WEF's Water Heroes
Meet WEF's Newest Water Hero
Name: Shirley Burger
Title: Water Reclamation Facility Supervisor
Location: Village of Bloomingdale, Illinois
Years in water quality: 32 years
WEF Member Association: Illinois Water Environment Association
Why are you a water quality professional? I personally saw the pollution that had occurred growing up in the Western PA region and knew that those conditions had to stop. The factory outfalls, mining and local run off to name a few were damaging most of the small rivers and streams and causing an unsightly backdrop to our environment. I knew somehow I would be involved in creating a solution.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Informing the public and teaching our children that they can make a difference, I always remember that the water we use today is the water our children use tomorrow. I am making sure that every drop of water that leaves our facility is the best quality it can be.
What is a Water Hero?
Water Heroes are the everyday professionals who protect public health and the environment by cleaning the world’s water day after day. WEF's acknowledgment of Water Heroes is our way of saying thank you to those who work to improve water quality - we appreciate all that you do!
Below are all of the Water Heroes who have been featured on WEF's homepage. If you would like to nominate a Water Hero, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the nominee's name and email address.
Name: Sterling Lee
Title: Operations Assistant Superintendent
Location: San Antonio River Authority, San Antonio Texas
Years in water quality: 23 years
Why are you a water quality professional? As water quality professionals, we provide a valuable public service to the communities that we serve. While the job is not the most glamorous lots of times, it’s the most rewarding for me. Knowing that I am responsible for the proper treatment of water that will be safe for down stream users, and to provide quality water to enhance our aquatic life for generations to come is something we all could be proud of.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? During my 23 years, we’ve been fortunate to have won several plant of the year awards and an EPA excellence award, but those pale in comparison to the strides made as water quality professionals. One of the most pleasurable moments is going out to speak to people about the importance of water quality standards. Every Friday I am afforded the privilege to speak to operators at a training session and impress on them their responsibly to carry on the achievements that have been made in this business into the future. I feel it is our responsibility to pass our knowledge on to the up and coming water quality professionals of the future.
Name: Danny Lyndall
Title: Operations Manager, Daphne Utilities
Location: Daphne, Alabama
Years in water quality: 5+ years
Why are you a water quality professional? Growing up on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, I have spent my entire life around the water where I have cultivated a passion for conservation, environmental issues and ecology. For most of my career I have worked as a site contractor, always keenly aware of and cognizant of the dangers of stormwater runoff. Five years ago, I began working at Daphne Utilities. Here, I have found a company which allows me the opportunity to put my strengths and passion to work every day ensuring clean, quality water to all citizens of this community and treating wastewater to the highest standards in protection of our beautiful Mobile Bay.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Like many people along the coast and across the country, I was horrified and saddened by the damage caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. However, I was honored to serve on Alabama Governor Riley’s Coastal Recovery Commission to help rebuild our coast. As a member of the CRC Infrastructure Sub-Committee, I helped develop the guidelines to identify infrastructure projects which meet the CRC’s criteria for Coastal Recovery, Resiliency, Transformation, Regionalism and Economic Diversification. I am proud to be a resident of the Alabama Gulf Coast and even more proud to be a part of the recovery and rebuilding of our area.
Name: Cordell Samuels
Title: Plant Superintendent
Location: Duffin Creek WPCP, Pickering, Ontario, Canada
Years in water quality: 28 years
Why are you a water quality professional? In this field we get to provide safe clean water today and if we do our jobs right protect the waters for the future. It is exciting to be a part of that.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? I have been involved in several innovative changes at the plants that I have worked in, which has improved the way we treat water. In the City of Toronto where I worked for 22 years before joining the Region of Durham, I introduced the idea of using Sludge Retention Time (SRT) control to manage the Aeration System at one of the largest plants in the Province. This was pilot tested and installed over the entire plant eventually. Plant performance improved, and costs were reduced. Another area of satisfaction to me has been working with new employees young people and students, in the area of training them in the operation of a complex treatment plant. It has been especially gratifying to see how they have taken on the responsibilities, and in most cases improved upon what they were taught. I believe that the industry is in good hands from what I am seeing.
Name: Wylie C. Henderson WWTP IV/ PMT IV
Title: Hangtown Creek WRF Plant Superintendent
Location: Placerville, Ca.
Years in water quality: 14+ years
Why are you a water quality professional? The satisfaction of knowing that I have helped to improve the environment for the existing life forms and also helped set a standard towards the overall objective of a continued cleaning of the waterways for the future generations.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? The experience gathered to which I have been a team member during three different plant expansions, most noticeable the Hangtown Creek Water Reclamation Facility project due to the highly sucessful end product.
Name: Robert L. Griffin, P.E.
Title: Senior Project Engineer Shield Engineering, Inc.
Location: Charlotte, NC
Years in water quality: 35 years
Why are you a water quality professional? I have always had an interest in the environment, growing up in what used to be a rural area of North Carolina and after reading Silent Spring and the Environmental Law Handbook in college I was convinced that I could help save the planet. My goals have been tempered somewhat by age and reality but I love the people in our industry and the concept that in some small way I may have helped or taught someone who might help in the future thrills me.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? After twenty years as a utility employee and 15 years as a consultant, my biggest achievement has to be that I have, through WEF and North Carolina AWWA-WEA, been given the opportunity to train literally thousands of operators, managers, and pretreatment coordinators. Through this training I hope that I have demonstrated a passion for the Water Sector in general but especially for Operator Certification, Pretreatment and Security as well as all we do for public health and the environment. In some small way I hope this has given others permission to demonstrate their passion for what we do. Anyone can train on the nuts and bolts of what we do but there are many exceptional individuals in our business that are committed and passionate about wastewater treatment and the utility business. I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to meet and train so many of the great people in our industry.
