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Oregon City-based employee named Operator of the Year

Clackamas Review - 9/14/2017

Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association honors Tri-City Wastewater Treatment Plant operator Blake Raines


Tri-City Wastewater Treatment Plant operator Blake Raines has been named 2016 Operator of the Year for the Lower Columbia section of the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association, which represents clean water agencies in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

In honoring Raines on July 11, the judges said, "Blake exemplifies the mission of our industry - to protect human health and the environment."

Raines' interest in a career in wastewater treatment was piqued during his junior year of high school, when he did a one-week job shadow at the Tri-City plant in Oregon City.

Raines started working as a temporary employee at the Tri-City plant in June 2007, less than a week after graduating from Centennial High School.

When that temporary position ended, he applied for a full-time Water Environment Services assistant position and was hired.

In his new position, Raines quickly realized that he had found his calling and decided to pursue a full-time career in wastewater treatment.

Raines then attended Clackamas Community College where he studied water and environmental technology. In February 2010, he was promoted to the position of Wastewater Operator 1.

Over the next several years, Raines worked hard to hone his craft, learning from some of the best in the business, including Michael Trent who died this past spring.

In February 2017, Raines was promoted to Wastewater Operator 2. And now, just 10 years after graduating from high school, he has received one of the top honors in his industry.

In spring of this year, Raines returned to Clackamas Community College'sWater Environment School, this time as a presenter to discuss the membrane bioreactor (MBR), which is regarded as a "model of sustainability" in the wastewater treatment industry. Blake worked closely with contractors through 2011 to prepare the MBR facility for operation.

An outdoor enthusiast, Raines says his job perfectly suits his love and appreciation for the environment: "I am in a role where I get to help protect local rivers, and it makes me feel like I'm giving back to the environment. I take a lot of pride in knowing that I'm making a positive impact on the environment and helping to protect the public health at the same time."

Raines also is grateful to Clackamas County: "The county took a huge risk by hiring me. I was 18 years old without a college degree and very little experience. So now, every day it is my goal to prove to them that they made the right decision in hiring me, and I'm forever grateful they did."

Raines also is one of the more popular tour guides at the Tri-City plant during which he explains the significance of his work to people of all ages, whether it's a class of schoolkids or a group of retirees.

"We take water that is useless to many people and we clean it, create energy, use it to operate plant equipment, and discharge cleaner water than the receiving river, all while protecting the public.

"I think I have the best job because not only do I love what I do, I get to teach the public about what I do and, hopefully, get them thinking about how they can make an impact on the environment."

Raines and his wife recently moved from Oregon City to Canby and hope to start a family soon.


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