Category Archives: News & Events

Wastewater Work, Then & Now

Wastewater treatment operators may be surprised to discover that their job has a long history — a history at once strange and perhaps all too familiar. 

According to an article by Will Hunt in the most recent issue of Archaeology magazine, a team led by archaeologist Roos van Oosten is now researching sanitation infrastructure and practices in the Dutch city of Leiden in the 16th century.  Their finds are changing the way historians view the Middle Ages.

Photo by BAAC Archeology en Bouwhistorie: This 2015 excavation in the center of Leiden is one of several that have exposed centuries-old waste infrastructure.

Van Oosten is digging not just in the dirt and biosolids, but in the red tape that proliferated in relation to sewage back then, just as it does now.  Her work brings her to excavations of both private latrines – so far, she has excavated 104 in Leiden – and early wastewater processing infrastructure. 

If you consider today’s regulations as onerous as the raw material of the industry, you’re probably not the first to feel that way.  Van Oosten’s visits to the city’s archives have found not just extensive regulatory stipulations – with titles such as “Rules and Orders on Privy-Cleaners and Nightworkers” and “Inspection of the Ordinances on the Subject of Privvies” – but actual permits and inspection results.

For one particular almshouse, Hunt notes, “she discovered 34 written permits, each of which describes the cleaning out of a private cesspit by a team of nightmen.  The 400-year-old paper trail reveals a fastidious process,” every step recorded in great detail.  On September 20, 1603, for example, a nightman named Baernt Roberechtsz removed 95 tubs of waste from the cesspit of a widow named Sara de Haen.  The tubs were then carried to a barge by “tub men,” legally bound not to spill a drop into the city canal.

Why “nightmen”? Because by law, septic workers had to work after 10 p.m. “so as not to offend the sensibilities of the citizenry.” They were also required to do so quietly, and could be prosecuted if they were loud, drunk, or sloppy.  Their pay was contingent upon certification that the job had been done properly and with due decorum.

Early sewage transport infrastructure in Leiden. 

By the mid-1600s, Leiden began transitioning to public systems that collected waste via pipes, as nowadays, and processed in bulk.  This was not an easy task – technology was primitive– and the process upset citizens, who claimed it turned the city into a “stink-hole.”  Some blamed a wave of illness and deaths in the mid-17th century on the odors from the new systems, but most likely the cause was cholera.

In some ways, modern wastewater operators are a lot better off.  In some ways – well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

GMWEA Tradeshow, November 8!

It’s almost here!

GMWEA will present its 35th annual Tradeshow and Conference — our largest and most  anticipated annual event — on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, at the Doubletree Hotel & Conference Center, Burlington, Vt.

Don’t miss this event — it’s Vermont’s most important water quality professional development opportunity!

It brings together over 400 water, wastewater, and stormwater professionals, water quality technology and service providers, DPW administrators, staff from water-related nonprofit organizations, State agency administrators, educators, and students.

2018’s keynote speaker, Vt. ANR Secretary Julie Moore, will speak about the challenges facing Vermont’s natural waters and our water quality infrastructure. The tradeshow will feature over 100 exhibitors as well as six technical trainings — see below– presented by renowned experts, a delicious lunch, guest speakers, vendor raffles, and lots of networking opportunities.

The sessions (for full descriptions and registration information, visit https://www.gmwea.org/fall-trade-show.html):

Online Resources at OPR (Office of Professional Regulation), presented by Tara Grenier, OPR’s licensing administration supervisor, and Kara Shangraw, OPR’s license administrator for water/wastewater system designers and operators

Safe Handling, Storage, and Pumping of Water and Wastewater Chemicals, presented by Loren A. Swears, Slack Chemical Technical Applications

Polymer: An Owner’s Manual, presented by Ryan Peebles, New England regional manager, Cleanwaters, Inc.

Basic Math for Water and Wastewater Operators, presented by Matt Guerino, training specialist, Vermont Rural Water Association

Updated Boil Water Notice Policy, presented by Ben Montross, compliance and support services section chief, Vt. DEC Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division, and Patrick Smart, DEC, DWGWP Division

Working in Confined Spaces, presented by Raymond Morang, safety, training, and service manager, E.J. Prescott Inc.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here: https://www.gmwea.org.

Senate CSO Hearing Coverage — Just the Facts, Please!

