August 2007, Vol. 19, No.8

WEFTEC®.07 Preview

WEFTEC.07 To Be Held in San Diego

Water quality event features more technical sessions, exhibits

Steve Spicer

Despite a daily average temperature of 67°F and the likelihood of clear skies, the thousands of water and wastewater engineers, researchers, operators, students, and manufacturers who descend on San Diego this October will have good reason to stay inside. From Oct. 13 to 17, WEFTEC.07 will offer up the most technical
sessions and workshops in the event’s 80-year history, a packed exhibition floor, and numerous special events that will keep participants busy throughout the conference.

This year’s technical program features 119 technical sessions on topics ranging from energy management to nutrient removal to sustainability. Program focus areas include collection systems, membranes, operations, regulations, research, biosolids and residuals, industrial issues, utility management, water reuse, and water quality. According to Susan Merther, director of technical programs for the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), the WEFTEC program committee received approximately 30% more abstracts for consideration than last year, generating a highly competitive field of presenters. As a result, the technical program has considerable breadth and depth, and represents the latest water quality trends and research.

WEFTEC.07 also offers 29 full- or half-day workshops. These opportunities for in-depth examination of issues — featuring interactive, hands-on, and detailed discussions — are presented on Oct. 13 and 14.

Participants can earn a total of 1.2 continuing education units by attending workshops and 23 professional development hours by attending sessions. To receive educational credits, they must scan their WEFTEC badges as they enter and exit a workshop or technical session.

Attendees also can earn contact hours for time spent exploring the exhibition hall or participating in plant tours. At press time, the exhibition floor was almost completely sold out, with more than 890 companies occupying about 23,364 m2 (251,500 ft2) of exhibit space.

Not only is WEFTEC one of the largest shows — ranked in the top 1% of all trade shows in North America — it’s also one of the best, according to Nanette Tucker, director of WEFTEC sales at WEF. Exhibitors are drawn to WEFTEC by the quality of the audience, Tucker said. About 55% of WEFTEC attendees plan to buy at least one product within the next year, and 88% of attendees play a role in the purchasing decision of one or more products on display at the show, she said.

WEFTEC.07 also offers tours of local facilities; a special session on local California issues; and an award-winning Opening General Session speaker, Perry L. McCarty, the 2007 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate and Silas H. Palmer Professor of Civil Engineering, Emeritus, at Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif).  

Steve Spicer, WE&T

California Dreamin’ at WEFTEC.07

San Diego setting lends unique flavor to technical program

Meghan H. Oliver

California is known for its seemingly never-ending stretches of sand and surf, and near-perfect weather year-round. However, the Golden State also has its fair share of water quality challenges. WEFTEC®.07 in San Diego will feature a variety of California-themed sessions, workshops, and special events that will showcase how local utilities and wastewater professionals are meeting these challenges and setting water quality goals that are beneficial to the environment and California residents.

Conference attendees will hear firsthand from those working to remedy the problems, strengthen the state’s water programs, and maintain its role as a leader in sustainability.

“We’ve got sort of a smorgasbord for California,” said Jeroen Olthof, project manager in the San Diego office of HDR (Omaha, Neb.) and moderator of the Oct. 15 “California Issues” session.

Collection Systems Changes
Collection systems throughout the state of California are receiving much attention right now. Recently, the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRB), through a program similar to the federal Capacity, Management, Operations, and Maintenance program, required all state agencies with sanitary sewer systems containing pipelines 1.6 km (1 mi) or longer to comply with new requirements. The statewide Sewer System Management Plan (SSMP) also requires these agencies to report sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) electronically. In an effort to assist agencies in compliance, the California Water Environment Association (Oakland) formed a partnership with SWRB.

This partnership will be the focus of a talk to be given by Nicholas Pinhey, public works director for the city of Modesto, as part of the Oct. 15 Collection Systems Luncheon.

The partnership will provide training on reporting SSOs to the state database and meeting the regulations under the SSMP. Prior to this program, each of the state’s watershed regions was implementing and reporting requirements for SSOs slightly differently, Pinhey explained. The program will put the entire state on a single database for reporting, essentially holding “everybody to the same standard,” he said.

Pinhey’s talk will focus on how Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) member associations can partner with state regulatory agencies, serving the needs of the environment and those of the stakeholders.

“It’s a pretty far-reaching requirement,” Pinhey said of the SSMP. “It requires agencies to put in place the resources, the policies, the legal authorities, and the programs necessary to comply. For us it was a major challenge.”

Pinhey explained that providing such a uniform training program across the entire state — and providing it on a schedule — “requires not only the plain resources, it requires an extraordinary amount of coordination. To package a program that would be successful [and communicate] the information to your members is another huge effort, too.”

