August 2009, Vol. 21, No.8

WEFTEC Preview

WEFTEC To Showcase Latest Developments in Water Quality

From Oct. 10 to 14, water quality professionals from around the world will convene at WEFTEC.09 in Orlando, Fla.

If it’s about water, it will be at WEFTEC®. The technical program will feature a record number of 122 technical sessions, plus 31 workshops and nine local facility tours. A wide range of topics and focus areas allow attendees to design their own, unique learning experience while earning up to 35 contact hours for continuing education units and 9 professional development hours.

The 2009 focus areas include collection systems, instrumentation and automation, industrial issues and treatment technology/microconstituents, leading-edge research, residuals and biosolids management, sustainability/energy conservation, utility management, water reclamation and reuse, watershed issues, and more. As a complement to the technical program, WEFTEC’s exhibition-- will provide access to the latest developments, research, regulations, solutions, and cutting-edge technologies in the field.
For more information or to register, see

Plan Your Schedule Online
Take advantage of the new online schedule planner available at WEFTEC® attendees can search for technical sessions, workshops, and facility tours to assemble their own personalized schedule.

Counting Pennies the Smart Way

Innovative workshops show participants cost-saving and cost-effective practices

LaShell Stratton–Childers

In today’s economy, businesses have to be even more conscious of the bottom line, and those in the wastewater field are no different. Though the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriated $4 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $2 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, giving badly needed funding to many projects, municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) still face economic obstacles. Many homeowners still struggle to pay their mortgages, along with water and sewer bills. The stock market slump made it hard for utilities to raise capital through municipal bonds, and this year’s budgets may suffer as a result.

For many WWTPs, cost savings and cost-effectiveness are paramount, and at the WEFTEC®.09 conference in Orlando, Fla., several workshops will address these concerns, among others. They also will provide possible solutions for operations that find themselves in an economic crunch.

One way that a WWTP can reduce costs is through energy conservation, said Peter V. Cavagnaro, chair of Workshop 106, “Energy Conservation at Wastewater Facilities,” and project development consultant on water building efficiency at Johnson Controls (Glendale, Wis.). “Electricity accounts for 30% of operating budgets at [a] WWTP,” Cavagnaro said. “It’s second in cost only to labor.”

While energy prices are lower than they were 2 years ago when the workshop previously was held at WEFTEC, “the interest has sustained,” Cavagnaro said. “People realize that when the prices go down, it won’t be long until they go back up again.” People are trying to be proactive and prepare, he said.

The workshop speakers will present practical ideas, offering several case studies as examples, Cavagnaro said. They also have strong backgrounds in energy conservation. Cavagnaro said one speaker has spent his entire career auditing and identifying savings opportunities at WWTPs. Another speaker has been developing aeration control systems and will discuss how these systems can be used to conserve energy, he said. “If electricity accounts for 30% of operating budgets, aeration accounts for about 50% of the energy used at plants,” he said.

Cavagnaro said the workshop also benefits from being co-sponsored by the International Water Association (London), and many of the speakers are in the wastewater field in Europe. “Europe always leads in these developments,” he said. “They have already seen our future.”

When Slashing Isn’t an Option
Thanks to growing populations, many WWTPs are facing both economic and demographic pressures, so cutting back may not be feasible. Sometimes, facilities have to expand but do so wisely, seeking alternatives that are the least expensive but most effective in the long term. Some alternatives could even prove profitable. In Workshop 111, “Every Drop Counts: Successful Small-Scale Reuse,” speakers will discuss how small-scale reuse projects can help avoid additional costs and become a new revenue source for operations, said Todd Danielson, the workshop chair and manager of community systems at Loudoun Water (Ashburn, Va.).

“It’s a cost-avoidance-type measure, because you’re able to delay expansions and upgrades,” Danielson said. For example, a district could avoid expanding a WWTP or distribution system by providing reclaimed water instead of potable water to satisfy demand.

In addition to providing case studies about buildings in New York City, reuse projects in Florida, and how the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) is recycling and reusing wastewater and stormwater, Danielson said speakers also will provide some background about reuse technologies and information about the guidelines and standards regulating small-scale reuse. “Each state has its own reuse guidelines, but we can’t possibly go through all 50 states,” he said. “We will have a [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] representative there who will talk about [Leadership in Environmental Design (LEED)] design and LEED neighborhood design.” A speaker from NSF International (Ann Arbor, Mich.) also will talk about the standards for individual properties.

