Tag Archives: wastewater

DRUGS!

Well, the title is a bit dramatic – it really should read “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products.” 

It’s the second brochure in GMWEA’s “Don’t Flush It!” series, and it’s now available.  Part of a public education project funded by a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and NEIWPCC, it’s intended to protect our natural waters – and ourselves – from contaminants we flush, pour, spread, or otherwise put into our wastewater stream. 

GMWEA encourages every Vermont city and town to help get the information into the public’s hands.  It’s now available for download on GMWEA’s website, and GMWEA can provide a total of 5,000 printed brochures to towns requesting them. 

Click here — Don’t Flush It — Drugs! — to download the print- and post-ready PDF; to request printed copies (for towns planning to mail them to residents), contact Daniel Hecht at dan.hecht@gmwea.org.

The first brochure, “Cloggers!,” was enthusiastically received — especially by wastewater operators weary of dealing with pump and pipe malfunction due to congealed fats, oils, and greases mixed with solid materials such as the not-very flushable “flushable” wipes.  Sent in digital form to every municipality and waste district in Vermont back in June, “Cloggers!” was posted on scores of town websites, and many towns printed the brochures and mailed them with property tax bills or sewer/water bills. 

“Drugs!” details the harmful impacts of medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – when they’re flushed or poured into household wastewater streams.  These unnatural chemicals can linger in groundwater, rivers, and lakes, and some can enter drinking water sources.  They can cause harm to aquatic ecosystems, some causing deformities in fish, amphibians, and other wildlife.

They’re not so great for people, either.  The brochure advises dropping off unused medications at one of the Vt. Health Department’s 84 safe drop sites, mailing them in, or mixing them with something unpleasant – cat litter, for example – before tossing in the trash.  (For more information, go to www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drugs/services/prescription-drug-disposal or call (802) 651-1550.)

Medications, though, are the easier pollutant to control.  More problematic are the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products – consumer products for body care and comfort.  We all use them every day, unaware that they pass through or wash off our bodies and pollute ground and surface waters with damaging chemicals.  They’re not food, so they’re not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 

Hair dye, shampoo, perfume, insect repellent, sunscreen, body washes, cosmetics, deodorants, steroid cream, anti-fungal cream, nail polish – it’s a long list.  These chemicals aren’t removed by our private septic systems or municipal sewage treatment plants, so they end up in natural waters, damaging wildlife, and the U.S. EPA considers many of them to be “contaminants of emerging concern” for humans as well.  In essence, that means we’ve only recently discovered they’re bad for us, and we’re not sure how to deal with them.

“Drugs!” identifies the most common products chock-full of bad chemicals – highly-perfumed and highly-colored products are often the worst – and suggests easy ways to limit your household’s contribution of them.  Never pour or flush ‘em if unwanted or unused (cap tightly and put in trash); avoid highly-scented products; limit use of antibacterial lotions; identify the worst environmental offenders and choose brands that don’t use them.  Most of all, learn about them — the brochure offers several web resources for more information. 

The underlying principle of this initiative is that public systems can only do so much to identify and remove contaminants.  Fortunately, informed Vermonters can easily adopt habits that significantly reduce our collective pollution of our waters. 

Get the brochure!  And please help spread the word.

GMWEA thanks the Castleton University Content Lab for donating graphic design services to this initiative, and is grateful to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for logistical support.

To return to GMWEA’s website, CLICK HERE.

The Best in the Business!

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.

To return to GWMEA’s website, click here.

What’s the Big Idea? (3)

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.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.

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 .

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!

 

A Day Without Water

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.

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