Note: The following was written by GMWEA executive director Daniel Hecht to respond to a segment aired by ABC-affiliate TV station Local22.

Dear Local 22 Newsteam:

Thank you for covering the Vermont Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy hearing on CSOs (combined sewage overflows), at Echo Center, Weds. Sept. 19.  We are glad that this important issue has come into focus for the legislature and the general public.

However, I suggest that Courtney Kramer’s segment over-emphasized certain facts and failed to provide other, more important, details.

I am executive director of Green Mountain Water Environment Association (GMWEA), a nonprofit organization with 500 members – primarily operators of drinking water and wastewater facilities, municipal department of public works staff, and water scientists and engineers – which serves to offer water quality technical education, provide advisory to policymakers, and inform the public about water quality issues.

We agree with Conservation Law Foundation staff attorney Elena Mihaly – prominently featured in the segment — that a sign announcing a beach closure due to e. coli contamination, related to CSO events, is not in accord with anyone’s desired vision of Vermont.

However, the segment devoted too much time to this image and to Ms. Mihaly’s opinions, and too little to the roomful of environmental experts who could have provided important information to your viewers if their comments had been given more time on air.  In short, the segment missed an opportunity to foster a better-informed, more engaged public.

CSOs result from a complex convergence of rainfall volume, rate, and duration, and the infrastructure that attempts to mitigate the harmful effects of human pollution on waterways. Each region faces unique stormwater management challenges, dependent on local geology, waterways, paved surfaces, built environments, and infrastructure legacy – the type, age, and condition of wastewater/stormwater pipes and storage capacity.  There exists no single solution applicable to every location; nor are all  Vermont towns equally able to pay for improvements.

The complete elimination of all combined systems is certainly not a solution.  It is neither economically feasible nor, necessarily, in the best interests of water quality.  Stormwater itself is dirty, carrying animal feces, trash, organic garbage, gasoline, oil, and other harmful ingredients.  Except for the occasional CSOs, combined systems treat this water year-round.  Rutland’s systems, for example, treat 643 million gallons of stormwater yearly – equivalent to the entire volume of Lake Elmore – releasing water that is actually cleaner than the receiving streams!  Even when CSOs occur, the plants are still treating the overwhelming majority of the water, and domestic wastewater  constitutes a very small percentage of the outflow volumes.

Finally, the state and its municipalities are in fact working hard to reduce the incidence and impact of CSOs.  New warning regulations assure public notification within one hour of an overflow, and full reporting within twelve hours, assuring transparency.  The Vermont DEC is requiring the 14 cities and towns with combined systems to create long-term plans.  Cities like Burlington are implementing a range of solutions, such as satellite treatment stations and “green infrastructure” filtration/absorption sites.  New computer monitoring and control technology is coming on line, allowing more agility and specificity in operators’ responses to heavy rains or outflows.

The public should know that the water quality professional community fully recognizes the importance of our natural waters to our way of life, public health, the tourism economy, and the vitality of the environment.  As Karen Horn, director of public policy and advocacy for the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, said at the end of the hearing, the best approach will be for the legislature to direct prioritization of CSO-related projects through an integrated, multi-sector, multi-agency effort that fully studies the issue and provides all the facts for public consideration.  We hope you will help us pursue that approach through your reporting.

If you would like more information, I invite you to access the collective expertise of GMWEA’s extensive membership; my contact information is below.

Sincerely,

Daniel Hecht

CLF Permit Appeals – A Constructive Approach?

In a letter sent recently to VT Digger, representatives of eight municipalites agreed that the Conservation Law Foundation’s wastewater permit appeals currently in process are neither based on fact nor the best strategy for dealing with phosphorous pollution in Lake Champlain. The letter’s signers include town/city managers, planning and public works directors, water quality superintendents, and stormwater coordinators.

The authors take issue with CLF’s claim that the permits would allow for increases of actual discharges.  In fact, they say, the nine permits challenged “collectively lower the allowed phosphorous releases to the lake by 13,271 pounds per year, or 68 percent below current permit limits.”  Ironically, the nine targeted plants are those that have been most effective at reducung phosphorous releases.

While supporting ambitious efforts to clean up the lake, the authors point out that wastewater treatment plants contribute only 3 percent of the phosphorous flow from Vermont sources; further reductions would functionally penalize wastewater plants that are outperforming their permits!  Meanwhile, phosphorous from agriculture and urban/rural stormwater (much from roads and built environments) constitute 66 percent of Vermont’s infows.

