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!
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.
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!
Almost, anyway. Our annual service excellence awards won’t be
presented until our Spring Meeting & Training Conference on May 21, 2020,
at Killington Grand Hotel. But it’s time
for people to nominate candidates.
Who delivered exceptional
service in 2019?
We believe water quality professionals should be honored for their expertise and commitment. Most of our members are public servants, good at it and proud of it – but their work is usually “out of sight, out of mind.” Water flows from taps, toilets flush, but most Vermonters aren’t aware of the massive infrastructure and dedicated professionals behind the scenes, delivering these essential services 24/7/365.
GMWEA’s annual awards are one way to show appreciation where it’s due. With the new year here, we invite members to tell us about individuals, facilities, or companies they feel did an exemplary job at drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater management in 2019.
It’s easy to make a nomination: Just go to our Awards website page and fill out the e-mail form.
Nine awards are offered in various categories:
Bob Wood Young Professional: For notable contributions to the water environment, water or wastewater operations, or GMWEA by a young operator, engineer, or academic student (must be 30 or under).
Water Facility Excellence: For outstanding facilities exceeding system operation requirements (given to entire facility and staff).
Wastewater Facility Excellence: For outstanding facilities exceeding system operation requirements (given to entire facility and staff).
Andrew D. Fish Laboratory Excellence: For outstanding activity in laboratory performance at work, community service, education, committee participation, or other contribution (individual).
Michael J. Garofano Water Operator Excellence: For outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities (individual).
Wastewater Operator Excellence: For outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities (individual).
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.
Outstanding Industrial Operator: For significant accomplishment in operation, problem solving, crisis management, training, or understanding of industrial wastewater issues.
Stormwater (Individual or Organization): For outstanding performance in stormwater management and/or education, or other significant contribution to the stormwater field.
We want to hear from you! For more information on the awards, visit www.gmwea.org, or call executive director Daniel Hecht at (802) 595-0997.
The nominations came in, the panels convened, and deliberations were duly made. On May 23, 2019, at GMWEA’s annual Spring Member Meeting and Conference, 10 awards were presented to individuals and facilities for their exceptional service in water quality fields in 2018 — or, in one case, a lifetime.
We congratulate the awardees and thank them for their commitment to protecting public health and Vermont’s beautiful environment!
Ashleigh Belrose, above, operator at South Burlington’s Airport Parkway WRRF, won the Bob Wood Young Professionals Award, given to a young professional operator or engineer (30 or under) who has achieved notable contributions to the water environment, water or wastewater operations, and/or to GMWEA.
Rod Munroe, lab director, City of Rutland Wastewater, received the Andrew D. Fish Laboratory Excellence Award, presented for outstanding activity in laboratory performance at work, community service, education, committee participation, or other outstanding contribution.
Chelsea Mandigo, stormwater coordinator/operator, Village of Essex Junction, won the Stormwater Award, presented for outstanding performance in stormwater management and/or education, and significant contribution to the stormwater field.
Peter Krolczyk, operator, Town of Waterbury, was presented with the Operator Excellence – Wastewater award, given for outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities.
John Tymecki, operator, Champlain Water District, won the Michael J. Garofano Water Operator of the Year Award, presented for outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities.
(Above) The Town Of Ludlow WWTF won the Facility Excellence Award, Wastewater, given annually for outstanding facilities exceeding system operation requirements. Recognition is for the entire facility and staff.
Jim Fay, general manager (retiring!) of Champlain Water District, was presented with GMWEA’s prestigious Founder’s Award, given to individuals for significant contributions to the water quality professions and GMWEA during a lifetime of service.
Chris Cox, chief operator at Montpelier WRRF, received the 2019 President’s Award, presented to water quality professionals demonstrating exceptional achievement in their fields and service on behalf of Green Mountain Water Environment Association’s mission.
Kevin Corliss, operator at Drew’s All Naturals, LLC, in Chester, received the Outstanding Industrial Operator Award, presented for significant accomplishments in operation, problem solving, crisis management, training, or understanding of industrial wastewater issues.
Global Foundries WWTF, Essex Junction, received the Outstanding Industrial Facility Award, given for demonstrated commitment to clean water and pollution prevention, including implementation of water or wastewater treatment changes to address problems common to similar industries.
This is the third post in my “What’s the Big Idea?” series — this time, more of a photo essay or info-graphic. There is method to the madness here – I’m working around to the seven Big Ideas developed by the U.S. Water Alliance as part of their One Water policy framework.
But the sheer scale of water and wastewater management is SO huge, and issues of physical scale are SO important to water use and policy (and cost!), I figure readers can use another bigness to grapple with: How much is a million gallons? That number comes to mind because here in Montpelier, Vermont — a town of about 8,000 hardy souls — we use an average of one million gallons of treated water every day.
“A million gallons” is easy to say, but how much is it, really? Sometimes I think even the drinking water and wastewater people I work with don’t really get it.
Well, everyone knows how big a gallon of milk (or water) is. Here’s an illustration of one gallon, in the usual plastic jug, with a young man about six feet tall.
Below, here he is again, having just stacked 1,000 of those jugs. I have made every effort to keep the scale accurate — though I admit those jugs put some air between the gallons.
Below, here he is again, with 100,000 such gallon jugs.
And, at last, with one million gallons.
