WE&T Magazine

WET_cover1_December13_90Water Environment & Technology (WE&T) is the premier magazine for the water quality field. WE&T provides information on what professionals demand: cutting-edge technologies, innovative solutions, operations and maintenance, regulatory and legislative impacts, and professional development.

 


December 2013, Vol. 25, No.12

WEFTEC art

Click the headline below to jump to that article

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.   

 

Bigger still   

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.   

 

More influential         

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.” 

 

More collaborative

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, WE&T    

 


    

 

Play is serious work    

Play, 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.  

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 2000. 

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 circumstances.” 

    

From 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 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. 

 “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 activate something.”  

  

Cathy Chang, WE&T  

 


   

 

Badly shaken, but not broken

 

Engineer 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 disaster.   

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. 

 

The 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 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 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.  

  

Moving forward  

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.” 

  

— LaShell Stratton-Childers, WE&T  

 


    

Water leaders: Invisibility is no longer the goal

Community 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” service. 

  

Singapore: 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.” 

  

Australia: 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.” 

  

San 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. 

  

GE: 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. 

  

Water 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.”  

  

Cathy Chang, WE&T  

 


 

Taking WEFTEC by storm 

Stormwater Pavilion offers expanded resources and programming  

   

A 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 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 challenges.”   

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 for 2014.  

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 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, WE&T  

 


 

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  


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 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.  

  

Education 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 proud of? 

Over the past year, what were your biggest challenges? 

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 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 said.  

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.  

  

Good 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 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. 

  

LaShell Stratton-Childers, WE&T  

 


 

Wipes in the pipes  

WEFTEC speakers discuss contentious issues surrounding convenience wipes and collection systems  

  

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.  

  

Identifying 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.  

   

Deciding on 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.” 

  

Proper 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.  

“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 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. 

  

Working 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, WE&T  

 


 

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, WE&T