Name: Mike T. Hogan
Title: General Manager (Retired)
Location: San Diego, CA
Years in water quality: 40 years
Why are you a water quality professional? I was born and raised in San Diego where historically 90% of the water supply is imported from outside of the county and a majority of the treated wastewater is discharged into the Pacific Ocean. Living in an arid region you learn to appreciate the challenges of managing water supplies and wastewater treatment systems. With this background along with a passion for serving the public, I committed my career to doing my part to ensure that the operation, maintenance and construction of wastewater infrastructure met the public and environmental needs of the community as well as ensure sustainability for future generations.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Reflecting over my 40 year career I would say my biggest achievement is that I progressed from an 18 year old sewer construction and maintenance worker to general manager of the largest wastewater agency in San Diego County. During that time I had the pleasure of working with a wide range of professionals that shared a common commitment and passion for the water environment industry. This commitment and passion has continued in my retirement and I am currently serving on the board of directors of my community’s water district and on the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors. Additionally, I have to mention that I had the honor and privilege of serving as President of the California Water Environment Association and a member of the Executive Committee of the Water Environment Association.
Name: Robert S. (Bob) Reimers, Ph.D., Q.E.P.
Title: Professor of Sustainable Resources Management and Consultant
Location: New Orleans, LA
Years in water quality: Since conducting research in marine geochemistry at University of Texas Marine Science Institute at Port Aransas, Texas, this occurred in January 1968, which was over 40 years ago. Having been a swimmer since age seven, the studying water was an area of interest and has continued throughout my life. As a result, I entered the Environmental Health Engineering doctoral program in September of 1968 and finished my doctorate at Vanderbilt University under Dr. Peter A. Krenkel in 1973. It was Dr. Krenkel, who got me involved in the Water Environmental Federation Program Committee. In 1973, I was a research scientist at Battelle Columbus Laboratories in Columbus, Ohio from 1973 to 1975 where I was in the process technology section working on environmental process development and environmental assessment and was an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio State University where I taught course in environmental management and environmental sciences. I have been a professor at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine since 1975 in the Sustainable Resource Management Program, which is a part of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. This would mean that I have been the field for over 40 years.
Why are you a water quality professional? As a professor, I have been able to train professionals to assist in water quality and sustainable resource management. My doctoral students have become professors, regulators, consultants and researchers. One of my doctoral graduates was Dr. Mbela Kiyombo, who is vice chancellor of School of Public Health in the Democratic of Congo. He has trained over 5,000 professional in water quality management since 1992. In addition, my research is in sustainable resource management (more specifically in water and wastewater reuse, coastal wetland protection and restoration, innovative process development and residuals management in disinfection, stabilization, and value-product development). Over the last 40 years, I have published 50 refereed articles, 35 book chapters and published reports, 45 refereed conference proceedings, over 90 proceedings and non-refereed articles, over 100 technical reports and over 200 professional presentations. In this period, I have directed as a principal investigator over 100 grants and contracts, which has resulted in over 15 patents. I have been a consultant to over 60 agencies and companies. In addition, I have been active in the WEF conducting over 20 workshops while chairing the Disinfection Committee and being a delegate to the House of Delegates. By teaching and conducting this kind of research, I feel my life has made a difference.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? In the years after Hurricane Katrina, my most recent research with Dr. A. J. Englande has been involved through the development of the ferrate to treat secondary effluents discharged into Bayou Bienville. These studies are continuing on the wetland restoration through their grant coupled with a demonstration study through the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana Coastal Restoration and Protection Program. In this demonstration project, further work will look at the blending of disinfected/stabilized biosolids with dredged sediment to further enhance these wetlands. This work is leading the Gulf Coast in saving our wetlands by utilizing sustainable resource management while not impacting the environment and public health. In the last year due my wife’s encouragement because of her time spent in Haiti, my group is putting together programs in information gathering, technology development and training programs for the Haitians in water, wastewater and waste residuals management to control vector borne diseases and sustainable resource management.
Name: Haley Falconer
Title: Water/Wastewater Project Engineer, HDR Engineering
Location: Boise, ID
Years in water quality: 3
Why are you a water quality professional? My interest in water quality started as a chance to improve the world around me. I have also come to enjoy the opportunity to bridge my technical knowledge with community outreach and public education. It is inspirational to be involved in small community projects as they evolve from ideas and design to evidence that we, as water quality professionals, are making an impact.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Definitely working with the Students and Young Professionals Committee to start the Service Project program. In 2008, we completed “Gettin’ Out of the Gutter,” a rain garden at a city park in Chicago. The annual maintenance at the park is now completed by the IWEA SYP group which serves as a fantastic outreach project for them. Last year, WEF volunteers planted over 1000 wetland plants in our project titled “Wading for Wetlands.” The project this year, “Bioswales in the Bayou” was our biggest event to-date. We constructed a bioswale at a community site in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. Alongside our construction, we hosted a Water Carnival. The Carnival was geared toward K-8 students and provided hands-on, interactive booths where students and their families learned about water, the environment, and building sustainable communities both locally and throughout the country. It was incredible to see how much the service project has grown and we are already looking forward to Los Angeles!
Name: Joni Emrick
Title: Water Resource Manager
Location: Kalispell, Montana
Years in water quality: 25
Why are you a water quality professional? Twenty-five years ago I was looking for a job where I could use my experience as a bench microbiologist.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? My biggest achievement is optimizing a biological nutrient removal wastewater treatment plant in the cold weather climate of Montana to attain limit of technology performance for phosphorus removal without using chemicals. We have maintained this outstanding performance consistently and reliably for twelve consecutive years, and still counting. This record of achievement has earned the Kalispell plant two national EPA first place Operations and Maintenance Awards (2003 and 2007). I have personally received the WEF William D. Hatfield award and the Montana Rural Water Systems Operator of the Year award.
Name: Carl E. Janson
Location: Riordan Materials Corp.
