With the end of COVID-related restrictions, GMWEA is jumping into summer (and fall) programming with both feet!
Lunch & Learn trainings, Tues., July 27 and Tues. August 10: These accredited online sessions are designed for working professionals who want to learn and earn credits without leaving work. On July 27 (RESCHEDULED AND FREE!), 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Mike Bonomo of ADA Environmental will present “Transitioning from Visual Inspection to Fact-based Data (with Tech Eyes on the System),” providing 1 TCH W or WW. On August 10, Rod Lamothe and John Williams will present “WET Testing,” providing 1 TCH WW for attendees. Registration for the July 27 session is FREE (but you must register)! The August 10 session is only $15 for GMWEA members, $60 for non-members (includes membership for the rest of 2021). For more details and to register and pay online, go to https://gmwea.org/lunch-%26-learn .
George Dow Memorial Golf Tournament, Friday, Aug. 20: It’s back, live and in person — GMWEA’s infamous tournament at Cedar Knoll Country Club in Hinesburg. With 90+ water quality professionals competing, hole prizes, refreshments, and the $10,000 hole-in-one prize, it’s a not-to-be-missed opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues for a whole day of outdoor fun! $110 per individual includes golf, cart, beverages, and lunch. Sign up your team today! For registration and sponsorship information, go to https://gmwea.org/george-dow-golf .
Fall Tradeshow, Thursday, October 28: GMWEA’s flagship event will take place at Burlington’s DoubleTree Hotel, featuring 90+ exhibitors, 400 attendees, guest speakers, six hours of accredited trainings, lunch, and more. Vermont’s largest and longest-running water quality conference will also feature a night-before welcome event, with refreshments, for exhibitors and presenters. If your firm missed having venues for visibility in 2020, this is your chance to catch up — sponsorship opportunities are available! For more information and registration details, go to https://gmwea.org/fall-tradeshow .
But wait, there’s more! In early August, look for the summer edition of The GMWEA News, our quarterly newsletter, for more association news, profiles of industry personalities, and informative articles. Also coming this summer and fall: Basic Wastewater Management course, the eight-week class intended to prepare wastewater workers for their level 1 and 2 exams. Watch this blog and our website at www.gmwea.org for updates!
GMWEA is pleased to announce the second of our monthly, lunch-hour online trainings: “Polymer — An Owner’s Manual,” presented by Ryan Peebles, GMWEA board member and New England regional manager of Cleanwaters, Inc.
This session is designed to educate wastewater and water operators about optimal dosing, proper procedures, safety — and how to save money by saving polymer. Topics include polymer composition; dosing equipment; how to identify overdosing as well as under-dosing to increase performance and save money; bench testing; clean up; maintenance. Access to a computer is required. To register and pay online, see below.
Date: June 8, 2021, 12 noon to 1 p.m. (sign in at 11:45)
Registration Fee: $15 for GMWEA members, $60 for non-member (includes membership for the rest of 2021, including discounted registration for upcoming trainings/courses and our fabulous Fall Tradeshow — back IN PERSON on October 28 at Burlington’s DoubleTree Hotel!
To register for “Polymer — An Owner’s Manual,”CLICK HERE.
The Lunch & Learn series will present accredited, one-hour, online trainings every second Tuesday of the month, except October. Be sure to sign up early, and mark your calendar for “Transitioning from Visual Inspection to Fact-based Data with Tech Eyes on the System,” presented by Mike Bonomo of ADS Environmental Services, Tuesday, July 13, noon to 1 p.m.
I’ve been trying to decide on the best thing about GMWEA’s Spring Conference, which is coming up on May 20 and 21, from 8:15 a.m. to 12:30, online. And I can’t. There’s just so much informative, entertaining, and important stuff going on.
Maybe it’s the talk by Haley Pero, outreach specialist from Sen. Bernie Sanders’s office. Haley has been deeply involved in water quality issues, and for this appearance she agreed to talk about forthcoming federal funding for water quality infrastructure. We asked her to detail how much money is coming, where it’ll hit the ground in Vermont, and how municipalities can get in line for it. Not to be missed!