The workshop also will show attendees how to develop a message about reuse projects that resonate with the public, “since reuse can be a controversial topic,” Danielson said.

Workshop organizers will hold a mock public hearing in which they will review the types of questions that may be asked.

“As we start to wrap it up, we’ll talk about the planning and the financing,” Danielson said, to help operations determine whether these project are economically feasible and if they can generate revenue.

Considering All Costs
Another way to keep an eye on the bottom line is to consider the life-cycle costs of new systems and equipment and how proper predictive maintenance keeps infrastructure running smoothly and saves money. Two workshops will address those issues: “Membrane Bioreactor Life-Cycle Cost Assessment Simulation: Digital Game-Based Learning” (W202) and “Improving O&M [Operation and Maintenance] Reliability and Cost Effectiveness Using Advance Maintenance Practices” (W104).

The new Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) Life-Cycle Cost Assessment Simulation workshop uses digital game-based simulation and common benchmarks to help participants plan, design, operate, and test MBR wastewater facilities that will face real-life uncertainties ranging from growing populations to emerging cap-and-trade emission markets for nutrients and carbon dioxide.

“Typically, when you’re making a decision about subtle differences in design, there’s a lot of information you don’t know,” said David Kinnear, one of the workshop organizers and technical director at HDR Engineering Inc. (Omaha, Neb.) “There’s a lot of uncertainty about what you need. The idea is to use these simulations for a design project like MBR, which is very sensitive to flow and power costs in terms of life-cycle costs.”

The participants will split up into teams and select team members to send to 15-minute introductions at the workshop that will serve as mini-WEFTEC technical sessions where they can learn about MBR technologies, operations, and other subjects. Next, they will design their MBR plants, select a contractor based on bid design, and secure funding for the projects. The designs are then compared through different challenges, and teams will see who “wins” in terms of life-cycle costs. These costs include chemicals, energy, and labor and whether facilities meet capacity for growing communities.

“We will also go through some familiar benchmarks to see how each plant will perform,” Kinnear said, such as peak flow events.

Kinnear said the workshop organizers want participants to understand the decision-making process and what issues are relevant when considering a design.

Roop Lutchman, chair of the O&M Reliability and Cost Effectiveness workshop and senior principal management consultant at CH2M Hill (Englewood, Colo.), said he just hopes participants in his workshop will move from reactive to proactive maintenance. “We want to get it to the point that if anything fails, you meant it to because you were preparing to take it down,” he said. “We also want to emphasize predictive-type maintenance that can take you through the production curve.”

Lutchman said that statistically, if a WWTP went from roughly 90% to 95% reactive to 75% proactive and 25% reactive, it could reduce its operation and maintenance costs by as much as 40%.

The workshop will include case studies from Toronto Water, the Orange County (Calif.) Sanitation District, and the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Water Utility Department. The organizers also will conduct exercises where participants have to do situational analysis. “You do a reality check and build a road map for excellence,” Lutchman said.  

Before participants leave the workshop, “we ask them, ‘What are the next steps they can follow when they get back to their businesses?’” Lutchman said.

— LaShell Stratton–Childers, WE&T







WEFTEC: An Enduring Tradition

Steve Spicer

During its 82-year history, WEFTEC® has grown in scope, size, and attendance. Each year, the conference draws new presenters, new exhibitors, and new attendees. But more even more telling is the number of people who label WEFTEC the can’t-miss event of the year.

What makes WEFTEC such an important event are the relationships that form among participants. Even with hundreds of presenters and exhibitors and thousands of attendees who attend each year, WEFTEC represents a tight-knit community.

For most attendees, WEFTEC begins and ends in October, but for the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Program Committee, WEFTEC begins in January. WEF organizes, manages, and operates WEFTEC.

The WEF Program Committee meets in January to select the abstracts of papers that will be presented, as well as to begin drafting schedules for when and where each session and workshop will be held.

“There’s a huge amount of camaraderie that the Program Committee takes in putting the program together, and I think that shows,” said Eileen O’Neill, chief technical officer at WEF. The members enjoy working together and have ownership of the program — and this sets WEFTEC apart, she said.

“Our members are just great,” O’Neill said. “It’s really a pleasure to be able to connect one-on-one with people and also meet new people.”

This year, the committee members came despite the faltering economy and redoubled their dedication to create an impressive technical program, O’Neill said. “They have tremendous pride in ownership and commitment to quality,” she added.

The tagline for WEFTEC.09 is “Now More Than Ever,” which, O’Neill said, refers to the strength of the technical program. “Some events might tail off [near the end of many conferences] — not at WEFTEC,” she said. “If you have a look at some of those sessions on Wednesday afternoon, there’s some really strong programming there.”

