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Play is serious work:
Play, storytelling reap rewards in innovation and creativity,
best-selling author says
Badly shaken, but not broken:
Engineer shares how Christchurch, New Zealand, recovered from a devastating earthquake at AAEES/AIDIS/WEF breakfast
Water leaders: Invisibility is no longer the goal
Taking WEFTEC by storm:
Stormwater Pavilion offers expanded resources and programming
Improving from the inside, out:
At the Utility Executives Forum, managers discussed how to improve relationships with employees and the public to help the bottom line
Wipes in the pipes:
WEFTEC speakers discuss contentious issues surrounding convenience wipes and collection systems
Charting Chicago’s course:
Collection Systems Luncheon looks back at Chicago’s water history and forward to new challenges
WEFTEC® 2013 set new records of all types. The
86th annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference
boasted a record number of 22,589 registrants and 971 companies exhibiting.
In addition to sheer size, WEFTEC also
included messages from such high-profile speakers as Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn,
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Advocate for Water Stewardship Robert Kennedy
served as the backdrop for an agreement between the Water Environment
Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) and the Stockholm International Water
Institute. The two groups signed an agreement that confirms the interest of
both parties in a sustained relationship that will encourage knowledge-building
about innovative new strategies, solutions, and challenges on water.
It is fitting that WEFTEC should set
its new record in Chicago. The first WEFTEC in 1928 was held in the city.
Likewise, WEFTEC’s previous high registration record — 21,950 — was set in
Chicago in 2008. The 971 exhibitors also claimed a new record by covering
297,400 net ft2 of exhibit space.
Not only did WEFTEC attract more
people this year, it also served as a platform for government, utility, and
business leaders to share their perspectives and announce future plans. At the
Opening General Session, Quinn welcomed WEFTEC participants to Illinois and
offered the first-ever gubernatorial proclamation naming October WATER’S WORTH
IT® Month in Illinois. Read more about the Opening General Session
on p. 64.
Emanuel opened the Water Leaders
session, “The Future of Cities and Water: Insights From the Great Water
Cities.” He thanked the audience members for their dedication to water issues.
“How we manage water will be the key to Chicago’s future,” Emanuel said. He
then followed with an announcement of a 5-year, $50 million “greener, cleaner”
initiative that will improve floodwater management in Chicago.
Kennedy, director of Ostara Nutrient
Recovery Technologies (Vancouver, British Columbia), and David St. Pierre,
executive director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater
Chicago (MWRD), also used WEFTEC as an opportunity to announce a new major
water and resource recovery project. In the Global Center on Tuesday, Oct. 8,
the pair described plans to launch what they said would be the largest nutrient
recovery project in the world.
They announced that by the fall of
2015 — when WEFTEC returns to Chicago — Stickney Water Reclamation Plant will
begin recovering phosphorus and nitrogen using the Ostara process, which
produces a salable, enhanced efficiency fertilizer called Crystal Green.
MWRD has partnered with Black &
Veatch (Overland Park, Kan.) and Ostara to design and build the nutrient
recovery facility at Stickney. Once fully operational in 2015, the facility
will be the largest such facility in the world, with the potential capacity to
produce between 9100 and 13,700 Mg (10,000 and 15,000 ton) of fertilizer
In an MWRD press release, St. Pierre
said that “this technology will transform these nutrients into an
environmentally responsible fertilizer. It will recover a non-renewable
resource, improve our water environment and provide a return on investment for
our rate payers. It is definitely a win-win-win.”
WEFTEC 2013 also
hosted the second annual WEFTEC meeting of the Water Innovation Clusters.
Nearly 50 attendees represented roughly 15 water clusters from around the
globe. The goal of the meeting was to enhance collaboration for the water
clusters, according to Barry Liner, director of WEF’s Water Science &
Engineering Center. Each cluster provided an introduction and brief summary of
their activities, Liner explained. Then, the representatives participated in a
plenary discussion before proceeding to the Innovation Showcase Pavilion to see
Play is serious work
storytelling reap rewards in innovation and creativity, best-selling author says
A red rubber ball means many things for American
children: kickball, dodgeball, four square, wall ball … the mere sound of it is
an invitation to play.
o what was a red rubber ball doing in
the middle of the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, which was
filled with hundreds of WEFTEC
For Kevin Carroll, keynote speaker at
the WEFTEC Opening General Session, it was a simple yet informative message:
finding one’s passion and pursuing it with creativity and innovation.
“Play is serious business,” said the
Rules of the Red Rubber Ball
What’s Your Red Rubber Ball?
The Red Rubber Ball at Work.