But then there’s Jeff Wennberg’s keynote address. Jeff retired in January after 35 years as DEC commissioner, mayor of Rutland, and head of Rutland’s DPW. I’ve worked with Jeff on various projects since 2004, and he really knows his stuff – the big picture AND the little details. His decades-long perspective on the water quality sector, a look back and a well-informed look into the future, is sure to be invaluable. Plus he’s a terrific speaker with a great sense of humor.
Of course, nobody should miss our annual Service Excellence Awards presentations. Nominations from around the state arrived starting in January and, given 2020’s trials and tribulations, our awards committee had to choose among some true heroes in the drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater fields. Operators, facilities, companies, and lab techs will all be honored, and everybody in the water quality community simply should BE THERE!
Then again, there are five hours of technical sessions, overflowing with TCHs. Topics range from basic skills to emerging technologies, and all are taught by top-notch experts. On Thursday, there’ll be sessions on Water Well Rehabilitation and Basic Math for Operators, and a session on a New Primary Bio-filter Technology that could change the game for facilities with small footprints. On Friday, there’ll be sessions on Affordable Telemetry for Small Systems and Water Corrosion Control.
The sponsor presentations will be great, too. Personally, I don’t want to miss DigSafe’s live how-to introduction to Exactix, a new web-based platform that allows excavators to create and manage their own DigSafe tickets online. And our fabulous new board candidates will introduce themselves. . .
Or maybe the best thing is that all this costs only $25 (for both days!), for GMWEA members.
All the details, including online registration and payment, are on our website at www.gmwea.org.
BIG THANKS are due our sponsors for this event, whose support allows GMWEA to present programs like this affordably: Ti-Sales, Surpass Chemical, Resource Management Inc., E.J. Prescott, Endyne Laboratory Services, DigSafe, and Champlin Associates. Be sure to check out their products, services, projects, and new technologies!
Marty Frizzell, of Island Pond, passed away on April 1, 2021. GMWEA members and friends will miss him deeply.
Many knew Marty for his work as the chief operator of Brighton’s water and wastewater treatment facility. As friends and family recall, it was not uncommon to see Marty around town, chasing down a pump station alarm, or stopping to talk with a local resident to help them in any way he could. He was proud of his work and he cared deeply for his community.
He is survived by his wife, Sandy; daughter, Brittany; son, Fraser; three grandchildren; and an extended family.
Marty was the chairman of the Island Pond Selectboard, a Brighton Elementary school board member, an active member of the Brighton Post 80 American Legion, a proud volunteer at the Brighton VFW, a member of the Christ Episcopal Church, and even a little league baseball coach. But of all his attributes and achievements, what stands out as his legacy is simply his genuine kindness for others.
Due to COVID, a funeral and celebration of Marty’s life are planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to The Mary Wright Halo Foundation, 1073 Upper Quarry Road, Newport, VT 05855 or the American Cancer Society, 55 Day Lane, Williston, VT 05495. On-line condolences may be made at curtis-britch.com.
GMWEA is pleased to announce the launch of a new continuing education initiative that’s geared to people on the job. We call it Lunch and Learn because the sessions start at 12 noon and end within the hour. They’re presented online, so you can attend from anywhere, and they’re affordable – only $15 for GMWEA members!
Please join us on Tuesday, April 13, for Laboratory Procedures, by Eileen Toomey and Rod Lamothe of Endyne Labs (right). The virtual training will feature hands-on demonstrations of lab procedures as well as lecture, slides, and Q&A.
Credits: 1 Water TCH, 1 Wastewater TCH
Content: This session will cover some of the basic techniques used in the analytical laboratory, including procedures for using common lab tools such as balances, glassware, reagents, and essential instrumentation. We will review various analytical methods that relate to the typical water or wastewater laboratory such as BOD, TSS, turbidity, and others; finally, we will review the quality control requirements and personal protection in the laboratory. There will be a brief Q & A at the end of the presentation.
Cost: $15 for GMWEA members, $60 for nonmembers. (If you haven’t renewed or signed up yet, your registration fee will include 2021 membership dues!)