Here in Montpelier, we use that much, on average, every day. Makes you think about, say, New York City’s one billion gallons per day – one thousand times more. If you stacked that amount in one-gallon plastic milk jugs, as I’ve done here, it would look about like midtown Manhattan – many dense blocks of skyscrapers.
A whole city-scape poured, drunk, washed with, flushed, and drained — and replaced — every day. Oh — and it all then goes to a wastewater treatment facility to be cleaned up afterward.
The scale of our water use and pollution is mind-boggling, and the science, engineering, technology, infrastructure, and professional community that manages it deserve our awe and admiration.
This is the first of a series of posts about big numbers, big systems, and big ideas.
Most water quality professionals don’t have time to worry much about the big picture. People like facility operators, town managers, and DPW administrators are kept plenty busy treating their allotted gallons per day, fixing busted equipment, eliminating contaminants, completing reports, or searching municipal budgets to find money for maintenance.
But big ideas are crucial. They provide inspiring visions — or warnings
— that can move us to make good choices for the future. No matter how well disciplined a ship’s crew,
or how well maintained its mechanical systems, the first thing a ship needs when
it leaves port is a destination.
When it comes to how we manage water, we need to have the guidance of a larger vision. We need to have an idea of where we ought to go.
First, we should remember that only about 1% of the world’s water is readily usable for us. That is, it exists as fresh (not salty), liquid (not frozen) water. Then factor in our ever-growing demand for it and our increasing pollution of it. Obviously, we need a long-term vision for our management of this life-sustaining resource.
Next, we need to update our traditional vision of the “water cycle.” In grade school, most of us learned a tidy four-part sequence: 1) water falls from the sky as rain or snow; 2) flows into rivers and lakes and oceans; 3) evaporates back into the sky; 4) condenses into clouds and falls again as precipitation.
But now we know there’s another phase in the cycle. Humanity’s use and pollution of water requires that it go through extensive cleansing processes before it can return to the ground or surface waters, and before we can safely use it again.
To understand why that’s so, we need a realistic sense
of scale – how much water we use.
Talk about “big!” In the U.S., our daily domestic use averages about 95 gallons per day, per person (variable by region). When we flush, brush, shower, do the laundry, and water the lawn, we use about 32,000,000,000 gallons per day. Where does it all go?
32 billion gallons. Per day. Domestic use only. Just in the U.S.
Now consider that domestic use constitutes only about 13%, one-eighth, of the total amount of fresh water we use daily. We use the other 87% in thermoelectric plants, irrigation, manufacturing, mining, and other functions.
Not a drop of that water leaves our sinks, toilets, lawns, fields, pipes, or factories unpolluted. That’s why 53% of America’s river and stream miles, 71% of our lake acres, 79% of our estuarian square miles, and 98% of Great Lakes shorelines are classified as “impaired” by at least one criterion in a 2018 U.S. EPA survey.
If you’re not daunted yet, be sure to read the next post on the bigness of our water infrastructure and the bigness of cost needed to make it work. Then, on to some inspiring, solution-oriented Big Ideas offered by the U.S. Water Alliance!
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:
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.
On October 12, 2017, over 500 organizations and thousands of individuals nationwide will take part in Imagine a Day Without Water. It’s one of an increasing number of water-awareness events seeking to change perspectives about how we use water – and to promote direct action to better manage this crucial resource.
What makes Imagine a Day Without Water different from other initiatives is that it focuses attention less on natural waters and more on water and wastewater infrastructure. It emphasizes the need to develop the political will and economic capacity to invest in replacing aging equipment and outdated technologies.
The Value of Water Campaign, which has taken leadership in organizing the event, offers a blunt message:
“Most Americans take the water systems that bring clean water to and from their homes and businesses for granted. They turn on the tap and flush the toilet without thinking twice about where that water came from or where it will go.
“A day without water equals crisis. A day without water means no water comes out of your tap to brush your teeth; when you flush the toilet, nothing happens. Firefighters have no water to put out fires; farmers can’t water their crops. Doctors can’t wash their hands.
“The problems that face our drinking water and wastewater systems are multi-faceted. The infrastructure is aging and in need of investment, having gone underfunded for decades. Drought, flooding, and climate change stress water and wastewater systems. Although regional challenges will require locally-driven solutions, reinvestment in our water must be a national priority.”
The organizers welcome participants and suggest a number of easy ways for organizations and individuals to help support the event: Visit http://imagineadaywithoutwater.org/ for more information.
The Value of Water Campaign isn’t the only effort to work at a national level on water quality awareness and systemic transformation. The US Water Alliance advocates for what it calls a “one water” program:
“The one water approach views all water – drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, grey water, and more – as resources that must be managed holistically and sustainably. Doing so builds strong economies, vibrant communities, and healthy environments.”
The US Water Alliance calls itself “a gateway to connect with resources”; they publish a blog, fund research and print publications, offer awards for significant achievements in water quality, and host a variety of activities. Visit www.uswateralliance.org for more information.
Whether you are a municipal water operator, public works official, mayor, educator, scientist, or just a concerned citizen, making contact with these and other organizations can help you do your job and get the message across.
If you know of other worthy water-related organizations, have participated in prior years’ Imagine a Day Without Water events, or have action suggestions for GMWEA blog readers, please send us your comments! We’ll post them here.