Not much has gone as planned in 2020, but GMWEA’s annual awards stand as an example to the contrary – we were determined to honor those who demonstrated exceptional know-how and commitment in the water, wastewater, and stormwater fields in 2019. The individuals, facilities, and companies selected are truly “the best in the business.”
In January. GMWEA reached out to solicit nominations in 10 categories. The Award Committee’s deliberations were not easy, due to the high quality and number of nominees! Complicating the process was the cancellation of Spring Meeting – where the full ceremony, with speeches, photos, and award presentations ordinarily takes place.
But COVID-19 can’t negate the achievements of our water quality community. Here are the 2019 award winners, with selected comments from nominators. Our apologies to winners not represented by photos here — blame COVID, and be assured we’ll catch you on at the special awards ceremony on November 4th at the DoubleTree Hotel in Burlington!
Michael J. Garofano Water Operator of the Year: VILAS GENTES, wholesale maintenance technician, Champlain Water District: “Vilas is our go-to person. He plays a key role in planned and unplanned service in fieldwork because he’s seen just about everything in his 30 years of service. He’s a mentor and positive role model for younger members of the team. It is very obvious how dedicated he is to his profession, and how much pride he has in the work he does.”
Andrew Fish Laboratory Excellence: ENDYNE LABORATORY SERVICES
“[We have] greatly appreciated the customer service Endyne provided to public water systems monitoring for PFAS, required to occur by December 1, 2019. Water systems had to use labs for PFAS that were not providing any basic customer services. Endyne stepped into that gap. In addition, Endyne’s willingness to collate the samples and submit PFAS data electronically substantially reduced the amount of time for data input by state admin staff. Such actions reduced the stress and workload for the public water systems and the State; Endyne is to be commended for . . . so ably dealing with the PFAS situation.” (Above: Endyne staff Claire Monachino, Harry Locker, Eileen Toomey.)
Bob Wood Young Professional Award: CODY GRIMM, water/wastewater operator, Simon Operation Services.
“Cody plays bass in a rock band. He also rocks as a water and wastewater operator. He is both patient and thoughtful with the daily operations of multiple water and wastewater systems, with a methodical approach that has benefited his systems in big-budget areas such as chemical savings and overtime costs. . . . Soon after becoming an operator, he started advocating for young professionals to enter this industry by participating in science tech career panel discussions at his alma mater, the University of Vermont.”
Stormwater Award: DAVE WHEELER, stormwater project manager, South Burlington
“Dave has worked at our stormwater utility since 2015. During that time, he has overseen the design and construction of numerous large scale stormwater improvement projects. He has played a critical role in the development and implementation of the City’s Flow Restoration Plan, and is currently preparing the City’s Phosphorus Control Plan. Dave has also worked closely with the State to improve the design of stormwater treatment wetlands . . . He has presented on stormwater topics in Vermont and the New England region and is always willing to share the knowledge he’s gained.”
Operator Excellence, Wastewater (Note: Due to the exceptional qualifications of these nominees, GMWEA’s Awards Committee announced two winners!)
PETER LARAMIE, chief operator, Fair Haven WWTF
“Pete is retiring in July, after 35+ years as Fair Haven’s chief operator. . . Often using little besides baled hay string, duct tape, and Yankee ingenuity, he has steadfastly kept our rickety old plant afloat. Over the years, he has completely revamped our treatment process, saving thousands of dollars on electricity and chemical addition. It’s high time that his efforts, dedication, and service to his community are recognized.”
ROBERT WHEELER, chief operator, Bellows Falls and Saxtons River WWTFs
“Rob has been an operator of both facilities for close to thirty years and has been through four massive upgrades to the Bellows Falls Plant and one at the Saxtons River plant. . . He is fair to everyone around him and betters the job for each of us and no matter how small or how large job is. . . . He has taught me everything I know today from operations, laboratory, out in the field or even learning life changes, like being a better man, father, and friend.”
Facility Excellence, Wastewater: CITY OF NEWPORT WWTF
“Resulting from the hard work of operators Donald (Pedro) Grondin, Tim Dagesse, and Alex Russell, the facility has made many improvements in operations and efficiency. This high energy team is saving their community a lot of money and making huge operational improvements.” (The nominator lists 15 major improvements, some of them implemented entirely in-house by the operators — installing energy-efficient blowers, updating or adding monitoring technology and lab capacity, and improving safety and security programs, and more.) “This is quite a list of accomplishments for a three-person crew that runs the wastewater facility, several pump stations and the water filter plant!”
Facility Excellence, Water: RANDOLPH CENTER WATER SYSTEM
“The water system is made up of two major entities — Randolph Fire District #1 and Vermont Technical College (VTC). Each entity owns portions of the system, and for years each has had separate operators, budgets, and long-term plans for repair, rehabilitation, and replacement of the infrastructure. In order to improve the technical, financial, and managerial capacity of their water system, and continue to offer excellent service, the Fire District and VTC have come together to form a more united water system. Now they are working diligently as one cohesive group to develop an Asset Management Plan that meets the needs of the water system as a whole, as well as the individual entities. This has required compromise, a willingness to forge ahead when things get tough, and an all-around great attitude from all involved . . . a grace and excellence that we should all strive to attain.”
Elizabeth Walker Meritorious Service Award: LIZ ROYER, executive director, Vermont Rural Water Association
“Working 14 years as the source water protection [SWP] specialist for VRWA, Liz has assisted a majority of Vermont’s drinking water systems. Writing and implementing SWP plans throughout the state, she has had an active role in improving Vermont’s water quality. Liz has attended town and local meetings to promote community awareness and has served on numerous committees and boards. She has played an advisory role for both state and federal agencies. . . Now as the director of VRWA she has brought a bright new energy to the organization. She is currently working to help all Vt. drinking water systems navigate PFAS legislation, working especially hard for the smallest systems . . . Liz exemplifies the best of the water industry!”
GMWEA President’s Award: DANIEL HECHT, executive director, GMWEA
“During my time as President I could consistently count on Daniel to do what was in the best interest of GMWEA. . . He has helped the organization through many difficult situations. Thanks to his leadership and commitment, the organization has undertaken numerous initiatives that were previously beyond our capability. Despite the uncertainty that the coronavirus has caused in the short term, I think GMWEA is on a good path going forward. The benefits of Daniel’s good work will continue to bear fruit and we’re well positioned to grow.”