Wearing black-rimmed glasses and dressed in a
suit, tie, and sneakers, Carroll practically bounced off the stage, giving off
the youthful enthusiasm about the importance of play to an audience of nearly
arroll is a self-proclaimed “agent
for social change,” whose company, Kevin Carroll Katalyst/LLC, is committed to
“elevating the power of sport and play around the world.”
“Play is serious in the business of
competition and rising above, turning ideas into reality,” he explained. “Play
is going to be important throughout our lives. We should never marginalize it;
we should always celebrate it.”
Carroll went on to connect how play is
integral to his success despite growing up as the middle of three boys to
drug-addicted parents in Philadelphia.
“My father left us when I was 3; I
never saw him again,” Carroll said. His mother “made us nomads,” traveling from
place to place “fighting her demons.”
“We didn’t have a sense of family or
home,” he continued. Only his grandparents were the steady and loving influence
in his life, he said. “They were my rescuers and my angels.”
Eventually, Carroll and his young brothers
lived with his grandparents, whose home was near a playground.
“That playground was a safe place for
me, a place of nurturing,” Carroll explained. “Because of the playground, I
learned to turn ideas into reality. I played all kinds of sports — football,
soccer, ran track, ice hockey, lacrosse,” he said.
“It was never about first place,
getting a trophy,” Carroll continued. “The playground gave me confidence, while
school gave me knowledge. And both of those things allowed me to rise above my
play to action
After serving in the Air Force for 10
years, where he served as a language interpreter and translator in Croatian,
Czech, Serbian, and German, and earning his college degree, Carroll became an
athletic trainer at the high school and collegiate levels in Philadelphia. His
expertise in sports performance was recognized by the Philadelphia 76ers
organization and led to his job as the head athletic trainer in 1995.
Sneaker giant Nike tapped Carroll in
1997 to bring his unique experiences to its corporate headquarters in the
suburbs of Portland, Ore. At Nike, he was instrumental in helping the company
develop a deeper understanding of athletic product performance, team dynamics,
and interpersonal communication.
It was the Pacific Northwest’s
notoriously wet climate that helped spur Carroll’s current career, in which he
speaks 50 times a year and consults with industry leaders at Nike, Disney/ESPN,
Gap/Old Navy, Hasbro, Proctor & Gamble, and Capital One.
“I believe Portland is the reason I
tapped into my creative genius,” Carroll said, “because that rain — let me tell
you, it will make you bonkers.”
“But the water is refreshing,
replenishing, and restoring. And I came to understand that living in that city
for 17 years now,” he said.
Addressing the audience, Carroll
pointed out that “your community is about innovation, creativity,
problem-solving, and ingenuity. It’s about coming up with great ideas when
others don’t anticipate them. The unexpected is what you live by.”
“That’s the opportunity with play,” he
continued. “Celebrate it. If you understand it, you understand we all speak
‘ball,’ and a ball can change the world.”
“Play is as important as eating,
drinking, or sleeping,” Carroll said. But as we grow out of childhood, “we
marginalize our play. We push it to the weekends; we think we don’t have time
Carroll played an award-winning Nike
television commercial, “Tag,” which he helped conceptualize. A young man
walking on a busy city street is tapped on the shoulder. He turns and finds
fellow citizens sprinting away. Shoppers jump into cars. Businessmen scatter
down alleyways. Business plazas, seemingly empty, reveal an entire block of
people lined up and hiding behind a single streetlamp pole. The 120-second ad
continues in this humorous theme, depicting the universal language of play and its
ability to transform even the most mundane adult workday.
“If you want more innovation, more creativity,
ingenuity, problem-solving, you need more play. Play is at the root of all of
that,” Carroll said.
“For all of us in this room, we aspire
to be a global game changer, to make a legacy impact. If you want to turn ideas
into reality, if you want to affect communities, first in the one you live in
and then all over the world in the global community, then we need to harken
back to our play. We need to remember some simple truths, simple lessons about
play,” he said.
“Don’t talk about it, be about it,” Carroll
said in closing, quoting his grandfather. “Learn from WEFTEC, go back and
shaken, but not broken
shares how Christchurch, New Zealand, recovered from a devastating earthquake
at AAEES/AIDIS/WEF breakfast
"You will never be able to design
against massive disasters; you can just design around them,” was the message
shared by Garry Macdonald, technical director and business development manager
of CH2M Beca Ltd. (Auckland, New Zealand) during a breakfast sponsored by the
American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES; Annapolis,
Md.), the Inter-American Association of Sanitary Engineering and Environmental
Sciences (AIDIS; Arlington, Va.), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF;
Alexandria, Va.) at WEFTEC® 2013. Before a room filled with
colleagues from the water and wastewater industry, Macdonald showed videos and
slides and shared reflections on a devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New
Zealand, that took place in February 2011. He also detailed how the community
and the staff at the local water resource recovery facility (WRRF) showed
enough resolve to keep this natural disaster from becoming a humanitarian
More than 180 people died as a result
of building collapses from the quake, Macdonald said, but “I am very proud that
no one died from typhoid or cholera.” This was mainly because of the immediate
response by the Christchurch council to address potential health risks
associated with water services, he said.
immediate aftermath and long-term implications
If any city was prepared for an
earthquake, it was Christchurch. “It has been the center of earthquake
engineering and research for 40 years,” Macdonald explained.
