In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many essential workers and health care providers have made sacrifices to keep basic services and health care operable. One industry that is essential to every community is water and wastewater operations.

The professional teams at Alliance Water Resources have been working hard and safely to make sure their partner communities continue to have clean, safe water. Sometimes, those communities are not the typical sort that might first come to mind. Alliance employees in Tennessee have been diligent in their work at two state prisons, keeping safe approximately 2,300 prisoners and staff at one facility and close to 1,700 at another.

Because water and wastewater are essential needs, Alliance workers reported to work at the prison each day even when other vendors are not allowed. All Alliance workers have been swab-tested for COVID-19, in accordance with the policies and procedures of the prison staff and have tested negative. They continue to report daily for morning temperature checks and to answer basic questions about any possible symptoms.

Part of the service that Alliance provides for the inmates at these facilities is a work-study program that facilitates training and state licensing for water and wastewater operation. This program allows participants to foster a marketable skill that can help them be productive upon their release. Course work incudes observation by the licensed professionals of Alliance while students perform hands-on operations of the plant. Each participant must demonstrate a competent ability to perform all necessary duties of operation. The participants are also enrolled through California State University in a renowned program of study, empowering them to acquire the necessary training and information to be certified in other states. 

Due to the pandemic, the program was suspended for part of April and part of May. During that time, participants were not able to continue their course work, causing them to get behind in their studies. However, as Alliance funds each participants’ enrollment, the company will cover any additional needed course work or deadline extensions in order to keep current students on track.

Another service that Alliance has been able to provide is to supplement disinfecting products for the prisons in the midst of shortages resulting from the pandemic. As part of the wastewater treatment process, a highly concentrated bleach is used. This bleach, which has a much higher concentration than can be found in stores, has been kept in full supply at the prison by Alliance staff, enabling it to be mixed with water to provide an applicable disinfectant to keep prisoners and staff safe.

Throughout the company, Alliance staff adheres to the rules of the communities they serve as well as to the company’s policy. In larger districts, the company is running split shifts so groups in the plant are smaller. Weekly updates on the guidelines, the statistics and the various procedures that Alliance communities are following are provided via email to all employees by Alliance President, Tim Geraghty. Division Managers meet every two to four weeks through online formats in order to connect and communicate, sharing challenges and ideas.

To date there have been no known positive cases of COVID-19 throughout the company of almost 300 employees. Should a particular district need additional assistance due to quarantine or positive cases, Alliance has the ability to provide staff from other areas of the company to step in. This aspect of hiring a company, as opposed to a person, helps prevent communities from becoming understaffed or overwhelmed and is especially beneficial during these unusual times.