Admittedly, these sources are vastly more difficult to limit.  The letter’s authors suggest that a collaborative approach —  one that acknowledges real priorities, and takes on the hard technological and regulatory challenges these flows constitute — would benefit Lake Champlain more than the permit appeals.

To read the VT Digger letter in full, go to: https://vtdigger.org/2018/08/15/local-officials-clf-suit-unfairly-targets-wastewater-treatment/ 

 

NEWWA Conference $100 Discount Still Available!

GMWEA members now have an exceptional opportunity to participate in one of our region’s most important water quality career-development opportunities.

It’s New England Water Works Association’s annual conference, held this year in Stowe, Vermont.  The four-day event starts on September 16, but you can register – and receive an immediate $100 discount – now!

Don’t wait!  The discounts will be awarded only to the first 20 GMWEA members to register.

New England Water Works Association (NEWWA) will present its annual conference September 16 through 19, at Stowe Mountain Lodge.  Thanks to NEWWA/GMWEA mission-sharing agreements, we are able to offer GMWEA members a $100 discount for registration, whether you register for a single day or the whole event!

In addition to many technical sessions and expert presentations, the conference offers unparalleled networking opportunities for water quality professionals, a region-wide drinking water taste test, recreational activities, and a special town hall panel on PFOAs and PFAs in New England.

Click here to view the entire agenda: http://newwa.org/Portals/6/Events/Annual%20Conference/2018%20Annual%20Conference/Conference%20Program%20for%20Web%202018-05-29.pdf

To take advantage of the $100 discount, current GMWEA members (only!) can register by directly contacting Katelyn Todesco at NEWWA – ktodesco@newwa.org.

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Seven Facts About Water Quality Day 2018

Here’s what you need to know about Water Quality Day, August 3:

1. It has been proclaimed annually by every Vermont governor since 2014 because they feel it’s important for Vermonters to recognize the importance of “working water.”

2. Safe drinking water and clean rivers and lakes don’t just happen. We – the citizens – pollute our water resources with every flush, every load of laundry, every car wash, and that pollution needs to be removed if our natural waters are to stay healthy for people, plants, and animals.

3. We couldn’t live the way we do if our drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater treatment systems – all that equipment and high-tech, operated by skilled professionals – didn’t do their job.

4. They DO do their job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Water quality professionals work hard and with deep commitment because they know we can’t live without clean water.

5. On August 2nd in the City of Burlington, August 3rd elsewhere in Vermont, you can learn more about this amazing, mostly out of sight, publicly-owned infrastructure. We invite you to come to any of the tours/open houses on August 2nd and 3rd to check it out. Tours are FUN, surprising, and educational for people of all ages, and there will be snacks and souvenirs at all locations. 

6. This year GMWEA is coordinating Water Quality Day with the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s Clean Water Week. The week features scores of activities, statewide, celebrating our natural waters and the community organizations that protect them. Check them all out at http://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/cwi/clean-water-week .

7. Tours of water, wastewater, or stormwater plants will be offered at the the following:

AUGUST 2

  • Burlington Stormwater: Meet at ECHO Center! Tours start at 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
  • Burlington Drinking Water: 235 Penny Lane. Tours at 9:45 and 2:15.
  • Burlington Wastewater: 53 Lavalley Lane. Tours at 11:00 and 1:00.

For more information on Burlington tours, contact water-resources@burlingtonvt.gov, (802) 863-4501.

AUGUST 3

  • Essex Junction Wastewater: 39 Cascade St.  Tours at 9:30, 11:00, and 1:00. For more information, contact: jim@essexjunction.org, (802) 878-6943 ext. 101.
  • Hinesburg Drinking Water: 149 Shelburne Falls Rd. Tours at 10:00 and 2:00. Contact: ebailey@hinesburg.org, (802)482-6097.
  • Middlebury Wastewater: 243 Industrial Ave.  Open house 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Contact bwells@townofmiddlbury.org. (802) 388-6514.
  • Montpelier Wastewater: 949 Dog River Rd. Tours at 10:00 and 2:00. Contact: ccox@montpelier-vt.org, (802)223-9511.
  • South Burlington Wastewater: 1015 Airport Parkway.  Tours at 8:00 and 12 noon. Contact: bob.fischer@gmwea.org, (802) 658-7964.
  • South Burlington Stormwater: Farrell Park, Farrell Street. Tours at 9:30 and 1:30.  Contact: tom.dipietro@sburl.com. (802) 658-7961.
  • Champlain Water District (South Burlington): 403 Queen City Park Rd.  Tours at 11:00 and 3:00. Contact: mike.barsotti@champlainwater.org. (802) 864-7454.

