The high rate of retirement eligibility in wastewater departments has raised some concerns about how U.S. cities will fill their wastewater job openings.

In Idaho more than half of the professionals who oversee or operate the state’s drinking water and wastewater facilities are within 10 years of retirement; one-third are older than 55, and 30% are older than 45, according to an article by the Post Register.

But Meridian isn’t facing the same concerns, and the city’s growth is one reason why.

In order to keep up with the growth in utilities, Meridian’s Wastewater Division has hired 20 new full-time employees over the past five years. Next year’s proposed budget also includes salaries for three new employees — two operators and one mechanic.

The median age of Meridian’s public works employees is 44, which indicates “50% of employees are younger than 44,” Dale Bolthouse, Meridian public works director, said over email. City officials believe all that hiring has contributed to Meridian Public Works employees’ median age being below the national average.

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The volume of wastewater flow processed in Meridian has doubled since 2003, now up to 7.2 million gallons a day. In order to address both the increase in flow and new federal discharge permit requirements, the city of Meridian is in the process of expanding its Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility.

When the expansion is complete, it will increase the facility’s capacity to 15 million gallons per day, which city staff estimate will support Meridian’s growth until 2040, Bolthouse said.

The Meridian Wastewater division has 40 full-time employees who process the millions of gallons of wastewater each day. In July the city is recruiting for two vacancies. Recruiting can prove difficult because of the current job market and low unemployment, said Bolthouse.

“At the end of the day, the work is important,” he said. “Imagine a day, a week, a month … without water or wastewater services. Our employees make it so you don’t have to.”

Patty Bowen is the Meridian Press reporter. You can reach her at pbowen@idahopress.com or follow her on Twitter @pattybowenMP.

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