WEF's membership newsletter covers current Federation activities, Member Association news, and items of concern to the water quality field. WEF Highlights is your source for the most up-to-the-minute WEF news and member information. 



December 2009, Vol. 46, No. 10

Top Story

Urban Rivers and Sustainable Cities To Be Discussed at WEF Specialty Conference

Co-located conferences hope to draw multidisciplinary crowd

Don Project Small As more people commit to the idea of sustainability, populations shift back to urban centers, where residents are demanding more “green” and livable communities. More people care about the impact their lives have on the environment and, because city residents have a smaller ecological footprint, many are moving back into cities, said Tim Dekker, chair of the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Urban River Restoration 2010 specialty conference. These individuals also are demanding more green space and interaction with the environment in urban centers, he added.

A rendering from the Don River project. Photo property of Waterfront Toronto works. Click for larger image.

These two trends make WEF’s co-located specialty conferences Cities of the Future 2010 and Urban River Restoration 2010 relevant and timely topics, Dekker said. “We think the timing is right,” he noted. “There really seems to be an interest in urbanism in the United States. As people move back into the cities, they want the cities to be a more livable, habitable place.” Because many cities are located near waterways, restoration of rivers plays a large part in this revitalization of the environment in cities, he added.

Historically, waterways were used as a dumping ground for trash and wastewater, rivers were channeled or covered, and focus was shifted away from waterways. “A lot of urban development adjacent to cities turned its back on the river,” Dekker said. “These days, there’s a movement in landscape architecture to turn cities around and make buildings face the waterways again and encourage human use of the waterways.”

While there are similarities in both the Urban River Restoration and Cities of the Future conferences, the two approach the issues differently, Dekker said. The Urban River conference will take a water-based look at sustainable cities, while Cities of the Future will take a land-based look at these cities. Waterfront redevelopment in cities often depends on first solving any contamination and pollution problems found in the waterway, he added. Restoring urban waterways requires considering flooding patterns, ecology, water quality, and sediment quality. Sessions that fall under the Urban River Restoration conference banner will discuss urban waterway components; remediation, cleanup, and restoration techniques; technical challenges and solutions to cleaning up rivers; case studies; physical constraints; engaging the public and setting objectives; and measuring the value of urban river restoration. 


In Dekker’s opinion, one of the most interesting components of the conference is the workshops. “I really would emphasize the workshops,” he said. “They’ll be exciting.”

One of the conference’s workshops will be a “design charette,” in which attendees are presented with real-world problems and asked to work together to find the steps needed to reach the posed solution through using hands-on models and other tactile elements. “We’re hoping that engineers and other linear thinkers will come to that workshop and play around with those ideas,” Dekker said. One of the problems discussed in the workshop will be based on a project Dekker worked on that was his inspiration to pursue the Urban River Restoration conference.

 Don Project 2 Small

A rendering from the Don River project. Photo property of Waterfront Toronto works. Click for larger image.

In 2006, Dekker participated in a design competition for the redevelopment of the Don River in Toronto. Dekker, an environmental engineer, worked on a team with landscape architects, urban planners, and ecologists to create a plan to restore and revitalize the river and surrounding area, which is an urban brownfield. Dekker’s team won the competition and has been working on the project for the past 2 years.

From his personal experience on the Don River project, Dekker saw the benefits of working with professionals from different backgrounds and expertise. He decided to take his idea for a conference that discusses urban river restoration in a multidisciplinary atmosphere to WEF to make it a reality. Dekker encourages individuals of different backgrounds to attend the conference, including urban planners and developers, public works directors and city managers, architects, engineers, and political and ecological scientists.
   
In addition to the similarities in topics, the Urban River Restoration and the Cities of the Future conferences share a desire to draw a multidisciplinary crowd. “We’d like to have individuals within the WEF community attend that are interested in the broader issues of cities of the future … across these different discipline boundaries,” said Tom Pedersen, chair of the Cities of the Future conference.

Personally, Pedersen would like to see individuals outside the WEF community — such as social anthropologists, members of grassroots organizations, and academics — attend, he said. “We really think that by getting all of them together in a conference like this, we can really find interesting complementarities between all the different disciplines,” he noted. He also hopes to convey WEF’s commitment to looking at sustainable solutions, showing that the federation’s focus is more than just water treatment, he said.

