CPU Treatment Plant Turns Wastewater into Environmentally Safe Water

Plant Manager Bernice Jones invests 40-year career in serving CPU customers

Customers of Clarksdale Public Utilities can have peace of mind knowing that Bernice Jones is managing operations at CPU’s Wastewater Treatment Plant on Sunflower Avenue.

Jones, who celebrated her 40th anniversary with CPU in August, started as a lab technician trainee in 1979 and steadily advanced through the ranks before becoming plant manager in 2017. She takes pride in CPU’s environmental record and the service that employees provide for the community.

“Cleaning wastewater is important for our customers and for the environment,” said Jones. “A major part of our focus is making sure that water released to the Sunflower River is clean and safe, and that our operations follow all state and federal requirements. Our record demonstrates that we’re serious about our commitment.”

Every day, technicians collect and test water samples at 20 test points and send them to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to validate results. The Environmental Protection Agency also routinely inspects plant operations and tests water-quality conditions in the Sunflower River both upstream and downstream of the plant.

“We are issued a permit by MDEQ to operate, and we follow every requirement to the letter,” Jones said. “For the last 38 years, our plant has passed all EPA quality control tests and we are working together to make sure that we pass the 39th test this year.”

Employees also must undergo testing by MDEQ to work at the plant and maintain their technical certifications. The plant is staffed by a team of six CPU employees who oversee 24/7 operations.

In 2018, an extensive upgrade project not only modernized plant facilities and equipment but also boosted energy efficiency and cost savings.

The plant uses ultraviolet light to disinfect water and a biofiltration process to remove grit, sewage waste, chemicals and other contaminants. The collected sludge is then dried and transported to an EPA-approved landfill in Tunica.

“Bernice and the Wastewater Department team are experts at what they do and work with some of the industry’s most advanced technologies,” said Curtis D. Boschert, CPU general manager. “As part of our Bright Future initiative, we will continue looking for ways to improve wastewater operations for our customers while upholding CPU’s excellent environmental record.”

Even though technology has transformed the industry over the last four decades, Jones says one aspect of her job has remained constant — CPU’s commitment to customers and the community.

“At the end of the workday, it makes me feel proud when I leave the gate and customers stop to talk to me,” she said. “The plant is located near a school and a neighborhood; we are passionate about being a good neighbor who operates in the safest, most-responsible manner possible.”

Clarksdale Public Utilities is a municipally owned utility serving approximately 6,800 homes and businesses in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Its mission is to safely provide sustainable electric, water and wastewater services in a reliable and courteous manner by well-trained team members, committed to top quality, efficient operations, competitive rates and the vitality of the community.

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For more than 125 years, Clarksdale Public Utilities has supplied utility services that support our community’s growth, vibrance and quality of life. But we are more than a provider of reliable and affordable electric, water and wastewater services — we are your family, friends and neighbors. We are people who care. We are CPU.

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