Work is water and a whole lot more for Kelly Peterson.
Peterson, a city of Kent environmental conservation supervisor, helps oversee the quality of drinking water, the protection of wetlands and streams, and the city’s solid waste and recycling programs.
“He has to jump back and forth between a lot of topics,” said Mike Mactutis, city environmental engineering manager, of the longtime city employee.
Peterson likes the variety of his work, as well as the chance to work with city planners and the operations division of the public works department. They operate to make sure the city’s drinking water remains at a high standard, that wetlands and streams are protected from pollutants and that solid-waste items are increasingly recycled.
“The biggest thing I enjoy is everyday is different,” Peterson said. “And everything I work on, other people are involved. There’s not much I do by myself. It’s a team effort.”
But few employees are as dedicated as Peterson, who started work for the city in 1999.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get him out of here,” Mactutis said. “He calls and e-mails when he’s on vacation. He always wants to make sure projects are getting done whether he’s here or not. He cares very much about the city and the people he serves.”
Peterson, a 1991 graduate of Kentwood High School, grew up in Covington before the city became incorporated. He earned a degree in geography and land studies from Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
During college, Peterson worked as an intern for the city of Kent, helping to make maps for the city’s geographic information system. After that, he worked as a city planner in Edgewood (near Puyallup) for about a year. Peterson then joined the city of Kent as a wellhead protection engineer, someone who works to ensure the municipal supply remains free from contaminants.
Although other employees test the city’s water, Peterson oversees the reports and helps track down the sources if contaminants do show up in the water.
“He (Peterson) helps assure the drinking water is clean out of the tap and will be for the foreseeable future,” Mactutis said. “He’s also one of the people who reviews development plans to make sure the development will not pollute water, streams or wetlands.”
During college, Peterson thought about becoming a professor. But his internship with the city of Kent and city planner job in Edgewood convinced him to pursue his current career.
“I wanted to come back and provide back to the community where I grew up,” Peterson said. “That is very rewarding.”
Peterson closely follows the requirements of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit issued by the state Department of Ecology to help the city meet water standards.
“He oversees the permit so that the city follows regulations to make sure it keeps water clean for fish and wildlife,” Mactutis said. “It also protects the city from lawsuits by the state or federal government or third parties such as environmental groups or citizens.”
Peterson enjoys looking out for the city’s water, wetlands and streams.
“The main challenge is to be efficient in our processes and protect the environment for future generations,” he said. “The key is a good sustainability plan.”
Peterson continues to work to increase recycling by residents and businesses in the city. While 92 percent of city residents recycle, only 37 percent participate in yard-waste recycling. Peterson said food scraps can be put in yard waste, and if more people participated in that effort the amount of solid waste would go down.
“Once the (Cedar Hills) landfill is filled up, the cost will increase to take waste farther away,” Peterson said, referring to the site where the city now hauls its waste. “We need to increase recycling and composting.”
Outside of work, Peterson lives in Bonney Lake with his wife, Trish, and their 22-month-old son, Jack. They have another child due in March. Besides spending time with his family, Peterson likes to hunt and fish.
And along with the three employees he supervises, water quality in Kent remains high.
“The dedication of Kelly and other staff puts the city in a good position to have clean water,” Mactutis said.
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