Publication:Texarkana; Date:Feb 17, 2009; Section:News; Page Number:1

TWU employee honored for top-notch work

By Brandy S. Chewning Texarkana Gazette

    Texarkana Water Utilities has programs considered premier models throughout the country, thanks in large part to one award-winning employee.

    Lisa White is the technical coordinator for TWU’s environmental services division. In her 23 years there she has researched, developed and implemented programs that protect TWU’s collection system, sewer lines and wastewater treatment plant.

    “My section was actually the first people to get computers in the 80s,” White said.

    She developed regulations governing industrial discharge and implemented Texarkana’s stringent grease trap requirements, which became the representation for the Texas mandate.

    Texas House Bill 1979 is the model standard for grease ordinance.

    “We predated that bill by several years,” White said. “The state of Texas used our program as a model for it.”

    And all this was after stumbling into science by accident.

    “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a musician,” White said, who plays brass instruments. “I was OK with music, but I wasn’t that great and I didn’t feel like I would be very successful at it.”

    White took some science
classes as electives in college.

    “It was like my eyes were opened. This is something that I can do,” she said. “I feel like I found my niche.”

    White pursued a master’s degree in physiological ecology.

    “It’s the study of an organism’s reaction to its environment at the cellular level,” she said. “The more I got into it, the more it interested me. I like something that keeps me challenged.”

    Pretreatment is required by the Environmental Protection Agency and governs the wastewater discharged into TWU’s sewer system by industries.

    “It required cities that had industries discharging into the wastewater treatment plant to control those discharges to make sure they didn’t harm your collection system or your wastewater treatment plant, White explained.

    “It’s mainly for people that have manufacturing processes that they have wastewater generated by those processes.”

    All Texarkana industries are researched and their wastewater discharge levels are regulated based on raw materials each uses. The discharge is tracked through water quality samples.

    White quadrupled the detail in the city’s previous industrial pretreatment program—it took her eight years to complete the ordinance.

    In 2002, she won TWU the EPA’s national award for outstanding pretreatment program. In 2000, she received laboratory analyst excellence awards from Arkansas and Texas, the first and only time one person has been honored by both states.

    She was recently given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Water Utilities Association, which also recognized her with outstanding pretreatment program awards in 2003 and 2008. TWU is the first agency to receive the recognition twice. She was named Arkansas Water Environment Association’s pretreatment coordinator of the year in 2000. White said other agencies will get a shot at winning some plaques when she retires.

    She gives presentations all over the country on the programs and is on call to advise other agencies. “I have sent copies of my ordinances all over the United States. I’ve networked with people and I’ve had people seek me out,” White said. “A lot of my education is helping other people.”

Lisa White, Texarkana Water Utilities technical coordinator for environmental services, recently received a life time achievement award from the Texas Water Utilities Association. White has worked for TWU for almost 23 years. Staff photo by Evan Lewis