But there were many reasons why the
earthquake still had such a devastating effect on the city’s water and
wastewater systems and buildings, Macdonald said. The water supply for the city
comes from a refined aqueduct system, and the soil is largely made up of sandy
silt. When the earthquake occurred, so did liquefaction, causing the soil to
turn almost to liquid, he said. This exacerbated an existing problem of
building integrity. Most buildings in Christchurch were designed to withstand 1
g of seismic activity, but the maximum acceleration during the earthquake was 4
g, he said.
This led to thousands of homes being
subjected to earthquake damage, nearly $150 million in damage to the water
supply, and $850 million in damage to the wastewater system, Macdonald said.
Tons of soot overwhelmed the grit tanks at the WRRF and made it to the primary
tanks, he said. The facility lost the ability to generate biogas. The WRRF’s
four clarifiers were distorted and pushed out of shape and the oxidation ponds
had to be rebuilt because they had shifted vertically, he said.
Even the stormwater system was badly
damaged, Macdonald said. “Rivers were basically flooding people’s yards,” he
In addition to structural damage, the
city council could see that the massive flooding was going to make health
issues worse for the earthquake survivors. For that reason, Macdonald said the
council decided that one of its top priorities was to get the wastewater system
up and running.
One of the first objectives was to get
clean drinking water back to the community because you can’t survive more than
6 hours without drinking water, Macdonald said. “Chlorinating water on the east
side of the city was important,” he said.
The next goal was to keep the Bromley
Christchurch Wastewater Treatment Plant working, Macdonald said. Next, the city
had to address the liquefaction of the silt to avoid dust and fecal organism
contamination. “Once it dried out, it would become an airborne public health
issue,” he explained. So the silt had to be wet again and properly disposed of.
Finally, the city had to address contaminated stormwater overflows.
Macdonald said the citywide cost to
rebuild is $15 billion and growing, but in addition to financial toll the
earthquake has taken on Christchurch, the population of the city also is
“Christchurch’s heart is bleeding,”
Macdonald said. A lot of the population has left the downtown area because of
the uncertainty and what could happen if there is another earthquake. Macdonald
said there is a huge need for tradespeople and engineering for the city to
rebuild. “So if you’re ever interested in moving to New Zealand, we’d love to
have you,” he joked with the audience.
Macdonald said there were a few
lessons learned from the earthquake. On the wastewater front, they concluded
that a decentralized system probably would have been worst for Christchurch.
“The wastewater treatment plant didn’t suffer as much damage as the inlet pipe,”
he said. They discovered that it was more cost-effective to maintain the
current WRRF and just replace gravity sewers with pump stations.
Macdonald said they also walked away
from the earthquake with the greatest lesson learned: “People are very resilient.”
leaders: Invisibility is no longer the goal
interaction partnered with technological innovation key to future
our parents’ wastewater utility anymore,” was the theme shared among panel of
utility managers from around the world – Singapore, Australia, and San
Francisco – and a water technology CEO, who met to discuss their challenges and
future goals Oct. 7 at WEFTEC®.
The special session, “The Future of
Cities and Water: Insights From Iconic Water Cities,” was a chance for four
water leaders to share their experiences “rethinking water services to allow
for smarter, more sustainable approaches that will allow them to support their
growing populations and be competitive,” according to 2013 Water Environment
Federation President Cordell Samuels.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel provided
opening remarks and discussed his city’s plan to invest $7 billion in
infrastructure, which would be “essential for growth as well as public health,”
he said. The infrastructure improvements include replacing 1440 km (900 mi) of
pipe, rebuilding two water treatment plants, relining 1200 km (760 mi) of pipe,
rebuilding 12 pump stations, and investing $50 million in “greener, cleaner
stormwater management above and beyond federal standards,” he said.
