Tom Green knows more than 'water is wet' after 46 years in public works
Tom Green could run a backhoe when he started working for the Borough of Greencastle in 1974, but he said the only thing he knew about water was that it was wet.
Over the course of more than four decades, he's learned a whole lot on the job about both water and sewer systems.
Green retired Dec. 31, 2020, from an Antrim Township sewer distribution post after a 46-year career in public utilities work — 33 in Greencastle and 13 in the township — that saw him on call 24/7 much of the time.
Green started work in Greencastle as a laborer, running a backhoe and helping with public works jobs like water leaks and maintenance. In 1980, he said the state of Pennsylvania required certified water system operators and he took care of the facilities at Ebert Spring, Moss Spring and the borough reservoir. Unless someone filled in for him, twice a day, seven days a week, he added liquid chlorine and did corrosion control at each station before the water went into the system.
As time went on, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection required Greencastle to build a new filtration plant at Moss Spring. It also required a certified operator and Green was on hand to get familiar with the facility while it was being constructed. He interned at the water treatment plant in Waynesboro when time allowed.
The plant went online with Green as chief operator and it was "a whole new ballgame" in terms of more employees and operations that included processes like backwashing and filtering the water.
At the time, Greencastle had the biggest nitrate removal plant on the East Coast and, in a nod to Green's skills, Hungerford and Terry Inc., the manufacturers, would refer other customers to him for training. They would come to watch and videotape him in action or attend weekend seminars.
In addition, Green's work in the borough included reading and repairing water meters. He said he's probably been inside most of the homes in the borough.
Green said he was looking for a change of careers when he went to work in the Antrim Township public works department on Oct. 22, 2007.
For 13 years he shared the duties of maintaining the township's 22 sewer lift stations with Doug McCullough. The lift stations are crucial to getting what goes into the system to the wastewater treatment plant.
Crystal Ball, the lift station monitoring technology, would phone them when there was trouble at a lift station and, 80% of the time, would narrow down the problem so its priority could be assessed.
Green would keep his phone "cranked up" and with him everywhere except in bed because "if a lift station calls in the middle of the night, it could be crucial."
He's also learned if something is going to go wrong, it will be "between 4 and 11, after you leave."
His duties also included new sewer installation and permit testing, assisting with PA One Calls to locate sewer lines, helping at the sewer treatment plant, hauling sludge since he has a CDL license and advising people about problems at their homes.
If someone has trouble and can't flush their toilet, the township is often the first place they call. Green said he would investigate and usually show people the system was working OK on the township's end. Nine times out of 10, it would be an internal problem requiring a plumber or Root-Rooter.
"I always enjoyed working around the public, both in the borough and the township," he said.
Green stayed on because he enjoyed his job, but said the time was right for retirement.
He was looking forward to traveling with his wife, Elizabeth, but COVID-19 has those plans on hold, according to Green, who also enjoys hunting and fishing and the activities of grandsons Garet and Dylan.
He said his wife and sons, Jason and Tom Jr., were very patient over the years as he missed events being on call and working weekends.
When sons were growing up, he told them to do what they wanted, but not to get into utilities because of the hours and the responsibilities.