See you there!

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here: www.gmwea.org .

$100 NEWWA Conference Discount!

GMWEA members now have an exceptional opportunity to participate in one of our region’s most important water quality career-development opportunities.

It’s New England Water Works Association’s annual conference, held this year in Stowe, Vermont.  The four-day event starts on September 16, but you can register – and receive an immediate $100 discount – now!

Don’t wait!  The discounts will be awarded only to the first 20 GMWEA members to register.

New England Water Works Association (NEWWA) will present its annual conference September 16 through 19, at Stowe Mountain Lodge.  Thanks to NEWWA/GMWEA mission-sharing agreements, we are able to offer GMWEA members a $100 discount for registration, whether you register for a single day or the whole event!

In addition to many technical sessions and expert presentations, the conference offers unparalleled networking opportunities for water quality professionals, a region-wide drinking water taste test, recreational activities, and a special town hall panel on PFOAs and PFAs in New England.

Click here to view the entire agenda: http://newwa.org/Portals/6/Events/Annual%20Conference/2018%20Annual%20Conference/Conference%20Program%20for%20Web%202018-05-29.pdf

To take advantage of the $100 discount, current GMWEA members (only!) can register by directly contacting Katelyn Todesco at NEWWA – ktodesco@newwa.org.

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To return to GMWEA’s website, click here: www.gmwea.org

Who’s the Best in the Business?

Every year, GMWEA honors operators, facilities, organizations, and companies that have demonstrated exceptional service to Vermont’s water quality industry.  The 2017 awards were presented by outgoing president Rick Kenney at our 2018 Spring Meeting & Conference at the Killington Grand Hotel and Conference Center.

We’d love to publish all the winners’ photos, but due to space limitations, we need to select just a few.  Nevertheless,  congratulations to every one of the awardees, who are truly the best in the business!

  • Michael Garofono Water Operator Excellence: George Donovan, operator, Fair Haven Water Dept. (see photo, right); Mike Barsotti, director of water quality and production, Champlain Water District
  • Operator Excellence, Wastewater: Timothy Kingston, operator, Town of Brandon
  • Facility Excellence Award, Water: Grand Isle Consolidated Water District (SOS)
  • Facility Excellence Award, Wastewater: Town of Richford WWTF
  • Andrew D. Fish Laboratory Excellence Award: Mike Swindell, operator, City of Burlington Main Wastewater Plant
  • Outstanding Industrial Operator Award: Gary Audy, contract chief operator for The Alchemist Brewery, Trapp Lager Brewery, and Swan Valley Cheese (see photo, right) 
  • Bob Wood Young Professional Award: Nick Giannetti, Vermont DEC Wastewater Management Program
  • Stormwater Award (Individual): Annie Costandi, stormwater coordinator, Essex Town (see photo, right)
  • Corporate Sponsor Award: Clean Waters, Inc.
  • Outstanding Industrial Facility Award: Stone Corral Brewery, Richmond
  • Elizabeth A. Walker Meritorious Service Award: Mark Simon, principal, Simon Operation Services (posthumous)(see photo, below)

  • GMWEA President’s Award: Eileen Toomey, customer service specialist, Endyne Labs; Town of Hartford 

Two Vermont facilities and one individual also won U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awards, which were presented by NEWEA’s Ray Vermette:

  • U.S. EPA Operations & Mantenance Award: Town of Milton
  • U.S. EPA Operator of the Year Award: Nate Lavallee, chief operator, Burlington North and East Plants​
  • U.S. EPA Energy Efficiency Award: Village of Essex Junction

Who do you think deserves recognition? GMWEA award winners are considered based on nominations received from our membership!  We invite you to put forward names of colleagues, facilities, or organizations you think have made exceptional contributions to the industry.

To return to the GMWEA website, click here.