The panel, moderated by G. Tracy
Mehan, former U.S. Environment Protection Agency assistant administrator for
water, described their regions and utilities and discussed how, with collection
systems and treatment plants nearing their end life, utilities had to not only
replace failing systems but also shed the traditional role as an “invisible”
Leadership, local control
Chew Men Leong, chief executive of PUB
Singapore, stressed need for leadership in utilities to adapt to current
challenges. He discussed Singapore’s campaign to “use every drop twice,” which
is especially critical for the sovereign city–state in Southeast Asia facing
water demands from growing industry and population.
Historically, Singapore has purchased
water from waterways owned by neighboring Malaysia, which was its “Achilles
heel” as political conflicts made Singapore’s water supply vulnerable. Leong
said his utility’s plan for self-sufficiency emphasized “collecting every
raindrop,” which led to efforts to diversify Singapore’s water supply through
desalination, rainwater use, and recycling.
“This has transitioned our position of
vulnerability to one of strength,” he said.
Leong spoke of the need for continuous
innovation and risk taking as part of being a water quality leader. “We need to
take the risk to adapt technologies so that we can position ourselves for
future challenges,” he said. “If we don’t take this risk, we are sitting on a
bigger risk of not being prepared for challenges of growth in population.”
Conservation, community first
Sue Murphy, CEO of western Australia’s
water utility Water Corporation, said her region is large but mostly sparsely
populated — more than 2 million people in a 2.5 million km2 area —
comprising several climates. She said recent changes in climate have forced the
utility and customers to adapt new ways of using and conserving water.
“We’ve had to change dramatically the
way we deliver water services,” Murphy said. “We’ve moved heavily into
desalination. Fifty percent of the water supply in Perth comes from the sea.”
The next step, Murphy said, is a groundwater replenishment program similar to
that of Orange County in California, in which membrane technology is used to
highly treat wastewater to inject into deep aquifers for common use.
She said her utility’s stance has
shifted to work closely with the community. “Over the last decade, although the
population has grown by one-third, the amount of water supplied is an 8% less
than a decade ago,” Murphy said. “We’ve done this by … allowing our community
to take us forward.”
“As a water industry, we have to stop
thinking we have all the answers,” she said. “We have to open ourselves up to
partner with everybody else. Only then can we achieve what we mean to achieve.”
Francisco: Engage and educate
Harlan Kelly, general manager of the
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said his agency oversees water,
wastewater, and energy resources and serves more than 2 million customers in
the San Francisco Bay Area. He said his main challenge is to “make sure you
deliver water 24/7, and make it affordable.”
With 60% of his utility’s system more
than 70 years old, Kelly said, “We need to invest in infrastructure. The time
to do that is now.” Kelly spoke of the need to engage the community when making
infrastructure improvements as a key part of his utility’s success in moving
forward with large, expensive projects.
“We engage in every opportunity to
educate about the infrastructure; to not be invisible,” Kelly said. He pointed
to a recent wildfire in the Bay Area as an opportunity to educate the public.
“We talked about the $4.6 billion improvements we did to make our system
flexible so we can divert water because of our increased capacity,” he said.
Kelly also spoke of the utility’s
efforts to “go into the schools and talk about where water comes from. We take
advantage of this opportunity to educate our next generation of ratepayers.”
He said his utility also tries to
provide other benefits where possible, especially in disadvantaged areas of the
city. “When we impact communities, we embrace the opportunity to minimize the
impact to them. We’re very proud of community benefit and environmental justice
department,” he said.
Efficiency and innovation
Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO of
GE Power & Water Process Technologies, had a different perspective from the
private sector creating the technologies to help utilities in water recycling,
energy efficiency, reduction in operating costs, enhanced asset management, and
improving the resiliency of water systems.
“As a technology provider, water is
what we do,” Markhoff said. “It’s making water treatment more efficient, more
energy-efficient. And that can help keep operating costs down. It also means
applying analytics and tools and remote monitoring and diagnostics tools to
mine data, to assist predictive operation to customers,” he said.
part of larger picture
Mehan brought up the role of water in
sustainability, “not only environmental, but also social and economic,” he
said. Panel members talked about ways they try to show their customers the way
improvements can enhance livability.
Leong said his utility has beautified
rivers and canals. “The idea is to use what is infrastructure and bring it
closer to water,” he said. “It’s a community space that everyone can enjoy and
understand the value.”
Murphy, however, cautioned that the
public should remain aware of what they are paying for and why in a large
project. She explained the need to explain the trade-offs involved in expensive
water and wastewater projects, providing the example of a desalination plant.
Although the plant is expensive to build and uses more energy, when broken down
per capita, it amounts to about 2 kWh/day per person.
“Yes we’re using more energy, but you
make lifestyle choices every day,” Murphy said. “We remind them that the
cheapest water we can provide is the water we don’t have to supply.”