Olthof said California’s new SSMP program will entail such requirements as “having a plan for providing adequate hydraulic capacity, doing adequate maintenance, and understanding the long-term replacement needs for your system.”

Stormwater Challenges
Starting off with California’s biggest draw — its miles and miles of ocean beaches — the Oct. 15 “California Issues” session will cover some of the stormwater issues facing the state.

“The beaches here are used a lot for recreation and for tourism, and there are typically signs posted after a rainstorm that say to not go into the water,” Olthof explained. “There’s a lot of interest from the public and state and regulating agencies on managing stormwater both during storm events and also the low flows, or the nuisance flows, that get into the stormwater system during dry weather.”

Since rain is rare in California, the state faces unique stormwater challenges.

“If you’re living on the East Coast, you get a rainstorm every 3 days,” said Tim Bertch, director of San Diego’s Metropolitan Wastewater Department. “Cars in Northern Virginia, for example, have the same type of brake pads and emit the same type of copper and other components into the streets as cars here. When you have a rainstorm every 3 days [in Virginia], the volume of water to the volume of pollutants is pretty dilute. But when you have a rainstorm five times a year and mostly all within same month, you can get 11 months worth of contaminant buildup on your roadways and surfaces that then gets washed away [into the stormwater system]. So that makes it more challenging for the folks in Southern California.”

Some California agencies are implementing low-flow diversion programs in which, when it’s not raining, there’s a little bit of flow in the stormwater system for people washing their cars or watering their lawns that gets diverted into the sanitary sewer, Olthof explained.

The low-flow diversion program is used in Mission Bay, a primary recreation and tourist area in San Diego, and just 13 km (8 mi) from the San Diego Convention Center, where WEFTEC.07 will be held. “When there is not a big rainstorm coming, we accept those low-flow runoffs into the wastewater system and process the water, so it doesn’t go into the ocean,” said Bertch.

Water Reuse and Reclamation
“What is going to be the long-term availability of water; how are the utilities, government, and the public going to react, and what’s going to change?” Bertch asked. Water reuse and reclamation are at the forefront of Californians’ minds as water becomes more scarce in the Southwest, he said. Workshop 114, “Reclaimed Water UV [Ultraviolet] Disinfection,” will touch upon some of California’s regulatory issues with reclaimed water. The workshop will be held Oct. 13.

In the last decade, San Diego has developed the capacity to reclaim 170,325 m3/d (45 mgd) of wastewater. The city’s reclamation system enables the reclaimed water to be used for irrigation and commercial use, Bertch said. Yet this system is not operating at capacity, because Southern California lacks the infrastructure needed to carry the reclaimed water.

“So right now, in Southern California, the vast majority of homeowners irrigate with potable water,” Bertch said.

Since recycled water sometimes has a concentration of dissolved solids deemed too high for the irrigation of sensitive crops, managing brine levels is important, Bertch said. Brine management will be another focus of the “California Issues” session.

Energy Management
Being “green” and implementing sustainable, environmentally friendly practices is nothing new to the Metropolitan Wastewater Department. The department, according to Bertch, provides 96% of San Diego’s renewable energy.

This green energy is provided mainly through the department’s conversion of methane gas, which comes off the digesters at three wastewater treatment plants, into electricity.

The Wastewater Department’s Point Loma Plant harnesses the energy of water as well. “The water proceeds from [the plant] to an ocean outfall where there’s a drop of about 90 ft [27 m], and we take advantage of that falling water to run a hydroelectric generator,” Bertch explained. “That also helps supplement the electrical power back to the plant and into the electrical grid.” A tour of the Point Loma Plant will be offered on Oct. 16 and 17.

Additionally, the department’s operation complex has a roof covered with photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity. “We take advantage of the fact that San Diego has such nice weather all year round to provide that capability,” Bertch said.

A Polluted River Runs Through It
While the border between Mexico and the United States gets its fair share of press because of immigration issues, less attention is paid to the river that runs between these two countries.

Terry Rodgers, staff writer for the San Diego Union–Tribune, has been covering this waterway — and its accompanying political saga — for years. While about 80% of the Tijuana River watershed lies within Mexico, Rodgers said, it is California and its coastal waters that are suffering the effects of its pollution. Rodgers will speak about the river at an Oct. 15 breakfast presented by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (Annapolis, Md.), the Inter-American Association of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering (Sao Paulo, Brazil), and WEF.

The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) — a binational agency between Mexico and the United States — built the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Diego County to treat 94,625 m3/d (25 mgd) of wastewater originating in Tijuana.

The problem, Rodgers explained, is that the project was severely lacking in funds — so much so that as soon as the plant opened in the late 1990s, it was in violation of the Clean Water Act. Tijuana is a rapidly growing city, and the plant has not been able to keep up with the amount of wastewater coming its way. Parts of Tijuana have no infrastructure to handle wastewater. The plant treats wastewater to an advanced primary level. “The problem with the sewage,” Rodgers said, “is that even after treatment, it’s toxic to marine life — it kills mussels and clams.”