To register: For online registration and credit card payment, CLICK HERE. Or, contact Daniel Hecht at firstname.lastname@example.org for registration materials.
Lunch and Learn will be presented every second Tuesday of the month except May, when we’ll present our annual Spring Conference, and October, when we’ll hold the Fall Tradeshow. Visit www.gmwea.org for updates on future Lunch and Learn session topics!
PS: Speaking of Spring Conference: It’s on! Mark your calendar and please plan to attend this virtual event on May 20 and 21, for five hours of trainings, our annual Service Excellence Awards presentations, a keynote speech by Jeff Wennberg, and, tentatively, a special address by Sen. Bernie Sanders!Check www.gmwea.org for more information.
It’s time to nominate your colleagues for GMWEA’s annual water quality Service Excellence Awards. We’re looking for individuals, facilities, and companies who demonstrated exceptional expertise and commitment in the water quality field in 2020 – let’s give credit where credit is due!
In the spirit of the moment, we’ve been playing with images of “awards.” No, our awards don’t look like the ones in this post, but . . . hey, one day, who knows?
GMWEA’s awards actually come as handsome, walnut-backed, engraved plaques. We also put out press releases statewide and – when pandemics allow – put on some pomp and ceremony at our annual Spring Conference at Killington. This year, due to COVID-19, they’ll be hand-delivered.
In any case, winning one of GMWEA’s ten awards probably does not hurt the winners’ careers or their sense of, “Yeah, I did do the thing as best I could – thanks!” So — nominate!
Who did the job with exceptional know-how and devotion in 2020? Who provided a role model others should take note of? Who paid some hard dues in 2020 and stood up to it? Please take a moment to visit our website’s awards page, read about the awards, and make a nomination using the online form, e-mail, or hard-copy via U.S. mail!
The deadline to nominate is April 9, 2021. You must be a GMWEA member to nominate, and only GMWEA members are eligible to win. (If you haven’t yet renewed or signed up for 2021, please do! You can renew/enroll and pay online — $45 for the year — at www.gmwea.org or by U.S. mail.)
The award categories are below. It’s a great way to honor a colleague or worthy company/organization, and to let the world know about the good work water quality professionals do 24/7/365!
Michael J. Garofano Water Operator of the Year Award for outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities.
Operator Excellence – Wastewater for outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities.
Facility Excellence – Water for outstanding facilities exceeding system operation requirements. Recognition is for the entire facility and staff.
Facility Excellence – Wastewater for outstanding facilities exceeding system operation requirements. Recognition is for the entire facility and staff.
Andrew D. Fish Laboratory Excellence for outstanding activity in laboratory performance at work, community service, education, committee participation, or other outstanding contribution.
Outstanding Industrial – Operator for a significant accomplishment in operation, problem solving, crisis management, training, or understanding of industrial wastewater issues.
Outstanding Industrial – Facility for demonstrated commitment to clean water and pollution prevention, including implementation of water or wastewater treatment changes to address problems common to similar industries.
Bob Wood Young Professionals Award for achievements of a young professional operator, engineer, or student who has achieved notable contributions to the water environment, water, wastewater, or stormwater operations, and/or to GMWEA. (Must be 30 or under).
Stormwater Award for outstanding performance in stormwater management and/or education and significant contribution to the stormwater field. Recognition is for an individual, company, or facility.
Elizabeth Walker Meritorious Service Award for outstanding contributions to the water quality field and/or to GMWEA.
To nominate, visit the awards page on our website: CLICK HERE.
It’s a classic tale of dark clouds having silver linings. In the end, water quality workers received due honors, and a lot of hungry people in Chittenden County got fed.
The saga begins back in May of 2020, when GMWEA cancelled our annual Spring Meeting/Training Conference due to COVID-19. It was bad enough that operators needing TCHs couldn’t attend the trainings usually presented, but another important annual ritual also fell by the wayside: our annual Service Excellence Awards ceremony.
True, we put out press releases to let Vermonters know about the winners’ good work, and the award plaques did get delivered, one by one. But foregoing the customary ceremony – eminently due the devoted professionals who won awards – didn’t sit well with GMWEA’s board and staff.