Years in water quality: 37
Why are you a water quality professional? I became interested in Environmental Science through a Science Fair in High School and entered a Regional Science Fair with a project and placed 3rd. When I went to college – I changed from Pre-Med to Environmental Science. After working with the EPA in a summer job, I joined a firm as an Applications Engineering and was then recruited into a Sales Position for a firm manufacturing and selling tertiary clarification products, separation screens and solids dewatering equipment. After leaving that firm, I had the opportunity to join a firm that was manufacturing physical chemical tertiary factory built water and wastewater treatment systems for use on the Alaska Pipeline and to the National Park Service. I was able to provide products that assured a high level of treatment and improve the environment. When I had the opportunity to join a manufacturer’s rep firm and obtain an ownership position – I joined that firm and was able to again grow the firm while providing high quality products that improved the environment. It is a very enjoyable and challenging position, but many of my customers are also good friends.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? I believe my biggest achievement has been through my volunteer work for the PWEA (PA Water Environment Assoc) and WEF as a member of the House of Delegates and Board of Trustees. Additionally my involvement with leachate treatment systems for sanitary landfills and also for treatment systems for the Metal Finishing and IT Industries when “heavy metals” first were regulated for discharge to POTW’s.
Name: Raymond C. Porter
Title: Sr. Air Quality Meterologist
Location: Boston, MA
Years in water quality: 25
Why are you a water quality professional? Wastewater treatment can impact the quality of the ambient air in a number of ways, during conveyance and treatment of the wastewater, treatment of residual solids, thermal treatment of residual solids or digester gas, and power generation systems. I enjoy providing the specialized knowledge that ensures the wastewater industry is in compliance with air quality rules and regulations.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? I am Chair of the Air Quality and Odor Control Committee and lead author for the Odor Control and Air Emissions chapter in MOP-8, Design of Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants
Name: Greg J. Woodward
Location: Denver, CO
Years in water quality: 22
Why are you a water quality professional? This industry is one that can provide a tremendous amount of satisfaction knowing that you have provided a better environment for the communities in which you work. Whether the work encompasses improvements to the water we drink or the water we return to the streams. It also is one which you meet some great people who have similar goals and aspirations - many of whom you become friends with for life.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Being able to help so many individuals enjoy a healthy and high quality way of life.
Name: Leonard W. Casson, Ph.D., P.E., DEE
Title: Associate Professor - Environmental Engineer
Location: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh
Years in water quality: 27
Why are you a water quality professional? My father is a Civil Engineer and I was introduced to the water quality profession at an early age. As a professor, I enjoy introducing engineering students and practicing professionals to the many concepts involved in environmental engineering. I also enjoy teaching young engineers and others to use fundamental principles to solve practical engineering problems. Hopefully, I can impart a fraction the passion for the engineering profession to these people that he gave me at an early age.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? I believe my greatest academic achievement has been to help educate engineering students and others to become water quality professionals. My biggest research achievements, to date, have been the development of a wastewater contaminant prioritization system for USEPA and the drinking water security research projects completed with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.
Name: Todd Danielson
Title: Manager of Community Systems - Loudon Water
Location: Ashburn, Virginia
Years in water quality: 13+
Why are you a water quality professional? Because I believe I can make a difference.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Helping others understand the importance of having a small impact--a small impact in how much water, energy, and materials they use--both for us on the production/treatment side and for our customers on the consumption/generation side. In working to achieve this, I have been influenced by John Muir, "When one tugs at a single thing in nature he finds it attached to the rest of the world," and by Gandhi, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." I will feel I have achieved a lot, if others view me as that change agent.
Name: Joan B. Hawley, P.E.
Title: President Superior Engineering, LLC
Location: Milwaukee Wisconsin and Ontonagon, Michigan
Years in Water Quality: 28
Why are you a water quality Proffesional? I grew up on the Great Lakes, Michigan and Superior, and was always interested in protecting and enhancing water quality. Being a wastewater professional allows me to be part of the solution. Also, for the friendships that I have with other colleagues in this profession.
What is my biggest achievement? Mentoring students, young professionals and others has been my biggest achievement and greatest reward. I am extremely proud of their accomplishments and have been pleased to see how they have embraced and enhanced this profession.
Name: Patrick Bradley
Title: Senior Scientist; LimnoTech
Location: Washington, DC
Years in water quality: 24
Why are you a water quality professional? There were a number of small events and influences that all kind of converged over time. I grew up by the ocean and spent a lot of vacations in the Adirondack Mountains fishing and swimming in many of the lakes and rivers. Went to college at SUNY Plattsburgh, which is very close to Lake Champlain and a lot of the coursework is directed toward the lake. During graduate school a lot of my work was geared toward water issues. I received a grant and fellowship from Texas Utilities to study impacts of surface mining. Part of my research looked at the use of ponds on the reclamation area. The Vice President for Environmental Services at Texas Utilities at the time was Dick White and he had a background in water quality and helped me quite bit and developed my interest in the field. Also, my graduate professor, Dr. Edmund Brodie, studied amphibians primarily, so there was water all over the place in our lab. It is also a field that has a lot of inherent diversity. There are so many different areas within the field that you could spend 30 years working and studying and never come close to covering all of it. It never seems to get routine or boring.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Really impossible to pick one. I have been doing this work for over 20 years and have been lucky to work on a lot of different projects, so picking one is fairly tough. So I have picked two that have merged a little over time. I am very proud of the courses I have worked with WEF and others to develop and my work on Watershed-based NPDES Permitting. Over the last 10 - 15 years I have been involved in developing 3 different courses – Pretreatment; Control of Fats, Oils & Grease; and NPDES Program Training for Permittees. The courses have been well received and I have also learned a fair amount while teaching them which is a nice bonus. Recently, I have been able to include the work I have done on Watershed Approaches in the course on NPDES Permitting.
