August 2006, Vol. 18, No.8

From the Editors

From the Editors - WE&T Prelude

Just Connect

Some of our most essential connections are also the least visible. Unless you are in the water quality field, it’s easy to miss the extensive water infrastructure that lies beneath our feet. And we often take for granted the electricity that powers our homes, the Internet line we depend on to run our businesses, and even the human networks that facilitate our daily lives — until the connection is broken. This issue focuses on staying connected. 

Emergency backup is not just for blackouts anymore. Increased demand for electricity has prompted many utilities to become less reliant on their power grids. The good news: Utilities have a variety of auxiliary power options. Potential solutions range from installing emergency generators to becoming entirely self-sufficient producers of electricity.

Less concrete but no less significant, interpersonal connections form the backbone of any well-run utility. Personnel, neighbors, and other stakeholders all play an important role in the decision-making process. Keeping the lines of communication open is critical, whether your utility is planning a construction project or making water allocation decisions.

And, as no magazine could exist without its audience, I’d like to thank those of you who responded to our recent readership survey. Your invaluable input gives us the chance to tailor WE&T to your needs and interests. We look forward to your continued feedback!

Melissa Jackson, editor
mjackson@wef.org

 

Operations Forum Editor's Note

In The Line of Fire

 

This month’s issue focuses on emergency preparedness and professional development. At first glance, these topics might not seem related, but during an emergency, we commonly turn to the veteran on our team for leadership and advice. Even though some people are naturally good at handling a crisis, training, experience, and practice can make all of us better at dealing with those tense moments.

I have heard the tales of what operators have pulled out of the headworks — everything from blankets to washing machines to the front end of a Volkswagen Beetle. But until I read the article on page 73, it didn’t occur to me that in addition to the normal mishmash of primarily domestic wastewater, operators are exposed to all manner of chemicals and pollutants.

When it dawned on me that a fire at a medical imaging center could mean radioactive dyes flowing into the plant, I wondered, Are the operators trained to handle that? Do they know how to protect themselves? Minimize damage to plant equipment? Maintain process integrity? Prevent solids contamination?

The answers vary from plant to plant and operator to operator, but just asking the questions drives home the importance of training. Front-line operators have to deal with whatever comes down the pipeline. Even without tossing chemicals and radioactive contaminants into the mix, that’s a daunting task. That’s why so many utilities bring at least some training in-house to ensure their people are prepared.

One utility district has taken that idea one step farther and refined its training program to groom operators for management positions. (See p. 82) With many veteran operators and managers reaching retirement age, the utility wants to make certain that its future employees are well-cared for and have the experience and knowledge they need to protect themselves, the community, and the environment from whatever may come down the pipe.

— Steve Spicer, editor
sspicer@wef.org


Operations Forum Editor's Note

In the Line of Fire

This month’s issue focuses on emergency preparedness and professional development. At first glance, these topics might not seem related, but during an emergency, we commonly turn to the veteran on our team for leadership and advice. Even though some people are naturally good at handling a crisis, training, experience, and practice can make all of us better at dealing with those tense moments.

I have heard the tales of what operators have pulled out of the headworks — everything from blankets to washing machines to the front end of a Volkswagen Beetle. But until I read the article on page 73, it didn’t occur to me that in addition to the normal mishmash of primarily domestic wastewater, operators are exposed to all manner of chemicals and pollutants.

When it dawned on me that a fire at a medical imaging center could mean radioactive dyes flowing into the plant, I wondered, Are the operators trained to handle that? Do they know how to protect themselves? Minimize damage to plant equipment? Maintain process integrity? Prevent solids contamination?

The answers vary from plant to plant and operator to operator, but just asking the questions drives home the importance of training. Front-line operators have to deal with whatever comes down the pipeline. Even without tossing chemicals and radioactive contaminants into the mix, that’s a daunting task. That’s why so many utilities bring at least some training in-house to ensure their people are prepared.

One utility district has taken that idea one step farther and refined its training program to groom operators for management positions. (See p. 82) With many veteran operators and managers reaching retirement age, the utility wants to make certain that its future employees are well-cared for and have the experience and knowledge they need to protect themselves, the community, and the environment from whatever may come down the pipe.

— Steve Spicer, editor
sspicer@wef.org