The Individual Service and Contribution Awards recipients represent individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the sustainability of water resources and made a profound impact on the future of the water profession.

Outstanding Young Water Environment Professional Award

The Outstanding Young Water Professional Award is presented to a young professional who has made significant contributions to the Water Environment Federation and to the wastewater collection and treatment industry.

Brianne Nakamura
Chesapeake Water Environment Association

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Bri Nakamura is a second-generation water engineer with over a decade of experience in the industry. She recently started a new role with Xylem Inc. as an Innovation Analyst as part of Xylem’s Innovation Labs (XIL) team. In this role, she works with the Technology Scouting and Evaluation team, and oversees many of Xylem’s open innovation ecosystem partnerships, manages the Accelerator and Incubator cohort selection process, and leads the XIL external marketing efforts.

Prior to Xylem, Bri served as the Practice Leader of Innovation at the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Water Science and Engineering Center (WSEC) for 7 years.  At WEF, she worked with the volunteer technical committees, along with planning and managing the WEFTEC Innovation Showcase, and the WEF InFLOW (Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water) STEMpath Program, which focuses on introducing undergraduate and graduate students from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to potential careers in the water industry through opportunities such as attending WEFTEC.

Bri has also previously worked for O’Brien & Gere, an engineering consulting company in the DC metro area; mainly focusing on municipal wastewater projects. She holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Syracuse University and recently expanded her knowledge of business management by completing the PowerMBA program. Bri is a 2016 Water Leadership Institute graduate, a licensed professional engineer (PE) in the District of Columbia, and a certified Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP).

Public Officials Award  

The Public Officials Award is presented to an elected or appointed public official that has made a documented, significant contribution in the areas of clean water legislation, public policy, government service, or another area of public prominence that resulted in improvements to the water environment. The award can be presented for public service at the local, state, provincial or national level.

  1. The Honorable Roy Blunt, U.S. Senator (Missouri)
  2. Mayor Greg Fischer (Louisville, KY)
  3. The Honorable Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator (Vermont)
  4. Secretary Kenneth Wagner (Oklahoma)

The Honorable Roy Blunt, U.S. Senator

Public Officials Award Roy_Blunt.jpgSenator Blunt has sponsored and supported water infrastructure funding throughout his 26 years in Washington, both as a Congressman and a Senator. Senator Blunt recognized and brought awareness to our nation’s alarming investment shortfall in maintaining and improving our transportation network, water and wastewater systems, and energy infrastructure. Throughout his career, Senator Blunt joined his colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to support water infrastructure financing in a bipartisan way. Some examples include; Introduced and supported multiple pieces of bipartisan legislation to improve infrastructure financing. Most recently, and significantly, Senator Blunt supported the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2022. Senator Blunt supported provisions within multiple versions of the Water Resources Development Act and America’s Water Infrastructure Act that provided federal funding of wastewater and stormwater projects. The Senator supported the Delta Regional Authority, which has awarded millions for water and wastewater projects to smaller communities with compliance challenges that could not be affordably solved on their own. Senator Blunt also helped obtain funding for the East Locust Creek Reservoir Project, which addresses critical water supply problems in northern Missouri.

As a member of Appropriations Committee, Senator Blunt played an important role in securing critical funding for the Army Corps to restore flood control infrastructure along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and to rebuild communities impacted by the unprecedented flooding. He has been a stalwart advocate for national Missouri and Mississippi River policies and infrastructure that focus on flood control, and he also supported spending for flood recovery. He was a leader in ensuring the last

Senator Blunt has been a public servant his entire professional career, starting as a teacher, then a County official, University President, Missouri Secretary of State, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and currently a U.S. Senator. As a U.S. Senator, he is the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee and is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He is also the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services and Education.

Senator Blunt obtained his undergraduate degree from Southwest Baptist University and his master’s in history from Missouri State University. He is married and has four children and six grandchildren.

Mayor Greg Fischer

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Greg Fischer was elected Louisville’s 50th mayor in 2010 — and was sworn in for a third four-year term on January 5, 2019. 

Mayor Fischer is a successful businessman and innovator who has never shied away from hard work, ranging from being a crane operator on the docks of Kodiak, Alaska, to becoming an inventor of SerVend ice and beverage dispensers. 