Name: Dr. Phil Kane
Title: Water Facilities Biologist
Location: Florida Department of Environmental Protection Central District
Years in water quality: plus or minus 25 years
Why are you a water quality professional? I was born and raised on Mt. Desert Island, Maine and have loved the water as long as I can remember. For generations my family has lived in harmony with the water.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? My biggest achievement, and one that I cherish is the cumulative sum of all my education efforts to enlighten and inform people about water, water quality and how to appreciate and protect our water. I’ve helped many people including the regulated community, other agencies, news media, students of all ages and citizens to better understand water and the importance of water in our lives.
Name: Tim Page-Bottorff
Title: Principal Consultant, Total Safety Compliance
Location: Mesa, Arizona
Years in water quality: 11 years
Why are you a water quality professional? I truly believe in providing the safest and most affordable water. In order to accomplish this, employees must work safe so they, too can go home and enjoy the water they work so hard to treat.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? After moderating a WEF webinar and volunteering for my local MA, I think my biggest achievement is seeing someone else enjoy my volunteering activities. It is so hard to find volunteers with today's economy, I just get thrilled helping others out.
Name: Ronald G. Schulyer
Title: Vice President/Wastewater Process Technical Lead
Location: Tetra Tech, Denver, CO
Years in water quality: 39 total, 22 at Colorado Department of Health and 17 at Tetra Tech/RTW
Why are you a water quality professional? As a youngster duck hunting along the South Platte River north of Denver, I had to wade through black muck to cross the River. It looked bad and smelled even worse. Something needed to be done, but I had no idea what. But, as a senior in Civil Engineering at Colorado State University, I had the opportunity to take the Wastewater Treatment class from Professor Max Parshall, the son of the inverter of the Parshall flume for water measurement. He was truly a teacher, a person that inspired me to get into the water quality profession. Then in graduate school in Microbiology, Drs. Sumner Morrison, Bill Boyd and Josephine Boyd started me on the road to understanding how microorganisms treat wastewater and why controlling them is the key to making wastewater treatment processes function properly. I was hooked! Now, nearly 40 years later, Lynn Marshall, John Esler, and I still inspire each other and love to talk about activated sludge whenever we get together – three seniors who still enjoy “playing in the water.”
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? It relates to the combination of training and troubleshooting/optimization. Training a few thousand wastewater treatment operators and engineers in activated sludge process control has been the most important and highly rewarding. Watching the “lights turn on” in students is quite gratifying. I have been involved with operator/engineer training starting at the University of Colorado 39 years ago, and that includes Preconference Workshops on Wastewater Treatment Microbiology for the last 22 WEFTECs. Hopefully, I have helped some operators improve plant operations and effluent quality and engineers improve designs to provide more operable and flexible treatment plants. The other part is troubleshooting domestic and industrial wastewater treatment plants, helping them meet permit limits and save significant money on chemicals and energy. Seeing improved effluent quality at lower cost from these plants inspires one to get involved even more in making further improvements in our water environment.
Name: Julian Sandino
Title: Vice President, Assistant Director of Technology - CH2M Hill
Location: Kansas City, MO
Years in water quality: 27
Why are you a water quality professional? For the challenge of protecting public and environmental health (no higher call!) and the pleasure of working with a bunch of great people while making a decent living from it...what a blessing!
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Having contributed to the well being of millions of people around the world through the projects I've been involved in and through my volunteer work with WEF.
Name: Alan Vicory , P.E., BCEE
Title: Executive Director and Chief Engineer
Location: Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO)
Years in water quality: 35
Why are you a water quality professional? I can think of no more self-fulfilling life mission than working to preserve and enhance water quality.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Guiding ORSANCO though 20 plus years of progress and growth and serving the profession as President of ASIWPCA and AAEE.
Name: Bob Bastian
Title: Senior Environmental Scientist
Location: Office of Wastewater Management, U.S. EPA, Washington, D.C.
Years in water quality: Nearly 40 years, starting with surveys of Lake Erie water quality and studies associated with water quality impacts of land-applied food processing wastewater while in college.
Why are you a water quality professional? It has provided me with an opportunity to apply my broad interests in ecology, environmental sciences, engineering, and natural biological systems toward addressing practical water quality problems facing society -- in this case the effective management of municipal wastewater.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Working effectively with a wide range of professionals within the government, academia, the consulting world, and at the local project level to help address practical problems associated with wastewater treatment and biosolids management. These efforts have resulted in the development of a series of EPA technology assessments, policy statements, technical reports and guidance documents, along with a long list of state-of-the-science conferences and proceedings documents, demonstration projects, etc., dealing with biosolids management.
Name: Luz M Amador
Title: Systems and Engineering Consulting, Inc/ CEO
Location: Fresno, California
Years in water quality: 6 years fully dedicated but 25 working on different wastewater projects
Why are you a water quality professional? I believe water is the most precious and needed resource. There is need for more research in water cycles to increase natural efficiency to recover and thus maintain our supplies of clean water. I truly have a passion about cleaning wastewater and much respect for all the people who work daily at the WW facilities.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Being able to develop and implement an affordable, yet effective, process that leads to water reccovery. Perhaps of more relevance is the elimination of NO3 and decrease of BOD in the effluent at Dinuba Wastewater facility. I am thankful I was able to eliminate pollutants to water and air.
Name: DeAnna D. Windh
Title: Operator 3
Location: Lakehaven Utility District, Federal Way, WA
Years in water quality: 19
Why are you a water quality professional? I was born and raised in an area where open pit & deep coal mining has had a devastating effect on our water resources.
The general population rarely thinks about life without water, until they experience an un-announced supply interruption. It seems that absolutely everything they do calls for water when this happens. The dishes need washed, the baby needs bathed, food need to be prepared, hygiene needs met, and the car picks this moment to overheat. The simple act of getting a drink requires a trip to the market for bottled water. Consider this one day interruption as a glimpse of life without water.
