‘Blessing To Be Away From Those Conditions’ – Century Water, Wastewater Supervisor Resigns

March 28, 2024

Century’s water and wastewater superintendent has submitted his resignation following a warning letter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Heath Burkett signed a six-page irrevocable resignation agreement on March 7. The agreement was retroactively approved by the town council, Burkett’s resignation will be final on May 9, the agreement states.

The town received warning letters last year raising numerous deficiencies with the water and wastewater operations, and later DEP issued a warning letter specifically to Burkett, alleging numerous possible violations of Florida statutes and code by Burkett.

DEP Allegations

DEP conducted an “office file” investigation in “regard to Mr. Burkett’s drinking water and wastewater operations at the Town of Century”, a February 21 letter from the state agency stated.

DEP asserted the following against Burkett:

Drinking Water License

  1. Failure to perform responsible and effective on-site management of the operation, supervision, and maintenance of water treatment plants.
  2. Failure to submit all required reports in the manner required by the Department rules.
  3. Failure to maintain a separate operation and maintenance (O&M) log for each water treatment plant that is accessible and protected from weather damage.
  4. Knowingly submitting misleading, false, or inaccurate information in daily logbook.
  5. Knowingly clearing a plant for service without an operational flowmeter.
  6. Failure to complete required site visits and/or maintain log for site visits.

Wastewater License

  1. Failure to report to the Department of unauthorized domestic wastewater discharges.
  2. Missing site time entries in operator logbook.
  3. Failure to submit all required reports in the manner required by the Department rules.
  4. Failure to document calibration records for the dissolved oxygen meter.

Many of the allegations were included a DEP warning letter to the town, and town responded. [Details...]

Burkett Responds, Makes Allegations Against Town

In his written response to DEP, Burkett said he has been the town’s sole certified operator since 2019.

“It is a blessing to be away from those conditions,” he wrote.

“It required me to stretch my time to all those tasks that normally would not be handled by an operator on a day to day basis,” he wrote. Burkett said he trusted mayors and town councils to follow through on promises to improve staff and conditions. He stated that at one time the town had a dedicated water operator and three full time distribution and maintenance personnel.

“Even though I need a job, because my family is important to me, it is a blessing to be away from those conditions. Whomever tries to operate that system will have most of these issues due to decisions that continue to be made by the Mayor and council,” he wrote.

Burkett termed the water and wastewater operations as “ridiculous conditions”, but said his decisions were made under “severe constraints” and nothing was malicious or causing any detriment to water or wastewater quality.

“I was never the manager of any department, therefore I had no control over finances, personnel, or expenditure planning. Even though I was the supervisor of the Water Department, I was not given authority to exercise supervisor duties. The town Mayor had sole authority over all departments” he alleged.

What’s next for the town?

Century council member Alicia Johnson has taken over acting supervisor duties, according to documents filed with DEP. She is both a certified water and wastewater operator that worked for the town in those positions until her March 2019 resignation.  The mayor stated that she is now volunteering her time as water and wastewater supervisor. She is compensated as a council member and continues to sit on the council.

The town council voted in February to allow the mayor to hire U.S. Water Services Corp. in New Port Richey, Florida, for up to $33,630 to address FDEP water warning letters from 2023 and a wastewater treatment plant consent order.  The company will not address the most recent January 30 warning letter’s 35 items; the town’s request for proposals was issued prior to that date.

Instead, the town hired the law firm of Sundstrom and Mindlin of Tallahassee as recommended by the town attorney Matt Dannheisser to respond to the latest allegations. The second attorney will charge up to $350 per hour.

The law firm has worked to facilitate a meeting between DEP and town officials.

In the meantime, Century has reported additional sewage spills, including one due to employee negligence after a valve was not opened as required, and the well serving the Century Correctional Institution remains out of service awaiting repairs.

Hiring Process Underway

The town has posted three positions in the water department with annual salaries totaling in excess of $218,000 plus benefits.

The town is hiring a water and wastewater treatment plant superintendent with a salary up to $85,000; a water treatment plant lead operator up to $66,650; and a wastewater treatment plant operator at up to $32/hour ($66,650 per year).

No closing date for applications was posted.

Comments

20 Responses to “‘Blessing To Be Away From Those Conditions’ – Century Water, Wastewater Supervisor Resigns”

  1. Susie on March 29th, 2024 10:51 am

    “Century”…that’s the minimum amount of time it will be before they fix ANYTHING. What a mess. Good luck to this poor scapegoat…uh…guy.

  2. Not You on March 29th, 2024 9:29 am

    @ A Serious Situation

    Escambia County has enough problems of its own to get involved in taking over Century. Might as well give it to Escambia County, AL.