In chapter two, the dark clouds continued to thicken as the pandemic deepened. GMWEA had to cancel everything – including our Fall Tradeshow, the largest water quality conference and tradeshow in Vermont, scheduled for November. More operators went without trainings, and the 95 water quality companies that usually exhibit were left without a venue in which to show off their goods and services.
In chapter three, things started to look up as the water quality community fought back against the dread enemy. GMWEA began to present trainings again – online — including our day-long Stormwater Manual training, the eight-week Basic Wastewater Operations class, and a November 5 mini-conference of three, hour-long sessions.
Cancelling the Fall Tradeshow really hurt, and it could have meant the forfeiture of GMWEA’s venue deposit at the DoubleTree Hotel in Burlington. But thanks to the DoubleTree staff’s flexibility and community-mindedness, and some creative thinking by GMWEA board members and staffer Lisa Goodell, we came up with a plan to salvage some benefit from this state of affairs.
Fast forward to the happy ending, when an unusual alliance delivered over 400 pounds of staple foods to hungry Vermonters. The DoubleTree agreed to return GMWEA’s deposit in the form of food (food that conference attendees didn’t get to eat, back in November). GMWEA past president Tom DiPietro contacted Feeding Chittenden, one of Vermont’s largest hunger-response organizations, who welcomed the food donation. All agreed that the gift would be made in honor of our 2020 award winners – a way of paying forward their service to Vermont in 2019.
On Thursday morning, February 18, GMWEA board members Tom DiPietro, Chris Robinson, and Wayne Elliott drove to the DoubleTree to pick up the food; they then headed to Feeding Chittenden’s HQ on North Winooski Avenue, Burlington, to deliver it.
You can cook a lot of great dishes, for a lot of people, with this stuff: 72 pounds of garbanzo beans, 50 pounds of brown rice, 50 pounds of white rice, 80 pounds of liquid eggs, 40 pounds of shredded jack cheddar cheese, 12 gallons of canola/olive oil, 20 pounds of Cabot cheddar slices, and 60 pounds of dry black beans.
Feeding Chittenden – formerly Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf – serves over 12,000 people a year through six innovative programs. In partnership with Vermont Foodbank, they also operate the Community Kitchen Academy, which trains unemployed and underemployed individuals for careers in the food service industry – while cooking meals for community members going hungry in these tough times. Check them out at www.feedingchittenden.org .
Huge thanks are due all around: to Sherri Neumann, director of catering and events at the Doubletree Hotel; to all the folks at Feeding Chittenden; and, finally, to those who demonstrated expertise and devotion in the water quality professions in 2019:
Vilas Gentes, wholesale maintenance technician, Champlain Water District, who won the Michael J. Garofano Water Operator of the Year Award
Peter Laramie, chief operator, Fair Haven WWTF and Robert Wheeler, chief operator, Bellows Falls and Saxtons River WWTFs, winners of the Operator Excellence, Wastewater Award
Randolph Center Water System, which won the Facility Excellence, Water Award
City of Newport WWTF, winner of the Facility Excellence, Wastewater Award
Endyne Laboratory Services, Inc., which won the Andrew Fish Laboratory Excellence Award
Cody Grimm, water/wastewater operator, Simon Operation Services, winner of the Bob Wood Young Professional award
Dave Wheeler, stormwater project manager, South Burlington, who won the Stormwater Award
Liz Royer, executive director, Vermont Rural Water Association, winner of the Elizabeth Walker Meritorious Service Award
PS: GMWEA is now seeking nominations for its 2020 awards! To nominate an individual, facility, or company, visit the awards page at www.gmwea.org .
Jeff Wennberg claims he has retired. You can’t blame his colleagues for being skeptical.
A glance at his resume suggests why. He’s spent 35 years in environmental administration and public service, including serving as mayor of Rutland, commissioner of Vermont’s Dept. of Environmental Conservation, board member and president of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, chair of the environmental policy committee for the National League of Cities, chair of the Governmental Advisory Committee for US EPA, and served on many other government and non-profit organizations, and, until recently, as commissioner of Rutland’s Department of Public Works.