The idea for the Cities of the Future conference originated from WEF’s sustainability task force, charged with holding a recurring conference and deciding how WEF should approach the issue, Pedersen explained. This conference is the follow-up to the 2008 sustainability conference, changing focus from sustainability to cities of the future, he added.

“Rivers are key to cities of the future,” Pedersen said. “Rivers really provide a place for communities.” City residents, businesses, and managers are recognizing that water is a resource that must be managed effectively and made accessible to people, he added.

Don Project 3 SmallThe Cities of the Future conference will be taking a broader view of cities, not only looking at waterways and rivers but also looking at energy, transportation, and buildings. “We’re looking much more holistically at how the cities interact with the natural environment and the river,” Pedersen said. “Individuals can go and hear about the technical issues associated with restoring a river and, at the same time, they can hear planning issues of how to make the waterfront something that the community can benefit from.”

“It’s no longer this single-issue topic,” Pedersen said. Creating cities of the future that efficiently use resources requires integrating concept, design, and planning ideas using multiple stakeholders, he explained. To do this, engineers, government officials, planners, and architects must all work together. “I think what attendees at the conferences will learn … is that these issues of water and energy are integrated and cannot be separated,” he said. “And the issues of infrastructure, roads, energy, communication, [and] water really need to be thought through in an integrated holistic manner.”

A rendering from the Don River project. Photo property of Waterfront Toronto works. Click for larger image.

“This may be the start of really getting some integrated discussions moving forward,” Pedersen said. “I’m looking forward to this; I think we’re going to have a good turnout.”

Sessions and workshops at the conference will look at different case studies of sustainable cities and go into detail about elements of these cities. “We’ve got quite a broad range of issues being discussed,” Pedersen said. “We’ve built [the technical sessions] to address issues that we think are important for green cities going into the future.”

To Pedersen, the most important parts of the conferences are the joint opening general session and the concurrent, but not joint, closing sessions. In the opening session, keynote speaker Paul Brown will talk about the importance and elements of cities of the future and tie in urban river topics. Keynote speaker Michael Van Valkenburgh will talk about urban rivers and make the connection back to cities of the future. A panel discussion addressing issues important to both conferences will follow the opening general session.

The closing sessions are important, because individuals sitting in all of the sessions will compile their notes and bring any key issues and common themes from the conference to the closing sessions. This session overview presentation will be the jumping-off point for a discussion, Pedersen said.

“For this conference, it is important that individuals attend the opening session and the closing session, where they’ll be able to learn about those sessions that they didn’t attend,” Pedersen said. “We will have a way of getting everyone to understand at least in general terms what the key issues were that were brought up throughout the conference.” Pedersen hopes that attendees will be able to learn more about water and how to help those working with water infrastructure understand the needs for sustainable urban development, he said.

“There’s certainly a significant benefit to both conferences by having them co-located,” Pedersen said. Attendees are able to pick and choose which technical sessions from both conferences that they would like to attend. For one registration rate, attendees will be able to attend any session listed under either conference to allow attendees the ability to design their own educational experience. The conferences will be held at the Boston Marriott Cambridge from March 7 to 10. Those interested in attending can register now and save with the super saver rate by registering by Feb. 3. For more information, see Cities of the Future 2010 or Urban River Restoration 2010.

Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
WEF Boosts Customer Support at Home and Around the World

Customer service operations at the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) recently have undergone changes to boost the customer experience for WEF members and Member Associations (MAs) worldwide. These changes include the additions of dedicated WEF customer service teams at BrightKey (Annapolis, Md.) and Portland Customer Services (PCS; London).

BrightKey
BK Staff SmallThe BrightKey team now handles all customer service requests from the United States and its territories, as well as Canada and Mexico. WEF’s five-member team at BrightKey runs a full call center and handles member subscriptions, order processing, and online requests.

Along with BrightKey, WEF customers can now track requests in real time with new online Parature® software. The service enables customers to create an electronic “ticket” that specifies the type of question to help representatives give specific responses. The ticket can be viewed online to show exactly what is occurring with the request — whether it is open, being processed, or closed. 

The BrightKey staff include, back row from left, Natalie Ekelund, Keith Parsons, Amy Deacon, and Michelle Ababneh; and front row from left, Kristen Gomes and Tanya Pittman. Click for larger image.