The outfall for the wastewater also was situated in the wrong place, according to Rodgers. The effluent is discharged about 4.8 km (3 mi) off Imperial Beach into water less than 91.4 m (300 ft) in depth. “There’s a current that brings effluent close to shore,” he said.

Bajagua, a private firm in San Marcos, Calif., has been awarded a contract by IBWC to build a wastewater plant in Tijuana to treat the wastewater coming from that region, but the contract is under scrutiny. Some opponents of the Tijuana project feel the company does not have the environment’s best interests in mind and that Bajagua was unfairly awarded the project because of the firm’s political connections. Bajagua wants to build a privatized plant, and some believe the IBWC contract was given unfairly, as an open-bid process was not implemented, Rodgers explained.

Rodgers, who grew up in Orange County, Calif., and is an avid surfer, said, “The solution to this is anything but simple. It makes me sad to think about the whole thing. I write a lot about water pollution, and in my opinion, it’s the worst water pollution problem in the United States.”
For more information on WEFTEC.07, see

— Meghan H. Oliver, WE&T

Learn More at WEFTEC.07
Workshop 114, “Reclaimed Water UV [Ultraviolet] Disinfection,” Oct. 13, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Technical Session 19, “California Issues,” Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m.–12 p.m.
Technical Session 59, “Green Power: Renewable Energy for Water and Wastewater Utilities,” Oct. 16, 8:30 a.m.–12 p.m.
Technical Session 78, “Case Studies in Applying New Strategies to Sustainability,” Oct. 16, 1:30 p.m.–5 p.m.

Meghan H. Oliver, WE&T

Stockholm Water Prize Laureate To Keynote at WEFTEC.07

Opening general session to focus on sustainability

Michael Bonsiewich

WEFTEC®.07 in San Diego will kick off with an opening general session featuring Perry L. McCarty, the 2007 recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize, as the keynote speaker. This year’s opening general session is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14 — marking a departure from the
Monday morning opening sessions of years past.

The theme of the opening general session is sustainability, an issue of great relevance to all water quality professionals.

McCarty was the recipient of the 2007 Stockholm Water Prize from the Stockholm International Water Institute (Sweden). The prize, which was founded in 1990, honors an individual, institution, or organization for outstanding water-related activities in the area of aid, awareness-building and education, engineering, management, or science. McCarty will be presented with the award by H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden Aug. 16 during World Water Week in Stockholm.

McCarty is being honored for his pioneering work in developing the scientific approach for the design and operation of water and wastewater systems and establishing the role of fundamental microbiology and chemistry in the design of bioreactors. The prize also credits McCarty with defining the field of environmental biotechnology that is the basis for small- and large-scale pollution control and safe drinking water systems.

The Stockholm Water Prize credits McCarty’s work with helping to create more efficient biological treatment processes, most notably anaerobic treatment systems for industrial and municipal wastewater systems, biological nutrient removal, and the development and use of biofilm reactors. He also identified the mechanisms for biodegradation and the fate of hazardous and anthropogenic trace chemicals, as well as suitable engineering for water quality improvement of groundwater and surface water and soils.

The prize also recognizes McCarty’s work with organic compounds and pollutants in underground aquifer systems and wastewater. The prize credits his work with leading to the development and practical implementation of methods to treat toxic chemicals in groundwater, particularly chlorinated pollutants generated from industry.

McCarty currently is the Silas H. Palmer Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering at Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.). He earned his bachelor’s degree at Wayne State University (Detroit) and his two advanced degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge). He also holds an honorary degree from the Colorado School of Mines (Golden). He has been a member of the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) since 1957, becoming an honorary member in 1989.

McCarty joined Stanford in 1962, helping develop the environmental engineering and science program. He has served as chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering and as director of the Western Region Hazardous Substance Research Center.

McCarty’s research efforts focus on biological processes for the control of environmental contaminants. Early research centered on anaerobic treatment processes, water reuse, and biological processes for nitrogen removal. McCarty’s current research concentrates on aerobic and anaerobic biological processes for control of hazardous chemicals, advanced wastewater treatment processes, and the movement, fate, and control of groundwater contaminants. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Cambridge, Mass.) in 1996.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders will deliver the welcome to San Diego during the opening general session. Sanders worked as a police officer in San Diego for 26 years, serving as chief of police from 1993 to 1999. During his tenure as chief, Sanders oversaw a more than 40% decrease in crime in the city.

After he left the police department, Sanders became chief executive officer of the United Way of San Diego County. He was appointed to the board of the American Red Cross, San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter, in July 2002. Sanders was elected mayor in November 2005.

Michael Bonsiewich, WE&T