified as a Class 4 Operator by the state of Kansas, a status he reached through passing qualifying examinations.
    Waste water passes through a complex series of treatments designed to remove everything from leaves and branches to the waste from household drains and toilets. As a quality controller, it is Farinacci’s job to continually monitor and test to see that these processes are working correctly.
    “There’s a lot of detail in my job, and I could go on and on for days about it,” Farinacci said, “but most people don’t know what I’m talking about.”
    He could work in either water treatment, which deals in purification to ensure that water is safe for human consumption, or waste water.
    “Waste water is more interesting to me because you’re dealing with live microorganisms,” Farinacci said. “In water treatment, you’re usually trying to kill any microorganisms in the water, but in waste water treatment, you’re trying to keep them happy so they can feed on the waste.”
    Both are vital services, and are carefully regulated at state and national levels. The Pittsburg plant uses the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System.
    “The Kansas Department of Health and Environment tells us what we are allowed to put into Cow Creek,” Farinacci said. “We send our paperwork in to the KDHE and they send out inspectors.”
    Water leaving the plant and going into the creek must meet standards for a full-body recreation body of water, meaning that it is suitable for outdoor water recreation such as canoeing. The treatment, including removal of ammonia, also makes the water a better habitat for aquatic life.
    The Pittsburg waste water plant is accredited by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program, which enables lab tests to be done on site. Farinacci said that the community can be proud of having such a facility.
    “Without being certified, you can’t report your numbers,” the quality controller said. “That means you have to hire out your lab work.”
    Again, this is monitored to ensure that the lab continues its quality standards.
    “Two times a year they send an unknown sample, which we analyze and then send back our numbers,” Farinacci said. “If it’s within their tolerance levels they allow us to keep the lab certified.”
    Page 2 of 2 - He stressed that the plant is a team effort, with all the staff members working to keep the program working efficiently.
    “I work with the operators, who can tell me what they’re seeing if there is a problem,” Farinacci said. “We all work together pretty well here.”
    He also leaves the plant to talk with local industries about their pre-treatment programs.
    “They have to treat their waste before they release it into our system,” he explained. “Then, I also do soil sample tests as well. When we spread sludge on fields for farmers,
    I have to test the nitrogen levels in their soil before it can be spread. If you over-apply and the soil is too high in nitrogen, it will burn crops up.”
    The son of Denise and Jim Farinacci, he spent most of his early life in Arma and graduated from Northeast High School.
    “My dad used to work for McNally’s, and my mom was a lunch lady at Meadowlark Elementary School,” he said.
    He holds an associate of applied science in environmental technology from Fort Scott Community College. In his  off-time, Farinacci enjoys hunting, fishing and being outdoors.
    “That’s one of the questions they asked when I applied for the job,” Farinacci said. “I think the idea is that if you’re outdoors and get used to the smells of algae and things, then the smells at the plant won’t bother you too much.”
    Actually, he added, employees get so used to the aroma of the plant that they gradually disregard it, because of a phenomenon known as olefactory fatigue. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing, he said, because it can cause people to overlook the smell of harmful gases.
    “There are places here where we’re required to wear a monitor that will alert us if we’re in an area where we could hit a pocket of some gas such as hydrogen sulfide,” Farniacci said. “We’re very strict about safety here.”
    Smells or no smells, he enjoys his work.
    “I like working for the City of Pittsburg,” Farinacci said. “It’s a great place to work, and this is definitely one of the best jobs I’ve had.”

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