At the full online customer service resource center, customers can find answers to frequently asked questions about membership and subscription services, locate contact information for customer support, and create an e-ticket.

According to Lori Jordan, director of association services at WEF, the requests handled by WEF customer services vary seasonally. In late summer and early fall, many of the requests are WEFTEC®-oriented, Jordan said. At other times of the year, requests can range from checking membership validity to questions about product orders.

PCS

Across the pond, WEF has formed a new partnership with PCS, a London-based international firm. The PCS office will handle all customer service requests that fall outside of BrightKey’s domain.
PCS staff Small
PCS will handle membership services, periodical and newsletter subscriptions, book ordering fulfillment, and general customer service.

Jordan noted that PCS’s location allows for faster and less costly shipping of products globally. “This will streamline costs and result in better customer service internationally,” she said. PCS also will soon be using the Parature software, and both PCS and Brightkey will be fully integrated with WEF’s new-member database when it is implemented in the near future.

The Portland Customer Services team includes, back row from left, Adam Gibson, Celia Golby, Rupert Griffiths, Pete Dyer, Suzanne Mayes, Rana Kolivand, Beverley Johnstone, and Alexander Mann; and front row from left, Faye Steady, Gavin Dees, Linda Leonard, Cassandra Newberry, and Christina Hills.

Global Membership Program
WEF also recently announced the creation of the new Global Membership Program. The program has three membership categories, which include Global Professional, e-Global Professional, and Low-Income Global Professional.

According to a letter from WEF Executive Director William Bertera, the new memberships will enable a “broader cadre” of international professionals to benefit from WEF membership.

In addition, to enhance service for MAs, WEF has appointed Kelsey Brown as MA services representative. Brown handles special customer service requests from MAs, works to ensure requests are handled within 24 to 48 hours, and  receives and catalogs feedback from MAs.

See the Member Association Resource Center for more information.

Calder Silcox, WEF Highlights
WEFTEC.09 Attendee Wins 'Beat the Drop' Drawing

Beat the Drop Small.jpg
Thomas Lauro (right) of the Westchester County Department of Environmental Facilities (New Rochelle, N.Y.), assisted by Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Marketing Manager Tim Moran, shows off the books he won during his 1-minute shopping spree at the WEFTEC.09 Bookstore in Orlando, Fla. Lauro, a WEF member since 1981, was the winner of the annual “Beat the Drop” drawing, which enabled him to pick up $1600 worth of free books.

Photo by Oscar Einzig Photography. Click for larger image.







Alabama Utility Named Finalist for ‘Top Small Workplaces in America’ List

Daphnne-Workers Small Daphne (Ala.) Utilities is one of the 35 finalists named in The Wall Street Journal’s 2009 “Top Small Workplaces in America” list. The designation recognizes small businesses that foster teamwork, flexibility, high productivity, and innovation while helping employees grow personally and professionally, according to a Daphne Utilities news release.

After being nominated, the utility completed a questionnaire supplied by The Wall Street Journal and was selected as a finalist. Then, the utility’s employees, customers, and business advisors went through a series of due diligence interviews. Out of the

Daphne Utilities staff fix a pipe. Photo courtesy of Rob McElroy, general manager, Daphne Utilities. Click for larger image.
finalist companies, 15 were selected to be featured in the newspaper as the 2009 Top Small Workplaces in America.

While Daphne Utilities did not make it into the top 15 companies, it was chosen from more than 600 nominees to be the only utility ever selected as a finalist, the news release says. The utility has 70 employees and serves approximately 11,000 water customers, 10,000 sewer customers, and 4000 gas customers, the news release says. The key to its nomination and overall success is a combination of promoting teamwork, dedicating resources to the advancement of employees both personally and professionally, and offering customer service, said Rob McElroy, general manager.

“We work together as a team,” McElroy said. The utility started with the idea that “we’re one utility,” where staff members rely on each other equally in an atmosphere of teamwork, “the most fundamental building block of every great company,” he added. This atmosphere promotes sharing tools, equipment, and personnel and allowing flexibility to send people and equipment “where they are needed, when they are needed,” he said. This has improved productivity, and enabled the utility to operate with a smaller staff, he noted.
   
