By BILL SHEA
From his office on the second floor of the main building at the wastewater treatment plant in Fort Dodge, Mike Moler can see construction workers and their equipment moving around as an expansion of the facility continues.
Moler said it's exciting to see that kind of investment in something so vital to a community's growth.
"Fort Dodge is setting itself up for the future," he said.
Moler, who is the top manager at the wastewater treatment plant, added that he's glad to be part of a team that's helping to create that future.
His formal title is project manager for USW Utility Group, the company that operates the plant at 1801 Ave. O for the city. Having started on the job Jan. 6, he's new to the city and the company. He came to Fort Dodge with 23 years of experience in both water and wastewater treatment plants.
"The water and wastewater departments are overlooked and yet vital to a community's growth and sustainability," Moler said. "It's very difficult to have a community without those two pieces of infrastructure in place."
Wastewater treatment in particular is "out of sight and out of mind" as far the general public is concerned, he said.
"Most people really have no idea what we do," he said.
What Moler and his crew at the plant do is receive all the wastewater from the city's sanitary sewer system, treat it to federal and state standards, and then release it into the Des Moines River. It's a process that relies heavily on microbes - called "bugs" by those in the business - to consume the pollutants in the wastewater.
Moler said his main job is to make sure that the plant staff has what it needs to get the job done.
"The staff here is well experienced," he said. "They know what they need to do."
His duties include planning, communicating with the plant staff and city officials, filing reports with regulatory agencies and tracking the plant's finances.
"It is not by any means a boring industry to be in," Moler said.
The veteran of Operation Desert Storm got into the business after being discharged from the Marine Corps. He said his father-in-law worked in a water plant and asked him if he would be interested in a job there. He got the job and began his career as a maintenance/relief operator at the water plant in Seymour, Ind.
He worked there for more than seven years. Then he took a job at a wastewater treatment facility at a Hershey's chocolate plant in Robinson, Ill.
From there, he went on to a series of jobs at water and wastewater treatment plants in Rushville, Salem and Evansville, Ind.; Peoria, Ill.; Lexington, Ky.; and Union County, N.C.
He learned about the Fort Dodge job through industry contacts. He said he is very impressed with the Fort Dodge community.
"We wanted to land our family in a good environment for raising children," Moler said. "Fort Dodge clearly looked like the best environment for our family."
He earned associate's and bachelor's degrees from Indiana Wesleyan University in Marian, Ind. He has several technical certifications and will complete a certification process through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.