Tag Archives: Peter Laramie

GMWEA Donates Food in Honor of Water Quality Workers

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. 

Above: DoubleTree Hotel staff with GMWEA board members, picking up the food

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.

Above: GMWEA board members Chris Robinson, Tom DiPietro, and Wayne Elliott bringing the goods to Feeding Chittenden

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 .

The Best in the Business!

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.”