The tagline also relates to the quality and diversity of the workshop programs, O’Neill said. During WEFTEC’s history, the workshops have evolved to become truly hands-on and interactive. Depending on the workshop, participants might use microscopes, computers, or other pieces of technology, or they might take part in a game-show-style quiz. And, as last year, some workshops are held away from the convention center at local wastewater treatment plants. Workshop 108, “Using Ozone for Disinfection and Advanced Oxidation,” includes a visit to a full-scale ozone facility, and Workshop 208, “Activated Sludge and BNR [Biological Nutrient Removal] Process Control: Hands On in the Real World,” takes place entirely at the South Water Reclamation Facility in Orlando, Fla.

Moving the workshops offsite requires much extra planning and coordination but also greatly enhances the experience for participants, O’Neill said.

In addition to innovation, the workshop program also displays longevity. For example, the Wastewater Microbiology workshop (offered as W101 and W201) has become a tradition unto itself. This hands-on workshop has been held for the past 23 years, and “it’s unusual if it doesn’t sell out both days,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said this type of extra effort indicates the increasing quality of the workshops and the growing expectations of the participants. Each year, the Program Committee raises expectations, and each year, the knowledge committees — the groups who create the workshops — rise to the challenge, she said.

The exhibition at WEFTEC also thrives on strong relationships. But these go beyond connecting buyers with sellers. The exhibition at WEFTEC is a meeting place for people from across the industry, according to Christopher Komline, vice president of Komline–Sanderson Engineering Corp. (Peapack, N.J.). Komline–Sanderson has been exhibiting at WEFTEC for the past 56 years.

WEFTEC “separates itself from a variety of other exhibitions in that there’s really a community that gathers once a year,” Komline said.

The company always makes sure to have a conference table and chairs in their booth for acquaintances to sit down and chat for a few minutes. “We may not have a project with them, but we might next year,” Komline said. “It’s just more friendly than anything else.”

Komline added that he’s on a board of advisors for an exhibition from a different industry and has told this group that while they should aspire to recreate the atmosphere at WEFTEC, he doubts it can be done.

At a chemical exhibition or a food exhibition, representatives from Company A and Company B won’t talk to one another, Komline said. At WEFTEC, however, he said, “someone from Hampton Roads Sanitation District will gladly speak with someone from East Bay MUD [Municipal Utilities District]. There’s much more a community and more camaraderie at WEFTEC. That really sets the tone differently from every other exhibition.”

Community and camaraderie also perfectly describe Operations Challenge.

This year, Operations Challenge will again feature a full slate of competitors. At press time, 42 four-member teams were scheduled to compete. While that’s only 168 competitors, the number of competitors just scratches the surface of who participates, according to Jeff Pratt, chairman of the Operations Challenge committee.

Don’t forget the coaches, trainers, and cheering sections that travel with the teams, as well the nearly 100 people who serve as judges.

The technical conference, exhibition, and Operations Challenge might seem like separate events at first, but spend any time at one, and the usefulness and importance of the other two become apparent.

“WEFTEC is viewed not as a boondoggle but as an educational resource,” Komline said. Newcomers to the industry who plan to remain in the industry, from engineers to operators, eventually will make it to a WEFTEC to experience the conference, exhibition, and Operations Challenge, he said.

Steve Spicer, WE&T





Exploring Water Reuse and Recycling

WEFTEC.09 covers topics important to the Sunshine State

Jennifer Fulcher

Water reclamation and reuse are always hot topics at WEFTEC®, but this year the conference is hosted in Orlando, Fla., where perennial water shortages and use restrictions make these topics of particular local interest. Technical sessions at WEFTEC.09 cover topics ranging from water reuse applications and technologies to public perception challenges and distribution issues.

Sustainability in Florida
One of the presentations in Technical Session 59, “Case Studies for Implementing Water Sustainability,” will focus on Plantation, Fla., a city in the southeastern part of the state. Typically, water in the area has been supplied by the Biscayne Aquifer, but competition among residential, industrial, agricultural, and environmental needs has strained the water supply.

“In February 2007, the South Florida Water Management District [SFWMD; West Palm Beach, Fla.] enacted a rule to try to appease the competing needs of water,” said session speaker Courtney Licata, assistant engineer at Hazen and Sawyer (New York). The Regional System Water Availability Rule limits the amount of water that can be withdrawn from the aquifer. The rule restricts Plantation to a raw water withdrawal rate of 65,859 m3/d (17.4 mgd) annual average daily flow.

