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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 also 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 annually.
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 more programming.
— Steve Spicer,
is serious work
storytelling reap rewards in innovation and creativity, best-selling author says
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.
So 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® attendees?
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 author
of Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, What’s Your Red Rubber Ball? and
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
Carroll 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
From play to
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
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 for it.”
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.
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,”
talk about it, be about it,” Carroll said in closing, quoting his grandfather.
“Learn from WEFTEC, go back and activate something.”
— Cathy Chang,
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.
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 said.
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
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 suffering.
“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
"It’s not 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
“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.”
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.
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.
Water part of
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
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.”
— Cathy Chang,
WEFTEC by storm
Pavilion offers expanded resources and programming
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 Congress.
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
“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 storage.
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.”
— Kristina Twigg,
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
“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 explained.
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 employees.
“It’s the same uniform that our employees
wear,” Hawkins said.
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
Over the past year, what are you most proud
Over the past year, what were your biggest
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.
Finding a new
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
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.
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
“[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 mascot.
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.
in the pipes
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.
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.
tests to determine flushability
INDA’s guidance 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.
The wastewater 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.”
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.
“Let’s really 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
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.
Systems Luncheon looks back at Chicago’s water history and forward to new
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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,