08 Jul Kerwin Leaves a Legacy at OWASA
Ed Kerwin is retiring this week after 24 years of serving as the Executive Director of Orange Water and Sewer Authority. During Kerwin’s tenure, OWASA made major investments in the community’s water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as in the employees who bring expertise to their positions every day.
Kerwin will join 97.9 The Hill WCHL this week to recount some of the major benchmarks OWASA met during his tenure, why now was the right time to retire, and what lies ahead for him and OWASA. You can listen to the interview locally on 97.9 FM/1360 AM or WCHL’s website at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, July 9. The OWASA Board of Directors will also honor Kerwin for his service during the Board meeting also being held Thursday.
Take a look back through some of the milestones OWASA reached during Kerwin’s 24-year tenure by scrolling through the timeline below:
Ed Kerwin Hired as OWASA Executive Director
Ed Kerwin was hired as the Orange Water and Sewer Authority Executive Director in 1996. He took over as just the second Executive Director since OWASA’s formation in 1977, following the 19-year tenure of his predecessor, Everett Billingsley.
Customer Bill Assistance Program Launched
In 1997, OWASA launched a Taste of Hope, which was one of the first customer assistance programs in the nation for water customers. Since then, OWASA customers have contributed more than $120,000 to assist their neighbors through what is now known as Care to Share.
Hilltop Tank Adds to Storage Capacity
The completion of the Hilltop drinking water storage tank in 1998 increased the storage capacity in the distribution system by 1.5 million gallons. That represented expanding storage capacity by nearly 25 percent.
New Rogerson Drive Wastewater Pump Station Placed in Service
The new Rogerson Drive Pump Station was placed into service in 1998. Strategic infrastructure investments like this help ensure consistent water and wastewater service for OWASA customers.
Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant Capacity Expanded
Keeping up with growth of the community is a big part of OWASA’s responsibility. That includes expanding the capacity of OWASA facilities, including growing the capacity of the Wastewater Treatment Plant to 12 million gallons per day in 1999.
Purchase Expanded Quarry Reservoir
OWASA purchased the Quarry Reservoir in the 1990s before purchasing the land for the expanded quarry in 2000 and being granted a permit allowing mining activity on the land. When the mining work concludes by 2030, the quarry will serve as additional drinking water storage.
Parental Leave Approved for Employees
The OWASA Board of Directors has prioritized benefits to retain employees and continue providing high-quality service to our customers. The Board in 2001 approved OWASA’s first parental leave benefits, which have been expanded over time.
A dry winter partnered with an abnormally dry spring brought the worst conditions in the fall of 2002, leading to the launch of OWASA’s Reclaimed Water System through a partnership with UNC.
New Operations Center Opened for Distribution and Collection Department
OWASA’s Distribution and Collection Department is made up of crews working in the field to maintain the community’s water and wastewater infrastructure. The Operations Center was opened in 2004 to provide a new facility, upgraded equipment for the department, and training for all OWASA staff.
Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant Capacity Expanded
As the community OWASA serves was growing, investments were made to keep up with the growth. The capacity of OWASA’s Water Treatment Plant on Jones Ferry Road was expanded in 2004 to provide up 20 million gallons per day of treated drinking water to customers.
Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgraded
OWASA’s Wastewater Treatment Plant was upgraded in 2007. These improvements included expanding the plant capacity to 14.5 million gallons per day, as well as adding filters and UV disinfection to increase the quality of the treated wastewater.
Another drought hit our area in 2007 and 2008. Year-round water conservation standards were adopted by the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill and Orange County after working with OWASA to set those regulations following this drought.
Protecting Water Quality by Protecting Forests
A key aspect of protecting water quality is protecting the environment surrounding OWASA’s reservoirs. OWASA met its goal in 2009 of protecting an additional 1,265 acres in the Cane Creek watershed when compared with protected land in 1996.
Reclaimed Water System Put in Service
OWASA’s reclaimed water system was put into service in 2009. This system allows treated wastewater to be recycled for non-potable uses, including cooling campus buildings and irrigation. Through a partnership with UNC, OWASA’s program has been expanding since its inception.
Forest Management Activities Begin on Cane Creek Mitigation Tract
Protecting water quality includes managing the forests around OWASA’s reservoirs. OWASA began forest management activities on the Cane Creek Mitigation Tract in 2010. This work helps protect water quality of Cane Creek Reservoir, OWASA’s largest raw drinking water supply.
How 2 OWASA (H2O) Program Begins
The How 2 OWASA program began in 2011 introducing staff to all OWASA does. On the lake, in the field, at the lab, and in the office, our diverse team works to reliably deliver high-quality drinking water, efficiently and sustainably.
OWASA a Leader in Partnership for Safe Water
After joining the Partnership for Safe Water in 2002, OWASA was a charter member of the distribution system optimization program in 2011. This membership ensures that water quality improvements can be measured and validated over time.
OWASA Improves Energy Efficiency
A large-scale project at the Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant was completed in 2013, resulting in improved energy efficiency and elimination of odor off-site. From 2010-2019, OWASA reduced natural gas and electricity use by 40%.
Diversity and Inclusion Program Adopted
OWASA’s Diversity and Inclusion program was put into place in 2016 and has led to updated training for staff and Board members, as well as provided input for updating policies and practices.
OWASA Awarded for Continued Excellence
OWASA was the ninth Water Treatment Plant in the country and first in North Carolina to achieve the Excellence in Water Treatment Award in 2011 from the Partnership for Safe Water. OWASA was then awarded the Five-Year Excellence in Water Treatment Award in 2016.
OWASA Celebrates 40 Years of Service
OWASA celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017. To honor the occasion, OWASA held an open house and welcomed community members in for tours and festivities.
OWASA Upgrades Water Meters
OWASA upgraded meters for customers across the service area in 2019 to allow more access to water-use data through Agua Vista. This new technology allows customers to monitor their water use and be alerted about possible leaks to conserve water and save money.
OWASA Launches Youth Water Academy
OWASA launched the Youth Water Academy in 2019 with two cohorts of engaged young people graduating from the program. The program is open to high school students in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.
OWASA Makes Major Investments in Community Infrastructure
Over the course of Kerwin’s tenure leading OWASA, there have been investments of more than $330 million in the community’s infrastructure, including replacing aging pipes and building in additional resiliency to maintain service for customers.
OWASA Board of Directors Announces New Executive Director
Ed Kerwin announced in 2019 that he would be retiring in 2020. The OWASA Board of Directors worked with a consultant and conducted a nationwide search. The Board announced in June 2020 that Todd Taylor, OWASA’s General Manager of Operations, would serve as Kerwin’s successor.
Kerwin Leaves Legacy of Teamwork at OWASA
We celebrate the legacy of teamwork that Ed Kerwin has left with OWASA and with customers across Carrboro and Chapel Hill over the last 24 years.