Perhaps that is why I use every opportunity to teach water resource protection and conservation to any and all groups that will listen to me.
I would devote a lifetime (come to think of it I have) to any effort needed to assure future generations the luxury of pure clean water.
Right now, water is a renewable resource. However, this cannot be guaranteed for future generations unless we who understand water quality issues such as ground water protection, recharge issues, stormwater management, water & wastewater treatment, and conservation step forth in a world wide effort to inform the general population.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? My greatest accomplishment is that I have been privileged to speak to young people across the United States from East to West coasts about the importance and the necessity of everyone working together to assure future generations the pure clean water that is necessary to sustain all life. The second would be the honor of being asked to represent the water quality professionals at the China conference a few years back.
Name: Joe Foster
Title: City of Olathe Wastewater Superintendent
Location: Olathe, Kansas
Years in Water Quality: 28
Why am I a water quality professional? I have a passion for the water quality field because of the impact it has on the environment. When surgeons operate on a person, they have one person’s life in their hands. However, when water professionals operate treatment facilities, they are responsible for the health of thousands of people. We make an impact on our community, but also on the overall environment for other communities downstream. I truly feel that in this field, a person can leave a legacy by ensuring that we have clean water for future generations.
Name: John Hart
Title: Chief Operator
Location: City Of Saco, Maine, USA
Years in water quality: 37
Why are you a water quality professional? Primarily to protect the water environment and to help make it better for generations to come. Initially I was inspired by the importance and value of the water environment profession when I took part in a high school class tour of three different facilities in my area. From there it was clear that I would strive to become a water quality professional in a field among those who take their jobs very seriously in an effort to protect and clean our natural waters. Furthermore, the Operations Challenge Program that I have been a part of has laid the foundation and groundwork for both my professional and personal growth within this rewarding field.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Being honored to represent the operational, deckplate level of our profession as a WEF Delegate At Large is at the top. Secondly is being involved in Operations Challenge beginning as a Team member and then moving through the transitional path of Judge, Event Coordinator and continued up to the honor of Committee Chair of the annual event.
Name: Edmund (Ed) A. Kobylinski
Title: Senior Wastewater Treatment Process Specialist
Location: Kansas City Missouri
Years in water quality: 31
Why are you a water quality professional? I do it because it is exciting and challenging. How many professions let you do work that you find fun and challenging and yet you do make a difference? Satisfaction is finishing start up and seeing a clear clean effluent leaving the WWTP and knowing that you as a process designer and the whole design team have done a good job.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? While I have designed a number of advanced treatment systems over the years to be proud of, my biggest achievement is being able to pass on process knowledge and training to our younger staff and clients and watch as they apply that knowledge and grow. Our profession is a small community and being able in some small part to help that community to move forward to meet future challenges is for me my biggest achievement.
Name: Barbara Smith
Title: Muncie Sanitary District Administrator
Location: Muncie, Indiana
Years in water quality: 28
Why are you a water quality professional? First by accident, then when I realized that as an operator at a facility I was on the front line to protect the precious waters of the earth it became a passion for me. I have tried to instill this passion to others throughout the years. When I see the “light bulb” go off for others and they “get it,” I get that natural high. Every person and every position in this field in truth are Water Heroes and should be listed on this page.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? A few years ago I found myself teaching classes for operators who needed to study to take the Indiana (and some Ohio) Operator’s Certification Exams. Over the years I have assisted over 400 operators receive certification (in all levels) or increased their certification levels. The operators who seek me out for education and learn from the classes are my Water Heroes and at the same time are the biggest achievements of my career.
Name: Cindy Wallis-Lage
Title: President of Global Water Business, Black & Veatch
Location: Kansas City, MO
Years in water quality: 22
Why are you a water quality professional? My love for the environment, specifically water related issues, started with one of my grandfathers who was a science teacher with a passion for all elements of the environment. He spent many Saturdays taking me on nature walks to explore local streams and creeks and the associated animal habitats. I also had a fantastic biology teacher in high school that went beyond the basic class room lectures and tied in environmental issues and opportunities. Through these interactions, I decided to choose a career that would make a difference in the preservation of our environment. Lucky for me, I also excelled in math and science so environmental engineering was a perfect match! I started working in the southwest after I graduated and through projects there became very interested in reuse. Seeing the benefits of reuse and the opportunities to resolve many water related issues led me to focus on wastewater treatment/reuse which is what I have done now for 22 years!
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? I love the technology aspects of wastewater treatment so developing innovative solutions to challenging treatment problems really mark the highlights in my career. I have had multiple opportunities to design state-of-the-art treatment plants that make a difference in communities around the world. That makes my day!
Name: Gary W. Johnson, PE
Title: Regional Operations Manager for the Midwest Region of ARCADIS
Location: Akron, Ohio
Years in water quality: 39.5 years
Why are you a water quality professional? It has always been my philosophy that as professionals, we have to give back to our profession and society in general. As a water quality professional, I have the chance to make a difference in the lives of others…..and with our most precious resource….water. That is very important to me.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? There are several achievements that I am proud of in my career but the one that stands out the most is my formation of an ad hoc “Image Committee” while I was the President of the Ohio Water Environment Association in 1992/1993. My intent was to elevate the image of our profession from one that was considered a little “Ed Norton-like” to what we truly were….dedicated, committed and well educated professionals serving our society.
My first chore was to internally raise our own image….if we didn’t feel and act like professionals, we surely couldn’t convince the “outside world” that we were. Once that was accomplished through a number of presentations and skits, we focused our attention on the outside world. I wanted the OWEA to be the “go to” association when it came to wastewater matters in Ohio.
At the time, we had the largest response to join a committee, which convinced me that others had this same concern. We came up with numerous ideas on how to elevate our professional image.
Although not as active as back then, I’m happy to say that the Image Committee is still alive and kickin’.