Jeff is a big-picture thinker who has a wonk’s fascination with technology. He operates with a refreshingly independent take on policy matters spiced with a sardonic sense of humor. And, fortunately for GMWEA, a long and deep commitment to water quality. (He’s been a member of GMWEA’s Government Affairs Committee for many years.)
Q: You earned a BS in Physics and an MS in Industrial Management. Why the switch to public service?
JW: When I served on the Rutland’s School Board, I discovered that public service gave me a greater sense of personal satisfaction than my private sector job. When it came time to move on, I sought out public sector work and landed a job with Congressman Jim Jeffords. Jeffords was a mentor of mine, along with Governor Richard Snelling and Jack Daley, mayor of Rutland.
Public servants can take pride in their work, knowing that they are making a real difference in peoples’ lives. Just look at our drinking water and wastewater personnel – these people take their jobs seriously and have enormous pride in the work they do. . . we’re lucky to have so many such motived, devoted people here in Vermont.
Q: And yet they’re largely unappreciated! People expect water to flow when they turn the tap, toilets to empty when they flush. They don’t recognize the infrastructure and human expertise and devotion that makes it happen!
JW: Exactly. But I say to my guys that when the people you serve DON’T notice – THAT is the definition of success. . . As DEC commissioner, and in Rutland, I always saw part of my job was to sing their praises – to communicate the degree of devotion and professionalism these people possess.
Q: Which you do very effectively. You show an impressive ability to convey complex, often technical ideas in accessible ways. Is that a native gift of gab, or a learned skill?
JW: It’s crucial to be able to translate to non-technical people the heart of a complex idea. For example, as commissioner of Vermont DEC, my very first invitation for a public speech was at a GMWEA conference. I wanted let them know where I was coming from as the new commissioner without getting into policy minutia.
Q: So, what did you tell those GMWEA members?
JW: I was very clear about where the rubber meets the road. I was already known for being outspoken in criticism of regulators, and I shared with the GMWEA audience what I said to the DEC staff: “When does environmental protection take place? It’s not when laws are made, it’s not when money is allocated, it’s not when rules are written or when the regulators are hired — not one pollutant is removed. The environment is protected when an alarm goes off at the wastewater treatment plant at 2 a.m. and the operator has the knowledge, the resources, and the authority to do the right thing.”
“The environment is protected when an alarm goes off at the wastewater treatment plant at 2 a.m. and the operator has the knowledge, the resources, and the authority to do the right thing.”
Q: You seem to be willing to be a maverick in policy perspectives — to take some heat if needed.
JW: I tell people, You gotta be willing to wear a ‘kick me’ sign, and wear it proudly! Good ideas often take heat if they challenge the status quo. I am willing to be someone who inflames if that’s what’s needed. Sometimes being a lightning rod is the way to get attention, which is always necessary if you want to change minds.
Q: One example might be your view on combined sewer systems. Rutland has had its problems with CSOs, yet you’re willing to tack against the prevailing winds of sentiment on that.
JW: Well, despite overflows, combined systems are demonstrably better than systems lacking stormwater treatment. Combined systems take in stormwater all year, removing pollutants every day EXCEPT for the comparatively brief overflows.
The Rutland plant processes about 1.7 billion gallons a year – about 650 to 750 million of which are stormwater. We showed that despite overflows, the net phosphorous removal was enormous. In 2017, 3 million gallons of wastewater bypassed the system during CSOs, allowing 73 pounds of phosphorus to be released. But 1,278 pounds were removed that same year by processing stormwater through the treatment plant. We need to look at the whole picture if we are going to successfully protect water quality.
So what’s next for Jeff Wennberg?
Jeff says he’s looking forward to spending more time with his family – his wife of 43 years, two adult children, and three grand-kids. He still serves on GMWEA’s Government Affairs Committee and the Vt. Citizens Advisory Committee on the Lake Champlain’s Future. He’ll probably do some consulting – “but only if it’s fun.” And he plans to do some writing: “As everybody knows, I love to tell stories.” Like Abe Lincoln, he has a penchant for illustrating his thoughts with one-liner sayings or humorous stories — so he’s working on a collection of instructive anecdotes that offer advice based on his long professional experience.