Taking WEFTEC by storm
Stormwater Pavilion offers expanded resources and programming
challenge of managing stormwater is that rain is an
unpredictable force, much like a trade show audience. As the WEFTEC®
exhibit hall opened on the morning of Oct. 7, exhibitors stood ready to capture
that audience, much the same way some of their devices passively harvest rain.
The trickle of visitors that began as
the announcer’s voice boomed “the exhibit hall is now open,” soon became a
steady stream that lasted well into Wednesday, Oct. 9.
This was only the second year for the
Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Stormwater Pavilion and the
first year for the pavilion theater. The pavilion provided a concentrated
location for stormwater exhibitors adjacent to WEF’s inaugural Stormwater
The pavilion’s 16 industry-leading
companies offered products associated with low impact development (LID), such
as high-rate infiltration media and green street planters, as well as products
that improve traditional stormwater controls from swirl concentrators to inlet
control devices to buoyant flow control devices for stormwater ponds. While
some exhibitors were competitors, many of the products, including LID and
traditional solutions, complement one another and can help cities create a more
robust stormwater management program.
Other exhibitors offered training,
education, and certification. EnviroCert (Marion, N.C.), a company offering
certifications in erosion and sediment control, water quality, and municipal
separate storm sewer systems, provided testing and certification for WEFTEC
attendees on Oct. 5 and 6.
The Stormwater Pavilion theater was a
new feature at this year’s WEFTEC, with 15 short technical presentations in a
variety of formats. “Integrating innovative stormwater management into
conventional problem solving was showcased by videos, presentations, policy
updates, and technical papers,” said Mark Gutshall, president at LandStudies
Inc. (Lititz, Pa.), a 2013 StormTV Project winner. “This was a very good venue
for demonstrating emerging new technologies and ideas that we need to
understand and apply to meet today’s environmental and economic
The 30-seat theater provided a more
intimate setting for attendees to ask questions and visit with presenters.
Theater sessions highlighted WEF efforts, including a look at user-fee funded
stormwater programs, for which an accompanying book was released this fall, as
well as green infrastructure implementation, a topic on WEF’s publication list
Mike Stenstrom, distinguished professor
at the University of California, spoke on particle characterization in
stormwater runoff, which corresponded with an article released in the September
issue of Water Environment Research.
“The audience was smaller [than for a
traditional session], which was good,” Stenstrom said. “Those who did attend
had a greater interest in the subject matter, and there were more questions.”
A year-in-review session provided a
look at 2013 policy updates and court cases that are shaping the future of
stormwater. Jeff Moeller, director of water technologies at the Water
Environment Research Foundation (WERF; Alexandria, Va.), also gave a review of
past WERF stormwater research and tools and discussed future opportunities.
Several exhibitor representatives
spoke in the pavilion. UV Pure Technologies (Toronto, Ontario) discussed how an
Atlanta school is using UV-disinfected rainwater for toilet flushing, and
KriStar Enterprises (Santa Rosa, Calif.) shared lessons learned in using green
street planter systems in the public right-of-way. PaveDrain (Greenfield,
Wis.), an innovation award winner, demonstrated its permeable articulating
concrete block/mat, which has a patented arch for additional stormwater
In addition, the pavilion theater
featured several interactive sessions, including a mobile session, meet the
speakers, and stormwater trivia. Penn State Public Broadcasting (State College,
Pa.) provided attendees with a sneak peek of its “Water Blues, Green Solutions”
documentary, which will be released in early 2014. WEF also announced the five
winning videos of the 2013 StormTV Project, a WEF video competition with the
goal of sharing creative ways of managing stormwater, improving water quality,
and informing the public about stormwater.
“I had a wonderful time and was so
impressed with the variety of speakers and vendors,” said Lisa Rozmyn, business
resource program manager for the Washington Stormwater Center, a StormTV
Project winner. “I can’t wait until next year.”
from the inside, out
the Utility Executives Forum, managers discussed how to improve relationships
with employees and the public to help the bottom line
In previous years, the Utility
Executives Forum at WEFTEC® had served as a place where utility
managers could discuss the ever-evolving issues that they face on a daily
basis: aging workforce, changing federal and state regulations, or the need for
more funding. But at WEFTEC 2013 in Chicago, the discussion was more
introspective. The forum speakers discussed the image that utilities present to
their customers, the advancement and educational opportunities they offer their
employees, and how they can improve in both areas.
“Everyone knows that corporations are
psychopaths, and those who are in government are seen as fat, dumb, and lazy,”
said Sue Murphy, CEO of the Water Corporation (Perth, Western Australia),
during her tongue-in-cheek presentation at the forum. Murphy said her utility
has the unfortunate luck of both having “corporation” in its name and being
government-owned so the managers there have to strive to change people’s minds
about misconceptions of companies and government.