Name: Kathleen M. Cook
Title: OWEA Certification Program Manager
Location: Fairborn, Ohio
Years in water quality: 35
Why are you a water quality professional? I have been involved in the profession as a lab analyst and wastewater treatment plant superintendent for 35 years. WEF has been my home and has given me many opportunities to serve. In addition to serving in numerous volunteer positions over the years, I have also authored manual of practice (MOP) updates and study guides; written articles; given talks; and won many awards.
Name: Linda Bilanchone
Title: Commissioner of Public Works
Location: Spartanburg, SC
Years in water quality: 17
Why are you a water quality professional? Because I enjoy making our democratic system work by offering myself for public service in an elected position.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Providing governance for a water/wastewater utility that is superior in every way -- from the quality of water that we provide and return to the natural environment to the service that we give the customer to the excellent staff that we employ -- and doing it all in a cost-effective way.
Name: Cindy Murphy
Title: Executive Director, Water Environment Association of SC and SC Section AWWA
Location: Lexington, SC
Years in water quality: 18
Why are you a water quality professional? I ended up in the water industry quite by accident, but it has been the most satisfying career path of my entire employment history. Impacting the quality of life for thousands of people each day, whether through direct treatment, operator training, or coordination of professional education, assures me that my life WILL have made a difference when all is said and done even if I never have a bridge, road or building named after me!
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? I would have to say education. It touches me deeply that operators I have trained still maintain contact with me, and I love seeing the light bulb go off when I explain water treatment and protection to a room full of operators, commissioners, kids, etc. In my present position I am privileged to support our Association/Section Committees as they deliver workshops, seminars and conferences, and nothing pleases me more than to have an attendee express the impact a piece of information that we delivered has had on them. I love it that we affect so many people!
Name: George L. Martin
Title: Assistant Manager, Greenwood Metropolitan District
Location: Greenwood, SC
Years in water quality: 28
Why are you a water quality professional? I was hired to establish an effective maintenance department which included preventative and corrective maintenance for the collect/transportation system, including pump stations, and treatment facilities. What seemed to be an overwhelming task was made a bit easier as I became acquainted with others in the South Carolina MA with like responsibilities. I was introduced to technical publications from WEF that were of great benefit. I attended my first WEFTEC in 1982 and was impressed with the quality of information and the knowledge of those who presented. I knew then I was not alone. I was later introduced to the WEF Collections Committee and formed lasting relationships with people with a national view and knowledge of numerous wastewater treatment operations. This was the reinforcement I needed to know that having a maintenance department that operated effectively and efficiently was not only doable but my responsibility. I have since had the opportunity, as assistant manager, to view all facets of the complex operation of the entire wastewater system from dealing with decision makers, the media, customers, employees and peers. I do not see any boundaries to the commitment of quality service for our customers and our employees. I feel extremely fortunate to have job responsibilities that impact the public health and the environment of my community in an important and positive way. That is why I am still excited about being a water quality professional.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Being recognized as the WEF Collection Systems Award winner is perhaps my most satisfying moment followed closely by the staff we have been able to assemble at Greenwood Metropolitan District.
Name: Amanda Withers, P.E.
Title: Environmental Engineer
Location: Springfield, Illinois
Years in water quality: 7 1/2
Why are you a water quality professional? My passion lies in environmental engineering and particularly wastewater treatment. It is my way of giving something back to society by helping to protect our water environment.
Name: Bob Pickett
Title: Vice President, CH2M HILL Canada Limited
Location: Toronto Ontario
Years in water quality: 33
Why are you a water quality professional? I got into water quality following the example of my uncle, Lou Romano. He was the Director of Water Pollution Control for the City of Windsor Ontario. His passion for the industry and his dedication to public service served as a inspiration and example for me.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? I spent 29 years with Metro Toronto, which was later combined with the City of Toronto. The last 12 years of my employment with Metro and the City, I was the the Director of the Water Pollution Control Division, which had the 4 wastewater treatment plants, the trunk sewers and the Industrial Waste Control Branch as well as the Wastewater Laboratory Section. I lead a major restructuring and skills development program which resulted in saving of $32 million dollars a year and the upgrade of skills for the entire work force.
Name: Al Goodman
Title: Principal (working for CDM
Location: Louisville, KY
Years in water quality: 36
Why are you a water quality professional? Because
of the interesting challenges of improving water quality and
the opportunity to work with so many great professionals around the
world that really make a difference in human health and the environment.
Name: Don Dodson
Title: Facility Operations Manager - JJG/JJ&G Services
Location: Norcross, GA
Years in water quality: 35
Why are you a water quality professional? I could not think of a more fulfilling job that affects the environment is so many ways. I get great satisfaction in knowing what I do helps keep our environment clean and safe for others to use.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? I would have to say that my biggest achievement is the people that I have trained over the years. The people I work with help keep this job interesting and fun.
Name: Sue G. Schneider
Title: General Manager of Spartanburg Water
Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina
Years in water quality: 20+
Why are you a water quality professional? Water supply and management is integral to the development and quality of life of communities. I am a water quality professional because I am actively involved in my community and my efforts, personally and professionally, enrich my community.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? My biggest achievement is steering an organization that supplies and treats water for a community of 200,000 stakeholders in 3 counties. This organization is known for its strong commitment to the environment and the community. It is a tremendous honor working with the 260 water quality professionals at Spartanburg Water who serve the Spartanburg County regional area.
Name: Paul L. Bishop
Title: Associate Vice President for Research and Professor – University of Cincinnati; Program Director – National Science Foundation
Location: Cincinnati, OH; Arlington, VA
Years in water quality: 37
Why are you a water quality professional? There are many reasons, but the main ones are to improve the quality of our nation’s waters, and to educate new water professionals to do the same.
