Despite what the name might suggest, the Poofighters are not a group of volunteers armed with plungers manning the stalls at The Clink on Seahawks’ game day (though that group certainly deserves recognition). These Poofighters are the King County Wastewater Treatment Division’s Operations Challenge Team. For the past week, they’ve been attending the annual WEFTEC Conference competing in the Olympics of wastewater.
During this heated competition, teams from around the world display their talents and skills in five different timed events that simulate real-life challenges wastewater staff face on a daily basis. One event is a written test and the other four are physical. Each event is timed and WEFTEC judges scrutinize every move. Teams have to perform tasks not only fast, but correctly. After all, people keep flushing, so we need to keep wastewater moving while we keep our most important asset- our workers- safe.
The Poofighters compete in these events:
- Process Control: The team works together on a written test, answering multiple choice, short math, extended math, and problems that tell a story and ask competitors to respond. Now you know that you need math to keep poo moving through the system.
- Lab: The teams use laboratory equipment technique to test water for E. coli. Team members have to be super picky about technique to avoid contaminating their samples. They also complete a written portion that asks questions about proper lab practices.
- Collections System: The teams cut and drill sections of pipe to replace it as quickly as possible, while identifying and labeling cracks, corrosion, and fractures in the pipes.
- Maintenance: Teams take a pump and mixer out of a wet well, changing the oil and seals of both pieces of equipment, and put them back. They also have to complete lockout/tagout procedures on electrical systems and other safety techniques.
- Safety: Using a safety dummy, the team simulates rescuing a coworker from a manhole/confined space. No one ever wants to see a coworker need rescue, but being prepared for rapid rescue can save lives.
The WEFTEC 2016 Operations Challenge concluded yesterday (Sept. 27), and the Poofighters placed ninth out of a total of 42 teams, including ones from as far away as Argentina.
A huge congratulations to King County’s team for reaching the top 10 and flushing the competition!