“The biggest change [we’ve had to
make] is to stop telling people what to do and start listening,” Murphy
It’s all about
having a direct relationship with customers, said George Hawkins, general
manager of DC Water (Washington, D.C.). “The reason I wear this uniform,” he
said as he pointed to his shirt, “is that it connects to these principles.” He
becomes a walking advertisement for DC Water, he said.
It also connects him to DC Water’s
“It’s the same uniform that our
employees wear,” Hawkins said.
and excellence go hand and hand
Being outside of the water and
wastewater industry, Kimo Kippen, chief learning officer at Hilton Worldwide
(McLean, Va.), presented a unique perspective at the forum. Kippen started as a
busboy in the hotel business and came up through the ranks to his current
position. He spoke about how companies can better understand their workforce,
help educate management for further advancement and indoctrinate them into
company culture, and provide an incentive for employees to stay and not seek
employment elsewhere. The last objective has become particularly important for
Generation Y, which prefers to learn and be challenged, Kippen said. “It’s
their motivation to stay,” he said.
Kippen also noted that younger
employees are more technology-focused and less willing to move up through the
lower ranks. “It’s so much more on their terms,” he said.
Kippen said Hilton Worldwide has put a
large focus on its “team-member value proposition,” which basically is
developing valid answers for when someone asks, “Why should I work here?” As
part of this, Kippen said performance reviews at the management level focus on
the following questions, which have an emphasis on how employees benefited from
their work experience:
Over the past year, what are you most
Over the past year, what were your
What did you learn?
What did you learn about yourself as a
leader to do that?
To help educate employees, Hilton
Worldwide created a university with five “colleges” with different focus areas.
The company also has tried to make team members aware of educational
opportunities both inside and outside the organization.
“There is nothing more important than
your leadership,” Kippen said. “You have to invest in [your company] and your
leadership to be the best that you can be.”
And Kippen said
statistics show these types of investments can benefit the company overall.
According to one study that he cited, after introducing an education program,
53% of companies surveyed experienced better response to customer needs, and
56% were more likely to be first to market.
a new approach
Murphy acknowledged that the Water
Corporation and the water and wastewater field in general are filled with “very
innovative and engineering people” who have “solved problems for our
community.” But she also acknowledged that this success “is the absolute reason
we have issues in our organization. Our customers see this as arrogance,” she
The company also can be seen as
dismissive because it has a statewide monopoly, Murphy said. But getting rid of
these misconceptions wasn’t always a priority at the Water Corporation. “There
was little impetus for our agency to change because we’ve been so successful in
the past,” she said.
With improvements needed for
facilities, the utility had to earn public acceptance, which required a change
in how it approached customers, Murphy said. For example, the Water Corporation
had plans to initiate a 50-year desalination and water reuse project, so the
utility had its general managers sit at booths at shopping centers to talk to
the public about the project. “We also had a website where people could submit
questions,” she said.
Now that the utility has undergone a
culture shift, it operates under a few key principles, Murphy said. One
involves asking the question, “Can you say what you do has value to the whole
team/globally?” She said another question they ask is, “Is what you’re doing
helping our customer? We value every dollar and every hour and dollar spent; we
should treat each as if we were spending our own.” She said managers are also
encouraged to engage in “future thinking” by developing solutions that are for
the long term. “And take personal ownership for your decisions,” she said.
ideas bubble to the top
Hawkins said it was during his years
working as a bartender during law school that he learned about customer service
and how it directly relates to how much money a person makes. He said these
principles also apply to utilities whose stability is reliant on their
relationship with customers.
“[The customers] can’t go to another
water utility, but they do have a choice on whether they support us or not, on
whether we get the money to do the work that we do,” Hawkins explained. He said
he is aware that “what we do really matters. Our conduct and what we say
radiates so fast through the enterprise.”
Hawkins said DC Water is always
looking for new ideas on how to facilitate a better relationship with its
customers and a lot of those ideas “are coming through the ranks.”
“I love to steal ideas,” Hawkins said.
“I don’t mind being called klepto-crack-in-chief.”
Hawkins gave a number of examples in
which he borrowed ideas from employees, including the utility’s Water Tap
program whereby “smart phones show a map of restaurants that will refill
bottles with tap water for free.” Another example is the Wendy, the water drop
To encourage more
of this input, Hawkins said DC Water plans to launch a social media campaign
whereby employees and later customers can suggest changes. The suggestions can
be voted up or down. Ten to 20 of those suggestions will get a business plan.
One to three will be piloted, he said.