Name: James R. Stewart
Title: Chief Operator, Shoal Creek WRF
Location: Clayton County, GA
Years in water quality: 24
Why are you a water quality professional? Like many people in plant operations, I entered the water quality profession because I needed a job. Then I soon realized the importance of the job we are doing.
I have been blessed to work with and train a great team of operators who, like all of us, are faced with the challenges of new permit limits as well as advanced technology. This team work has produced an award winning plant with over 12 years of perfect permit compliance. Thanks Team.
Name: Earl William Bahr
Title: Environmental Specialist, Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Location: Helena, MT
Years in water quality: 29
Why are you a water quality professional? I would like to say that is was an accidental occupation starting the day I was hired at the local WWTP in Great Falls, Montana and not really knowing what I was getting into. In retrospect, however, my undergraduate studies and research activities at the University of Montana in Missoula in the late 1960s and early 1970s revolved around air pollution studies with Dr. Ronald Erickson and working to develop strategies for evaluating the environmental impacts of the coal-fired electrical generating facilities at Colstrip. From that came an interest in work that preserves and protects Montana high-quality waters and other environmental concerns. Throughout this time I have been able to interact with other water quality professionals through organizations such as the Water Environment Federation by participating in committees and serving as an MA officer and director. Today, I remain committed to the water quality profession through an abiding interest in helping plant operators optimize treatment plant performance and implementing advanced waste treatment technologies to reduce nutrients in discharges to Montana waters.
Name: Lyle R. Christensen, P.E.
Title: Senior Project Manager; HDR Engineerings, Inc.
Location: Omaha, NE
Years in water quality: 35
Why are you a water quality professional? To sincerely make a difference in the quality of life and education of our citizenry and to contribute to the continued improvement of our water-based environment. In my lifetime I have personally witnessed too many abuses to our water resources, and I have always felt a strong sense of ownership and duty “to do it right.”
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Numerous projects could be cited, but perhaps the most important accomplishment is to see the fruition of a personal vision that started approximately a decade ago as I became more involved with WEF activities. That vision was to bring together the four states in EPA Region 7 in the form of representatives from WEF member Governmental Affairs Committees, state regulatory agencies, and EPA staff to discuss targeted “hot topics” in an open, constructive setting. In this fashion regulatory implementation issues and concepts can be shared; with the ultimate goal of educating our respective memberships, the regulated community, and the public in general. Our 2nd annual 4-State GA meeting was successfully held in September 2008, and it was felt by all those attending that this effort should not only continue but should also be encouraged to be implemented within the remaining EPA regions.
Name: Joseph J. Mastriano
Title: Operations Manager, Onondaga County, Department of Water Environment Protection
Location: Syracuse, NY
Years in water quality: 30+
Why are you a water quality professional? Ever since I can remember (at least as far back as the second grade) I have been fascinated by science and more specifically the science of fresh and salt water systems. My academic training, my professional life and my personal life has been dedicated to the protection, improvement and restoration of water resources in several watersheds in Central New York.
I have actively participated and held leadership and/or committee positions in a number of organizations dedicated to watershed management and protection including the New York Water Environment Association, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Onondaga Lake Partnership, the Oneida Lake Citizen's Advisory Committee, the Oneida Lake Watershed Advisory Council and the Oneida Lake Association. I am grateful to be recognized by the WEF as a water hero.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Perhaps my most gratifying achievement is the lead role I played in being responsible for the development and growth of Onondaga County's Ambient Water Quality Monitoring Program. During my tenure with Onondaga County, the program has expanded from a relatively simple lake and tributary monitoring program to a watershed monitoring program that provides detailed information not only on an extensive suite of water quality parameters, but also on the biological communities and the physical attributes of the system.
Erica Huggins, PE
Title: Regional Office Manager, BP Barber
Location: Greenville, SC
Years in water quality: 12
Why are you a water quality professional? I have always been passionate about the environment and water resources so the water industry was a natural fit for me. As a consultant, it is very rewarding to have a career focused on helping friends solve problems and working to find project specific solutions that also protect our water resources.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Every project gives me a personal sense of satisfaction that I am making a positive contribution. Specializing in water quality and regulatory compliance, I’d have to say a significant achievement has been working with MS4s to develop comprehensive stormwater management programs from scratch.
Name: Sidney Jennifer Innerebner
Title: Principal / Owner of Indigo Water Group, LLC
Location: Littleton, Colorado
Years in Water Quality: 18+ I started my career as a chemist at Rocky Flats – a nuclear manufacturing facility – analyzing environmental samples for trace metals and other contaminants. From there, I went to the Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant where I also worked as a chemist (helping with operations and process control) and started graduate school for environmental engineering. I transitioned into consulting engineering and worked as a wastewater operator as well.
Why are you a water quality professional? The first time I was exposed to any kind of engineering was in graduate school. My first semester included classes in wastewater treatment plant design and environmental law. I guess you could say I fell in love with both topics. I always wanted to be Spock (or Quincy!) when I grew up. Those guys seemed to have all the answers. Water quality work is diverse and requires knowledge in a lot of different areas. It seems that I am constantly reading and attending seminars just to keep up with innovations in the field. The part of my work that I enjoy the most is helping smaller communities meet their goals. Sometimes this involves troubleshooting a wastewater plant or offering operations assistance. Sometimes, it means reviewing or negotiating a discharge permit that protects water quality without putting a burden on the community that they can’t bear. Sometimes, it means designing and building an expansion or upgrade to a facility. It’s a good feeling at the end of the day to know that I’m helping people and cleaning up the environment at the same time. It is satisfying to be able to figure out solutions for complicated problems. I am a water quality professional because I enjoy the diverse, dynamic, satisfying nature of the work.
Name: Charlie Stevens
Title: Utility Director
Location: City of Rifle, Colorado
Years in water quality: 22
Why are you a water quality professional? I found myself in this profession after being trained as a biologist and always having had an interest in water quality since high school. I like the everday challenges, changes and opportunities this profession has given me along with the great friendships that have developed over the years.