Daphnne- biodiesel plant small“Our employees feel free to make suggestions on ways that could make the company operate better even if it doesn’t impact their specific department directly,” McElroy said. Some of the innovative programs initiated by the utility initially were posed by employees, such as its oil recycling and biodiesel program, an idea posed by the Daphne Utilities’ plant manager. For the program, the utility collects used cooking oil to reduce sewer spills in its collection system. This has resulted in a drop of more than 40% in sewer spills and grease blockages. The utility also uses the collected oil to make biodiesel fuel, saving it more than $12,000 per year in fuel costs.
Daphne Utilities installed a biodiesel plant at the suggestion of an employee. Photo courtesy of Rob McElroy, general manager, Daphne Utilities. Click for larger image.


Daphnne - Flushing Hydrant SmallIn addition, a member of the utility’s Natural Gas Department saw an innovative attachment to make hydrant flushing safer and less destructive to customer landscapes and fabricated one as a demonstration. The utility adopted this as a new standard practice, McElroy said, which involves cutting down an old hydrant and mounting it to the trailer-hitch receiver of a pickup truck. The free end of the
 Daphne Utilities adopted this hydrant attachment to make flushing safer and less destructive to customer landscapes. Photo courtesy of Rob McElroy, general manager, Daphne Utilities. Click for larger image.
fire hose, used for hydrant flushing, then is attached to the hydrant hitch to secure it and direct water flow into the street instead of a customer’s yard.     

The second idea the utility operates with is known as “We’ll get you what you need.” To ensure energetic and engaged employees, Daphne Utilities attempts to provide staff with any tools needed, such as training, special tools, assistance of other departments, and access to experts or consultants, to accomplish a job. The utility also encourages employees to improve their skills personally and advance their careers professionally. 
   
The utility works as a business and operates as if customers could choose another product over theirs to foster a sense of customer care and loyalty. “This approach may be the underlying key to all of our success,” McElroy said. The utility attempts to make its office friendly and welcoming, both in atmosphere — by offering a variety of beverages to customers and dog treats for drive-up customers with pets — and in service — by providing friendly interaction with customers, accepting major credit cards, and offering pay-by-phone and pay-online services.

The utility also makes special efforts to alert customers to problems with the system. “When we have line breaks, we go door to door talking to the affected customers to let them know what is going on and when they can expect to have their service restored,” McElroy said. “We deliver bottles and jugs of water to families in need if there are special circumstances.”

The utility also reaches out to the community by supporting more than 45 community events and establishing its own charity, the Lend-a-Hand program, which provides customers who have experienced an emergency, such as a house fire, loss of a job, or serious injury, with assistance in paying their utility bills until they can get back on their feet, McElroy explained.

“To be named one of the top 35 small businesses by The Wall Street Journal is not only a great honor but a true reflection of the outstanding employees we have been fortunate to attract,” McElroy said. “We’ve worked very hard to select, prepare, and retain top talent and have created a work culture that maximizes their talent.”

Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
Spices Pose a Threat to Foodborne Pathogens

Spice Rack SmallEvidence continues to mount supporting the powerful benefits of spices. Oils from herbs and spices have shown antimicrobial benefits strong enough to help suppress such foodborne pathogens as Escherichia coli 0157, according to a U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) news release. ARS chemist Mendel Friedman has been studying the power of these spices for several years.

Plants generate their oil compounds to protect themselves in nature, Friedman explained. “One of the reasons that plants synthesize [these compounds] is to protect themselves against infection by phytopathogens, viruses, and bacteria that infect plants,” he said. “So the question was will they also be effective against human pathogens.”

In one of Friedman’s studies, published in 2002, he evaluated the bactericidal activity levels of 96 essential oils and 23 oil compounds against Campylobacter jejuni, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella enterica. Many of both the essential oils and oil compounds were effective at combating the effects of the foodborne pathogens.

In a 2004 study, Friedman evaluated 17 essential oils and nine oil compounds from plants for their antibacterial activity against E. coli and Salmonella in apple juices. The compounds listed as most active against both pathogens in the study included carvacrol, oregano oil, geraniol, cinnamon leaf oil, citral, lemongrass oil, and lemon oil. The study found the oils had greater affect on S. enterica, and its suppressive activities increased with incubation temperature and storage time and was not affected by the juices’ acidity.