WEFTEC speakers discuss contentious issues surrounding convenience wipes and
On Oct. 9, various speakers and
panelists gathered to discuss a contentious topic: contribution by wipes to
clogging pumps and pipes in water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). During
the WEFTEC® 2013 Technical Session 610, “Wipe Out: Reducing the
Burden of Wipes in the Pipes,” speakers and panelists representing the Water
Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), Association of the Nonwoven
Fabrics Industry (INDA; Cary, N.C.), National Association of Clean Water
Agencies (NACWA; Washington, D.C.) and both wipes and WRRF equipment
manufacturers provided a comprehensive view of the sources of contention that
surround the topic.
Even though the issue recently has
garnered a lot of attention from the press and public, there still are many
things not agreed on, such as the definition for dispersibility, culprits for
clogs, the timeline for implementing solutions, tests to verify flushability of
products, and proper labeling, explained session moderator Robert Villée.
“It’s a difficult issue, and there’s a
lot of nuisances,” said Villée, Plainfield Area Regional Sewerage Authority
(Middlesex, N.J.) executive director.
the culprit for clogs
One point of contention appears in the
title of the session, identifying the primary nondispersible culprit causing
problems. Wastewater industry professionals have conducted tests that identify
wipes as a growing source for clogs and have identified only one type of wipe
that passes these tests.
A study was conducted at the Westbrook
Pump Station (Conn.), which installed a screening system after experiencing
clogs. According to session speaker Scott Firmin, the findings showed that 42%
of material was paper products, 18% to 24% was baby wipes, and 17% was feminine
hygiene products. Firmin, director of wastewater services for Portland Water
District (Maine), also described efforts in Vancouver to dye and track wipes
through their collection system. These efforts found that after 45 minutes in
the system, wipes — both nonflushable and designated by INDA as flushable —
remained in the system.
Steve Ogle, INDA
director of technical statistics and technical affairs, disagreed that wipes
pose much of a problem, and certainly not wipes that have passed guideline
tests laid out in the third edition of INDA’s
Flushability Guidance Document.
“It’s not the
flushable wipes that clog pipes or pumps,” Ogle said. “Through our industry
research, we have not found products labeled as flushable in pump clogs.”
INDA only has influence on businesses producing wipe-like
products, not anything else contributing to clogs such as paper towels;
feminine hygiene products; or fats, oils, and grease, he said.
But barring the very small number of
wipes on the market that INDA has designated as flushable, both INDA and the
wastewater industry agree that baby wipes are not designed to be flushed, said
speaker Aubrey Strause, Verdant Water PLLC (Scarborough, Maine) owner. And
about 40% of wipes sold are not being used on babies, and this is the
demographic most likely to be flushed, she added.
on tests to determine flushability
document describes seven tests, including a toilet and drain-line clearance
test, disintegration “slosh-box” test, household pump test, settling column
test, aerobic test, anaerobic test, and municipal pump test. “Products that
pass this don’t cause pump clogs,” Ogle said.
industry asks that products break down completely by the time they reach
collection systems. Ideally, tests determining this would consist of putting
products in a bucket of water where they start to break apart quickly, Firmin
said. But he admitted that this is probably unrealistic.
“Right now we’re probably at different
ends of the spectrum,” Firmin said. “We’re certainly willing to work together
to move toward the middle.”
labeling offers gateway to solution
INDA is working to both test wipe-like
products and have those labeled and fix mislabeled products, because there are
a small number out there, Ogle said. INDA and wastewater representatives agree
that labeling should include a single logo and consistent messaging that is
both clear and concise, Strause said.
However, wastewater representatives
prefer prominent labeling to be placed on the front of product packaging while
INDA prefers labeling to be placed by the bar-code on the back of products.
focus on these products that we all agree should not be flushed and get them
labeled appropriately,” said speaker Cynthia Finley, director of regulatory
affairs at NACWA.
INDA believes that wipe manufacturers
are moving quickly in the right direction, especially since changing packaging
takes time, but wastewater professionals disagree. “We think things should be
moving quicker,” Villée said.
together despite differences
A number of
representatives from all involved parties recognize the overall problem and
want to work together on a solution that each finds acceptable. “We’re going to
do this through collaboration,” Finley said.
Early next year,
the Maine Wastewater Control Association and INDA will launch a public
education campaign to raise awareness that baby wipes should not be flushed.
Research will be conducted before and after the campaign to evaluate consumer
behavior. “We need to increase the awareness on the part of the consumer,”
Strause said. “When in doubt throw it out.” To evaluate the campaign’s success,
Firmin will pull and document materials collected during a 1-hour timeframe off
the Westbrook Pump Station screen to document any changes in consumer behavior,
she added. The $113,000 campaign focused on communications outreach and
advertising will end and its success will be evaluated between March and April
2014, she said.