“I say to my guys that when the people you serve DON’T notice — THAT is the definition of success.”
Editor: Jeff, thanks so much for your good work over so many years. Sorry, but people DID notice — and yet you still meet the definition of success. Best wishes in all your future endeavors!
At the request of Sen. Chris Bray, chair of the Vermont Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, GMWEA conducted a survey of the state’s water, wastewater, and stormwater facilities in January.
The goal: To determine the past due balances — what some towns call “aged receivables” — left unpaid by households and businesses. This information will help assess future funding needs for the Vermont COVID-19 Arrearages Assistance Program (VCAAP), which provides grants to eligible individuals and entities to pay utility bills.
GMWEA’s Public Relations committee, chaired by Joe Duncan (left), general manager of Champlain Water District, took the lead. Staff contacted over 900 individuals in city and town governments statewide, requesting data on arrearages over 60 days; 96 municipal entities responded.
The information was eye-opening. As GMWEA reported to the Senate, respondents collectively reported the following arrearages:
Drinking water: $1,750,548
Total arrearages in responding municipalities: $3,704,625
The committee then calculated the implications of these figures. The cities and towns reporting represent a population of 324,791, or 71% of the total population of cities/towns with municipal systems.
Extrapolating the total statewide arrearages from that proportion, GMWEA concluded that water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities are facing $5,218,000 in unpaid user fees! The potential impact on individuals, businesses — and municipal budgets — is huge.
The survey did not determine how much of the arrearages result from the economic impacts of COVID-19. However, based on the data received, GMWEA has recommended that $5,250,000 be provided to VCAAP to ease financial hardships associated with the pandemic.
GMWEA urges Individuals, businesses, and municipal entities to learn more about VCAAP and to assess their eligibility for grants by visiting the Vermont Dept. of Public Service page by clicking here. Or, just search the web for “VCAAP.”
A new bill taken up in January, 2021, by the Vermont House proposes to impose restrictions on the use, manufacturing, sale, and distribution of several products containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
Introduced by Reps. Dolan, Squirrell, Lefebvre, McCullough, Ode, and Sheldon, H.26 specifically names the products known to have the highest PFAS concentrations or those most likely to be absorbed or ingested by humans, notably class B firefighting foam, food packaging, and residential rugs and carpets.
GMWEA’s 35-member Government Affairs Committee (GAC) welcomed the legislation, noting that – given the wide use of these 5,000+ related molecules, the difficulty of detecting and remediating them – source control is the only realistic mitigation strategy. In a letter to Rep. Amy Sheldon, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife, our GAC expressed support for the measure, stating, in part:
“Given the limited, costly, and unproven treatment technologies, GMWEA and other similar water quality organizations nationwide have long advocated for source control of PFAS chemicals as the best solution to this problem. Limiting, as much as practical, the introduction of PFAS chemicals on the supply side will ultimately reduce what enters our waste stream. H.26 is a welcome step forward in achieving that critical objective.”
Under the proposed legislation, “A person, municipality, or State agency shall not discharge or otherwise use for training purposes class B firefighting foam that contains intentionally added PFAS.” Manufacturers are similarly prohibited from selling or distributing such products in Vermont, unless the inclusion of PFAS is required by federal law.
The food-packaging restrictions also include phthalates and bisphenols – used primarily in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins – proven in animal studies to cause reproductive disorders and possibly cancer. The legislation would grant the Department of Health the power to prohibit such products if it is deemed that safer alternatives exist.
The sale and distribution of carpets containing PFAS are also subject to restrictions in the bill. Carpets, couches, and mattresses are by far the leading contributors to landfill-leachate PFAS pollution, according to a the October, 2019 study by Sanborn, Head and Associates.
H.26 also designated PFAS as “chemicals of high concern to children.” (A parallel bill, H.27, proposed requiring warning labels on products containing PFAS.)
The terms relating to firefighting foam and chemicals of high concern to children are proposed to take effect on July 1, 2022; those relating to carpets and food packaging on July 1, 2023.
The bill’s future in the 2021 session has yet to be determined – but source control of PFAS is at last getting the attention it deserves!