June 2006, Vol. 18, No.6

From the Editors

WE&T Prelude

What Do You Think?

Putting a monthly magazine together is a team effort. To bring you each issue of WE&T, it takes a number of WEF staff, several freelancers, a crack design team, and countless contributors from within (and sometimes outside of) the water quality field.

It also takes you.

Collectively, those who work on WE&T bring hundreds of years of experience to the job. But this experience cannot substitute for feedback from those who matter most: our readers.

Only you can tell us what topics interest you most. What problems keep you up at night. What solutions have made your plant more efficient. The types of articles you’d like to see, and in what format. Quite simply, your voice is crucial. It allows us to tailor the magazine to your needs.

As this issue goes to press, we are surveying the WE&T readership. If you receive an e-mail survey, we encourage you to let us know what you think. Your feedback will give us the opportunity to see WE&T through your eyes, and determine what changes — whether fine-tuning or major overhauls — need to be made.

The water quality field is changing; so is WE&T. Your input helps ensure we will continue to deliver a high-quality, on-target publication. We look forward to hearing from you, and better serving your interests. 

— Melissa Jackson, editor mjackson@wef.org

Operations Forum Editor's Note

That's Gross

Appearances can deceive. That one idea keeps the movie, cosmetics, and television industries thriving. The typical formula dictates that the pretty person or place is virtuous and good, while the ugly character or setting is duplicitous and evil.

Even when Hollywood seeks to flip the equation, it’s transparent and we have thoughts like “oh, the grimy guy is really the hero and the swanky business man is the villain.” Ironically, the departure from the stereotype actually reinforces it.

Many utility services get burned by the pretty-good/ugly-bad standard. Trash collectors, wastewater treatment plant operators, even groundskeepers do not get the respect they deserve because they work with undesirable materials.

It seems to me that the people who step up to deal with our waste materials and messes should be regarded with more respect, not less. Without treatment plant operators and trash collectors, public health and safety would be compromised and our streets would be filled with litter and muck.

The average citizen throws away a coffee cup and flushes their toilet and never gives another thought to what happens next. While that usually would be the mark of a well-operated system, in this case, it creates a barrier to understanding the work that is needed and, often, disgust for the topic — we call it the Yuck Factor.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point what was unpleasant became obscene. It’s normal to try to avoid unpleasant topics, but to demonize them seems to be a step too far.

Deep down I think people do realize the importance of wastewater treatment even if they do everything possible to avoid the topic. And part of avoiding the topic means that the frontline folks don’t usually get the recognition they deserve.

Instead of “it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it,” it feels as though the saying has become “it’s a dirty job, someone’s got to do it, but let’s never mention this again.”

I’m not sure how to break down that barrier and change the perception of wastewater treatment from foul to wholesome. I am sure, however, that the work is noble, and that every person involved deserves credit for making his or her community a better, safer, and more comfortable place to live.


— Steve Spicer, editor sspicer@wef.org