Another of Friedman’s studies, published in 2007, looked at the bactericidal activities of antimicrobial wine recipes or marinades against E. coli, L. monocytogenes, Salmonella, and Bacillus cereus. The recipes contained different combinations of red or white wine, extracts of oregano leaves, garlic juice, and oregano oil. According to the study, “antimicrobial wine formulations have the potential to improve the microbiological safety of foods.” 
Spices-Film Small 
Scientists at the ARS Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., are developing edible films containing plant extracts as antimicrobials to complement and supplement other food-safety strategies, according to an ARS article. The thin, pliable, edible films made of anything from puréed spinach to carrots or apples could contain spice compounds, such as carvacrol, to add a protective accent to bags of vegetables, such as spinach, the article says.

In another study, published in 2008, Friedman tested the antimicrobial activities and the stability of carvacrol during the preparation and storage of apple-based edible films. Carvacrol was found to reduce water vapor and oxygen permeability of the films and to be an effective antimicrobial addition. “It can be used to both impart antimicrobial activities and enhance barrier properties of edible films,” the study says.

Tara McHugh, research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Processed Foods Research Unit in Albany, California, examines colorful fruit- and vegetable-based edible films. Antimicrobial edible films are now being tested against pathogenic bacteria. Photo courtesy of Peggy Greb, ARS. Click for larger image.
In another 2008 study, Friedman looked at the presence of E. coli in raw ground beef in the presence and absence of carvacrol and cinnamaldehyde at different temperatures. “What we’re finding is when we add some of these oils to the meat, you need much less heat to kill the pathogens,” Friedman said. “It facilitates thermal destruction of the pathogens.” 

A 2009 study by scientists from the University of Tokushima in Japan strengthens the evidence that spices can reduce the deadliness of E. coli. In the study, published in the Journal of Food Science by the Institute of Food Technologists (Chicago), researchers studied the effects of extracts from 20 different kitchen spices (including allspice, anise seed, black pepper, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and clove) on the growth and production of toxins in E. coli. The allspice extract exhibited the strongest suppression of toxin production, according to an institute news release. Clove extract slowed or halted toxin growth but not as significantly as allspice, the release says. “In addition to being a food additive, our results show that eugenol is effective in reducing the virulence of [E. coli 0157],” the study says. Additional studies are called for to detect the mechanism by which this toxin suppression works.

Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

Spices with Dropper Small

Spices Most Effective Against Pathogens

The information below is from the 2002 study, “Bactericidal Activities of Plant Essential Oils and Some of Their Isolated Constituents Against Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella enteric,” by Friedman, Philip Henika, and Rovert Mandrell published in the Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 65, pp. 1545–1560:

Plant essential oils most active against each pathogen Oil compounds most active against each pathogen
 C. jejuni
  • marigold,
  • ginger root,
  • jasmine,
  • patchouli,
  • gardenia,
  • cedarwood,
  • carrot seed,
  • celery seed,
  • mugwort,
  • spikenard, and
  • orange bitter.
 C. jejuni
  • cinnamaldehyde,
  • estragole,
  • carvacrol,
  • benzaldehyde,
  • citral,
  • thymol,
  • eugenol,
  • perillaldehyde,
  • carvone R, and
  • geranyl acetate.
 E. coli
  • oregano,
  • thyme,
  • cinnamon,
  • palmarosa,
  • bay leaf,
  • clove bud,
  • lemongrass, and
  • allspice.

 E. coli

  • carvacrol,
  • cinnamaldehyde,
  • thymol,
  • eugenol,
  • salicylaldehyde,
  • geraniol,
  • isoeugenol,
  • citral,
  • perillaldehyde, and
  • estragole.
 L. monocytogenes
  • gardenia,
  • cedarwood,
  • bay leaf,
  • clove bud,
  • oregano,
  • cinnamon,
  • allspice,
  • thyme, and
  • patchouli.
 L. monocytogenes
  • cinnamaldehyde,
  • eugenol,
  • thymol,
  • carvacrol,
  • citral,
  • geraniol,
  • perillaldehyde,
  • carvone S,
  • estragole, and
  • salicylaldehyde.
 S. enterica
  • thyme,
  • oregano,
  • cinnamon,
  • clove bud,
  • allspice,
  • bay leaf,
  • palmarosa, and
  • marjoram.
 S. enterica
  • thymol,
  • cinnamaldehyde,
  • carvacrol,
  • eugenol,
  • salicylaldehyde,
  • geraniol,
  • isoeugenol,
  • terpineol,
  • perillaldehyde, and
  • estragole.