In addition, WEF, NACWA, INDA, and the
American Public Works Association (Washington, D.C.) are forming a technical
workgroup that will begin meeting in early 2014, Finley said.
The group will work on determining
mutually acceptable definitions for terms, flushable guidelines, appropriate
testing, and labeling for products, she added.
“Working together, I think we can
solve this problem, but it needs to be sooner and not later,” Villée said.
— Jennifer Fulcher,
Charting Chicago’s course
Collection Systems Luncheon looks back at Chicago’s water history and forward to new challenges
Chicago, which hosted the largest WEFTEC® in history, has a remarkable and complicated water history of its own. During the Collection Systems Luncheon at WEFTEC, Kevin Fitzpatrick, supervising civil engineer for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), provided the assembled crowd with an overview of the watershed moments from the city’s water triumphs and woes.
Raising the town to sink the sewers
The first step in providing sanitation services for Chicago’s rapidly growing population was installing the sewers themselves. But the city already had begun to develop. What this led to, Fitzpatrick said, was installing gravity sewerage that flowed into the Chicago River. The pipes were installed at ground level, and then streets were filled to cover the pipe. This method, in part, explains why Chicago has so many basement apartments, he said. It also led to other engineering feats. For example, the Briggs House Hotel was lifted, by hand, 1.2 to 2.4 m (4 to 8 ft) to remain at street level, Fitzpatrick said.
The new sewers moved the problem of sanitation from the streets to the Chicago River. With the waste from 1.7 million people entering the river and flowing toward Lake Michigan, the city’s water supply was threatened, Fitzpatrick said. So in 1865, the city built drinking water cribs — offshore structures that collect water from close to the bottom of a lake to supply a pumping station onshore — 3.2 km (2 mi) out in the lake. The hope was that, at this distance, dilution would solve the problem. It did not.
The big reversal
The plan emerged to reverse the flow of the river. In 1889, the city formed the Sanitary District of Chicago, which would become MWRD, to help ensure public health. In about 1900, the reversal was accomplished using a series of canal locks and the newly completed Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Now instead of the growing city’s wastewater flowing toward its drinking water supply, it would flow south and west toward St. Louis, Fitzpatrick said. The flow also included the waste from the Chicago stockyards where more than 100,000 animals would be slaughtered each week.
Fitzpatrick showed old photographs of the surface of tributaries to the river so clogged with fats, oils, and grease that they appeared to be solid ground. He said that sometimes people even would begin walking onto the river without realizing it and eventually fall into the polluted mess.
Large-scale collection and treatment
Soon treatment became a necessity, and MWRD built the Stickney Water Reclamation Facility to capture all of the flow and treat it. To get the water to the facility, the district built interceptor sewers including the 39th Street Tunnel. This 6-m (20-ft) diameter brick interceptor sewer today is 115 years old and has never failed, Fitzpatrick said. It collects the wastewater from 145,000 people and until recently was the only option for wastewater transport from the southeast side of the city. Recently, MWRD dug a bypass 60 m (200 ft) beneath the tunnel so that it could be dewatered to be entered and inspected. The tunnel was in remarkably good shape, Fitzpatrick said.
Stormwater containment and control
Even with Stickney fully operating — today the facility can treat 5.45 million m3/d (1440 mgd) — the solution wasn’t perfect, Fitzpatrick said. Because Chicago sanitary and storm sewers are combined, wet weather can cause overflows. This fact launched MWRD onto its next enormous project: the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan.
Begun in 1972 and still in effect today, this plan has installed giant subterranean tunnels — the largest is 10 m (33 ft) in diameter — to store combined flows to prevent overflows. The tunnels, which all have 4-m-thick (12-ft-thick) walls, began partial operation in 1985, and were completed in 2006, Fitzpatrick said.
The other portion of the plan, the reservoirs, also will serve as storage tanks. One reservoir is completed and two others still are under construction, Fitzpatrick said. During drier weather, the water will be processed through the treatment facility to protect the receiving water.
MWRD also has begun to supplement these collection and storage options with green infrastructure practices. For example, Fitzpatrick pointed out that McCormick Place, which housed WEFTEC 2013, has the largest green roof in the world.
A fishy situation
Fitzpatrick also briefly touched on an emerging issue: keeping Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. He showed a video of the carp in action — the sound of outboard motors excites the carp and they jump out of the river, sometimes injuring people in boats.
This invasive species has flourished to the southwest of Chicago, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking ways to prevent the carp from swimming up the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal into the lake. The practice in use at the moment is an electric barrier that shocks the fish and deters them from swimming upstream, Fitzpatrick said.
— Steve Spicer,
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