Welcome, New GMWEA Board Members!

GMWEA  is governed by a 12-member board of directors, all of whom are association members and water quality professionals; they are elected by the membership at our annual Spring Meeting and Training Conference.

This year, we’re especially pleased to welcome two individuals who will be serving on the board for the first time, even if they’re not new to GMWEA.  We look forward to an exciting year of growth and change with their expertise and enthusiasm helping to guide the association!

Amy Macrellis is a project water quality specialist in the water resources management group at Stone Environmental. Amy started her career in Michigan, turning a love for rock-hounding into a bachelor’s degree in Geological Sciences from Albion College, and then a master’s degree in Environmental Geoscience from Michigan State University. Since coming to Vermont in 2000, it’s been all about communities, water, and soil, and she has developed a great respect for our state’s clean water professionals.

Amy now has over a decade of experience supporting Stone’s clients by providing technical leadership and editorial support for stormwater and wastewater management plans and feasibility studies, policy development, and applied water quality research projects. Her recent work focuses on implementation of green stormwater infrastructure in policy and practice for municipalities, stewardship organizations, and state agencies, including VTrans and VTANR.

Amy remains involved in community wastewater planning with an  emphasis on Vermont’s unsewered villages. She still gets her hands dirty some days by completing site, soil, and hydrogeologic evaluations in preparation for design and construction of stormwater BMPs and community wastewater systems.

Amy has been a member of GMWEA’s Government Affairs Committee since  2017. As a new board member, she says she is excited—and humbled—to bring her knowledge and perspectives in service to all of GMWEA’s members during a time of rapidly changing state and federal regulations and policies.

Eileen Toomey began her environmental career in 1990 at Spectrum Laboratory, where she learned basic chemistry and acquired a great interest in wastewater.  In 2000, she began working as lab tech at Morrisville Wastewater Treatment Plant, then served for eight years as operator at the facility, where she learned a great deal about the field.  She is known to many in the water sciences industries in her role as customer support specialist at  Endyne Laboratory Services Labs, which she feels is good preparation for a role on the GMWEA board – she says she looks forward to serving GMWEA’s membership with the same attentiveness.

A mother of two, grandmother of four going on five, a proud seventh-generation Vermont woodchuck, she lives in Morrisville. She has been chair of GMWEA’s Continuing Education Committee since 2017.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.

Water’s Worth It!

Water awareness is growing, thanks to a number of increasingly coordinated celebrations, activities, and public outreach efforts by public agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Here in North America, most people have ready access to clean drinking water.  In fact, we’re so used to water being available, on demand, that we forget how important it is.  Much of the world’s population lives without the assurance of safe drinking water.

If we’re going to keep our water wealth, we need to recognize its real value, in the many ways we use and enjoy it.  We need to learn more about how our natural water ecosystems and human-made water infrastructure works.

To that end, May has been declared Water’s Worth It Month – a time to remember, learn about, and celebrate water.  Many communities, municipal water and wastewater utilities, schools, and environmental organizations are presenting entertaining and informative events in May. For an overview of the month, useful facts, ideas for ways your community or company can participate, along with schedules of local activities, visit  http://www.waters-worth-it.org/

Appropriately, May 6 through 12 is National Drinking Water Week.  First established over 40 years ago by the American Water Works Association, this week-long observance  was declared in a joint congressional resolution and signed by President Ronald Reagan.

We’re often most aware of water when we’re having fun with it, so Vermont Rural Water Association has been hosting an annual Drinking Water Tasting Contest, a contest between competing municipal water systems’ for product flavor, to be held on May 10 at in Fairlee, Vermont.

To get a more comprehensive overview of the week, you can view a recent post by the national Centers for Disease Control : https://www.cdc.gov/features/drinkingwater/index.html

Check out the Water’s Worth It link above for more water-related activities.  If you can’t catch one this month, though, remember that water awareness through fun and informative events won’t end in May.

Every year since 2014,  GMWEA has presented Water Quality Day, featuring open houses and tours of water and wastewater facilities throughout the state, in May.  This year, however, we’ve decided to hold the event in conjunction with Vermont Clean Water Week activities, July 30 through August 3.  The week, established by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and proclaimed by Governor Phil Scott, will also include a wide range of recreational activities, contests, and facility tours, presented by GMWEA and over 100 other organizations!