  3. OhYouKnow on March 29th, 2024 8:09 am

    #PullCenturysCharter

  4. Thomas Paine on March 29th, 2024 8:05 am

    When the town is run like a third world failed state this is the result. It goes to the top.
    The soft coup which removed Boutwell led to an incompetent managing of town affairs.

  5. BIG JOHN on March 28th, 2024 9:30 pm

    AS ONE WHO HAD A CLASS C WATER LICENSE. I DO NOT BLAMED MR. BURKETT FOR LEAVEN THAT MESS WITH NO HELP AND ALL THOSE PROMISES TO IMPROVE STAFF. NO ONE MAN COULD HAVE FIX OR REPAIRED ALL THAT WAS NEEDED TO BE DONE WITH OUT SOME HELP! I HOPE MR. BURKETT YOU FINE A GOOD JOB WITH SOMEONE OR SOME PLACE THAT WILL TREAT YOU LIKE A MAN AND NOT A LIKE TRASH

  6. CJ Lewis on March 28th, 2024 7:24 pm

    Could ECUA provide water services to Century? The town’s staff director doesn’t list the Town Manager but what does he manage?

  7. Chelleepea on March 28th, 2024 5:01 pm

    When Heath was made superintendent I worried for him and the town. The town in making him superintendent put him in an impossible situation. With only a few years under his belt….he lacked experience and training which the town does not provide. Although I’m sure he’s a hard worker and fast learner there are some things only experience and training can provide. These impromptu, desperate promotions without any deep thoughts or planning doesn’t work. If a superintendent quits and leaves behind a young inexperienced workforce you must hire management experienced ppl from the outside.

    Do not blame Heath for this debacle….. Century needs to change the way they hire and promote.

  8. A county resident on March 28th, 2024 4:02 pm

    Century give it up already. You can’t keep on. You’ve done gone under. Turn your city over to the county.

  9. bob c. on March 28th, 2024 2:24 pm

    Was going to comment on this latest DISASTER for the Town of Century but it all just defies any words.
    Mr. Burkett, you have my full admiration and hopes/prayers for a Much Better employment where your high personal work ethic, experience, expertise and dedication will be Much More Appreciated personally, professionally and financially.
    Indeed, where does all the Public TAXPAYER Money go that is sent to Century?
    Lots of flies circling the mayor and town council….something been stinking a long time.

  10. Me on March 28th, 2024 1:18 pm

    Good Job, Heath! I’m proud of you for stepping up and resigning! I’m sure it was awful being in that position!
    If you don’t have a job by now…..go to Landrum. They need people at GE!

  11. Me on March 28th, 2024 10:38 am

    Curious why the town wouldn’t hire help for Heath in the first place

  12. Bamagirl on March 28th, 2024 10:29 am

    I’m just wondering how the midget wrestling turned out

  13. Duke of Wawbeek on March 28th, 2024 10:24 am

    Thank the Lord that Century has not fallen to administer/supervise Nuclear Power and it’s associater Nuclear Reactores?

  14. JJ on March 28th, 2024 10:18 am

    Thought Century got $100k’s from a grant to fix the well. Wheres the money,”Gomez”

  15. A Serious Situation on March 28th, 2024 10:17 am

    At this point, the State of Florida and Escambia County are jeopardizing the health and safety of citizens and the environment of both Century and Escambia County. The complacency of the State and County in allowing such is simply pathetic. The government of Century is not capable (financially or in leadership capacities) of properly operating a local government, including its utilities. It’s an emergency, and emergency actions need to be initiated. Senator Broxson and Representative Salzman, in concert with the Board of County Commissioners, should request to Governor DeSantis that immediate action is needed.

  16. Pull The Charter on March 28th, 2024 10:09 am

    Reason number 3,578 to desolve the charter and return rule to the county

  17. bob on March 28th, 2024 9:27 am

    What about the safety of the citizens of Century? Between the sewage spills and unclean water people could be hurt or damaged by Town of Century!

  18. Not You on March 28th, 2024 9:08 am

    Do you really think the County wants to wade into that mess?

  19. Jimmy Brantley on March 28th, 2024 8:53 am

    The believe that the town of Century is losing a great employee. I know the Burkett family and this a great loss for the town. I pray for Heath to find a better job.

  20. No Staff on March 28th, 2024 7:18 am

    So after reading this mans resignation it appears that Century has no staff to handle water department or waste water issues. How long do the citizens of Century have to wait before the State steps in and dissolves the town charter. It’s time for the county to take over.





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