Also in February 2007, SFWMD approved the 2005–2006 Lower East Coast Water Supply Plan Update that “outlines potential alternative water supply options for utilities,” Licata said. Alternative water supply options outlined in the plan include brackish groundwater treated with reverse osmosis, seawater desalination, treated stormwater, and aquifer storage and recovery.

Plantation also is considering further disinfecting and reusing secondary treated effluent from its wastewater treatment plant to provide water for land application. This reuse might receive offset credits for returning water to the regional system.

“The basis of the rule maintains that whenever you’re returning water to the regional system, you can pull more from the Biscayne because you’re helping to replenish the system,” Licata explained. “The fundamental approach is an overall water balance of the regional water system.”

The city also is looking into treating this water to an even higher standard and discharging it into a surface waterbody to receive an offset. “It’s a really interesting story,” Licata said. “The legislation is all very new.”

Licata will examine the cost perspectives and carbon footprints of Plantation’s options to determine which would be most sustainable. “It’s imperative that water utilities in southeast Florida start looking at alternative water supply sources,” Licata said.

New Technology for Water Reclamation
Attendees from coastal states who are interested in desalination will be able to learn about new technology in Technical Session 79, “Membranes in Water Reuse.” One presentation will detail pilot studies involving the capacitive deionization unit (CDI), a potential technology for desalination and water treatment.

“CDI is still a new technology to many” said session speaker Kiran Kekre, chief of research in the Technology and Water Quality Office of the Singapore Public Utilities Board (PUB). The CDI process cycle consists of a purification phase, a regeneration phase, and purge phase. During the process, an electrical field removes dissolved ions from water, and low-conductivity water is generated. The CDI unit operates at a low voltage and low pressure to provide high water recovery.

In Singapore, the production of NEWater, treated used water, could be mixed and blended with reservoir water for conventional water treatment to produce drinking water, according to the PUB Web site. NEWater is produced from a multiple-barrier reclamation process from secondary treated domestic effluent using advanced dual-membrane and ultraviolet technologies, according to Kekre.

Currently, the two-stage reverse-osmosis process to create NEWater generates more than 20% brine water. Scientists at PUB performed a study to “further develop the cost-effective brine treatment process to increase water recovery of NEWater production over 90%,” Kekre added. For the study, the scientists are running a 5-m3/d CDI unit at one of the area’s NEWater production plants to treat and recover reverse-osmosis brine. The study’s findings may be applicable to desalination and reclaimed water technology, Kekre said.

“If your objective is to improve the overall recovery of the plant,” Kekre said, “then this CDI technology might be one of the options to consider.” Attendees at the session will learn how Kekre and his co-researchers applied the technology, see the results they obtained, and discuss whether further improvements are possible.

Efficiency in Wastewater Management
Another aspect of the reclamation and reuse issue is how it might affect the amount and concentration of wastewater reaching treatment plants. Panel speakers in Technical Session 119, “Water Efficiency: Everything You Really Need To Know But Were Afraid To Ask,” will present examples of water efficiency used to assist water management, according to session speaker Mary Ann Dickinson, executive director of the Alliance for Water Efficiency (Chicago).

“People should come if they have experiences to share,” Dickinson said. “One of the things we want to do with this panel is open it up to audience discussion and get a dialogue going on this topic. There’s a lot of what I would call anecdotal stories that people tell, but there are no studies, there’s no direct experiential descriptions of what people’s fears might be on this issue.”

“One of the themes is the potential impact of reduced flows in wastewater [collection] systems to make sure that there aren’t load issues or flow restriction issues because of a decreased volume of water,” Dickinson said. Another area that she wants the panel to explore is whether there is an opportunity for developing graywater reuse strategies. Participants will “hear why water efficiency should be considered in wastewater treatment and operation,” she said. 

 “Fundamentally, this panel is meant to open the dialogue between [the Water Environment Federation; Alexandria, Va.] and agencies that typically haven’t come to WEFTEC before” to discuss how water efficiency can make a difference in wastewater management, Dickinson said.

For example, one New York municipality invested approximately $120 million in low-flow toilets to avoid the need to build a $400 million wastewater treatment plant, Dickinson said.

In addition to this typical working relationship between water efficiency and wastewater industries, Dickinson wants to introduce the operational benefits of water efficiency, such as more-efficient management and operation of treatment plants, she said. 

Jennifer Fulcher, WE&T

©2009 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.