SOUTHWEST HARBOR— For Tom Farley, working in wastewater treatment is about having a positive impact on the environment.
“Anybody that doesn’t care about the environment has no business being in this field,” said the chief operator of the Southwest Harbor wastewater treatment facility. “This is my town, so it mattered to me and that’s why I came back.”
Although he doesn’t want to share the specific number of years he’s been working in wastewater treatment, let’s just say it is nearly three decades.
“This is a field where we never stop learning,” said Farley, who recently received the David Anderson Laboratory Analyst Excellence Award from the Maine Water Environment Association. “This belongs to me and everybody I’ve worked with over the years… To me it’s a testament to the great people I’ve worked with since I got into the business.”
Farley got his start at the Southwest Harbor plant in the early 1990s and worked there for 19 years before going to work for the Ellsworth treatment facility. He was there for six years. During that time, a new wastewater treatment facility was constructed and the town transitioned from the old plant to the new one.
In 2016, the Southwest Harbor public water and sewer systems were changing management from the town to the Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District. After the district was fined by the Environmental Protection Agency for a record keeping incident, Farley decided to return to the plant.
“This is where I got my start,” he said. “This is the town I grew up in.”
Prior to working with wastewater, Farley was laying carpet with his father in their family business. When an opening came up at the treatment plant, he applied. “Then I realized how much wastewater really means,” he said. “We can have a huge impact on the environment.”
Farley admits the job description, specifically working with human waste, can deter some people.
“We don’t really come in contact with it very much,” he said, adding that consulting with other area wastewater treatment employees makes the job easier. “We kind of work together as one big network… Wastewater operators are a different kind of character, a little off center, a little OCD. Attention to detail makes a big difference.”
Southwest Harbor’s wastewater treatment plant was built in 1973 and is due to be replaced. Farley has been consulting with engineers on the design of the new facility.