What is your biggest achievement as a water quality professional? Striving to improve the lives of the citizens in the communities that I work for by ensuring public health and economic vitality through effective utility mangement.
Name: Keith Riley
Title: Assistant District Chief, Ohio EPA NE District Office
Location: Twinsburg, Ohio
Years in water quality: 35 years
Why are you a water quality professional? The year I graduated from high school was the year of the infamous last fire on the Cuyahoga River which sparked the ultimate passage of the Clean Water Act. This historic incident occurred just a half hour north of my home.
I was blessed to get a CO-OP job when I was in college with the Ohio Dept. of Health (later to become the Ohio EPA). After being exposed to the environmental field in my job, the light bulb went off and I found my passion in life. Working to improve the quality of life for mankind and getting a pay check for it seemed like a great fit for me.
After 35 years in the business I have witnessed an explosion of advancement in equipment technology and treatment science, a dramatic elevation of professional expertise in municipal and industrial wastewater operations, and the resultant healthy rebirth of stream segment after stream segment. Now we have a watershed group citizen group in nearly ever watershed taking ownership and managing their own watershed.
It has truly been a pleasure to be a small part of this effort.
Name: Charles W. Tyler
Title: Program Manager, Process Operations; MWRA Deer Island Treatment Plant
Location: Boston, MA
Years in water quality: 31 years
Why are you a water quality professional? When I was a pre-schooler, I fell into an open sewer and it stuck. In much the same way, I "fell into" the industry during the height of the Clean Water Act activities and the occupation was a good fit. It's good to know that everyday I'm doing something to make up for the adverse impact of the human sprawl on the natural environment.
Name: William R. "Bill" Hill
Title: Wastewater Manager
Location: Delaware, Ohio
Years in water quality: 56 years
Why are you a water quality professional? I first entered the Water & Wastewater field while in college and right away, I loved it. My education fit the skill set needed to be successful and I had many people encourage me. As I progressed in the field, the need for Wastewater professionals was apparent. Based on the many people who helped me, the apparent need for better education and upgrade of the many talented people in this business of Wastewater, my activities in the field increased. I have been more than fortunate in my worldwide ventures to assist others in achieving better water quality, while working in both the public and private sectors of the profession.
Name: John Schombert
Title: Executive Director, 3 Rivers Wet Weather
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Years in water quality: 37 years
Why are you a water quality professional? I grew up in the Pittsburgh region where the rivers and streams are a dominate part of the landscape and culture. If you travel more than a couple of miles in any direction here you will cross one of the rivers and several streams. As a science major I immediately gravitated to environmental work just after the passage of the original Clean Water Act and for 29 years worked for the local regulatory agency and eventually developed the 3 Rivers Wet Weather programs as a Non- Profit corporation to provide the regional collaborations necessary to further the improvement of the region’s water quality.
Name: James Robin Foy
Title: Manager; Water Pollution Enforcement Section; South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control
Location: Columbia, SC
Years in water quality: 16.5 years
Why are you a water quality professional? I made a significant career change beginning in 1992. Based upon my love for the outdoors and enjoyment of fishing and kayaking, I decided to devote my remaining career years to protection of water resources.
Featured on the WEF homepage January 8-11, 2009
Name: Gayle E. Pagano
Title: Chief of the Division of Regulatory Compliance, Lab an IPP
Location: Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority
Years in water quality: 18 years
Why are you a water quality professional? I am a water quality professional because of the profound sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with helping to ensure high quality and efficient wastewater treatment and regulatory compliance for the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority and the Citizens of Camden County New Jersey.
Featured on the WEF homepage December 10-11, 2008
Name: Mary Fralish
Title: Deputy Director of Public Works, Environmental Services
Location: Mankato, Minnesota
Years in Water Quality: 33 years. I began as the Chemist at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, them became the plant supervisor and recently moved to the current position of Deputy Director of Public Works, Environmental Services
Why are you a water quality professional? I have always been interested in protection of our natural resources especially on the local level. I live in the beautiful Minnesota River valley in a community that values and appreciates the assets at our doorstep so it’s been very rewarding.
Featured on the WEF homepage December 8-9, 2008
Name: Jim Coughenour
Title: Assistant Superintendent
Location: City of Phoenix Water Services Department; Wastewater Treatment Division; 91st Avenue Multi-Cities WWTP
Years in water quality: 23 Years
Why are you a water quality professional?
I believe that the job we do, producing high quality effluent and biosolids for beneficial reuse, while limiting emissions and operating costs, is important. The job remains an exciting challenge, every day.
Featured on WEF homepage December 4-5, 2008
Name: Jane F. Hood
Title: Laboratory Manager/Chemist
Company/Location: Water Pollution Control, City of
St. Joseph, Missouri
Years in water quality: 27+
Why are you a water quality professional?
This is my way to be an environmentalist. I want the water leaving my facility to be the best it can be, since it flows first into the Missouri River, then into the Mississippi River, and finally into the Gulf of Mexico.
Featured on WEF homepage November 10-11, 2008
Name: Sandra K. Ralston
Title, Company: Senior Associate, Malcolm Pirnie
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Years in water quality: 20
Why are you a water quality professional?
Because there are so many things you can do—helping utilities reach solutions, training and mentoring, lobbying Congress for funds, raising funds for Water for People, to name just a few options—to try and make a positive impact on the water legacy we will leave behind.
Featured on WEF homepage November 12-13, 2008
Name: Dale Richwine
Title/Company: Vice President/MWH
Location: Portland, Oregon
Years in Water Quality: 36
Why are you a water quality professional?
I have always been interested in science and the environment. Being a water quality professional allows me to do something to improve our environment. Now that I have been in this profession, I realize that there is a small close-knit group of people who do this work and the dedication is unbelievable. This is where my friends are.