Tag Archives: Tom DiPietro

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 .

Lake Champlain Aboard the Melosira

Written by Tom DiPietro. Photos courtesy of James Sherrard.

The skies threatened rain, but that did not dampen spirits aboard the Melosira, the University of Vermont’s Lake Champlain research vessel. It was on this cool September afternoon that over a dozen GMWEA members joined UVM Sea Grant staff aboard the vessel for a tour of Lake Champlain. It was a scenic tour — but one with a focus on water quality monitoring and management.

The tour set off near the ECHO Center in Burlington, made a stop above the effluent pipe from the Burlington Main plant, and then headed north to the mouth of the Winooski River before returning to shore. During the tour, GMWEA members learned about some of the sampling conducted as part of research conducted by UVM and Sea Grant. The Melosira’s crew demonstrated use of their CTD (Conductivity Temperature and Depth) meter near the Burlington plant’s effluent pipe and then again at the mouth of the Winooski river. This instrument collects valuable water quality data for researchers as they continually assess lake conditions.

(Left: The CTD meter used by researchers aboard the Melosira.)

In between stops and sampling, UVM Sea Grant staff shared their on-going research efforts with the group. This included discussions on “data buoys” located throughout the lake, phosphorous pollution and blue-green algae, lake sturgeon migration, microplastics in the water column, and the impacts of road salt on the lake.

Also aboard was Joel Banner Baird, a staff writer for the Burlington Free Press. Joel had the opportunity to engage with GMWEA members and also learn a little more about the lake. In the article that he prepared for the Burlington Free Press he recapped, “Lake Champlain is much more vulnerable to terrestrial pollution than are the Great Lakes… The land area that drains into Lake Champlain, measured against the lake itself, is huge compared to the ratio of watershed to water of the Great Lakes. That unusually high ratio means that the consequences of what happens upstream can add up quickly.”

(Above photo: GMWEA members Karen Adams, Chelsea Mandingo, and Tom DiPietro aboard the Melosira.)

The entire article can be found here: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/2017/09/09/lake-scientists-launch-lesson-plan-landlubbers/636864001/

The event was well received and the attendees are looking forward to a similar event next year. Special thanks to the Melosira crew, Kris Stepenuck and the rest of Sea Grant team for organizing the event.

If you were also aboard the Melosira, or are interested in Lake Champlain and its waters, please leave a comment on this post!

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