Working with his brothers, he led the growth of SerVend International into a global firm nationally recognized for business and leadership excellence. SerVend was acquired by Manitowoc, a Fortune 500 company, in 1997. 

In 1999, Fischer founded Iceberg Ventures, a private investment firm, and he later co-founded bCatalyst, the first business accelerator in Louisville. Fischer has been a private investor and advisor to dozens of companies. 

In 2011, Fischer brought his business expertise and love for building high-performance organizations to the Mayor’s office. 

In his tenure, Louisville experienced an economic renaissance, adding 83,000 jobs and 3,000 new businesses, with unprecedented investments in affordable housing. In addition, 20,000 Louisvillians worked themselves out of poverty, and the city attracted more than $20 billion in capital construction, including two new bridges, three new regional libraries, a soccer stadium, a new West Louisville track, and more than two dozen new hotels built to support the city’s thriving bourbon and local food tourism, also known as Bourbonism. 

The Mayor championed the city’s Evolve 502 education initiative, which features  a promise scholarship that ensures every public high school graduate has an opportunity for higher learning. He’s mandated that city decisions be made through the lens of public health, and during his tenure, Louisville has been named an International Model City of Compassion four times. 

When tragedy struck the city and nation in 2020, he recommitted his administration to tackling increased public safety challenges; dismantling systemic racism, including police reform; and marshalling all resources to hasten Louisville’s recovery from COVID-19. 

Mayor Fischer was elected by the mayors of America to be president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2020 and serves as the immediate past president. 

Governing Magazine named Mayor Fischer Public Official of the Year in 2013. A 2016 Politico survey named him as the most innovative mayor in America, and in 2017, Politico named him among its list of the nation’s most interesting mayors. In addition, Louisville has been named a Top 15 city for attracting millennials and was among the top 15 large metros with the most growth in high-paying, six-figure jobs from 2015 to 2020, according to Stessa, a web-based platform for property investors. 

Mayor Fischer is married to Dr. Alexandra Gerassimides, the daughter of Greek immigrants who were uprooted during the Greek Civil War. The couple have four adult children and two grandchildren.  

The Honorable Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator

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Currently the Senate President Pro Tempore, Senator Patrick Leahy was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974. He will retire at the end of his current term in January 2023.  

Senator Leahy cares deeply about the environment and has been a champion for water quality throughout his time in the Senate. He has used his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which he currently chairs, to secure money for work to protect Vermont’s and the nation’s waterways.  

The health of our waterways is often determined by what happens on the land surrounding them. As a member and former Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Leahy has championed programs which assist farmers in protecting nearby water from nutrient runoff. He has secured millions of dollars in funding for the Natural Resource Conservation Service to support the adoption of agricultural practices that minimize the flow of nutrients from farmland into waterways in Vermont and across the country. He has written and enacted programs that have enlisted farmers, who are custodians of so much of our land, as partners in the effort to protect our waters.  

He has also been a champion for land and forest conservation, including the protection of environmentally crucial wetlands. 

Vermont’s “Great Lake” Champlain faces numerous threats including invasive species and an excess of nutrients that feed dangerous cyanobacteria blooms. To coordinate efforts to protect the lake, which is bordered by two states and the province of Quebec, Senator Leahy led the founding of the Lake Champlain Basin Program and has been a champion of the program ever since, directing more than $150 million to the program and, through it, funding to 1,600 on-the-ground projects to improve water quality in the lake. Last month he introduced legislation to reauthorize the program, codifying its existing structure and increasing its authorization to $50 million a year.  

He also worked to create and fund the Lake Champlain Sea Grant program which supports research on the lake and its environs at universities in the Lake Champlain Basin. 

To address invasive species, Senator Leahy secured funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide expertise and support to local efforts to control invasive species.  

Wanting to engage children in the sciences and educate the general public about water quality, Senator Leahy and his wife Marcelle championed the creation of the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, for which the Senator secured funding, which includes the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center and provides a home base for ongoing scientific research.  

Senator Leahy’s efforts to protect waterways have extended beyond the nation’s borders. During his years as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Senator Leahy led funding efforts to support the Coral Triangle Initiative, which is focused on preserving coastal, littoral, and reef resources in the world's richest marine habitats with over 500 species of coral and 3,000 species of fish. 

 Secretary Kenneth Wagner

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Kenneth Wagner is the Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Regional and State Affairs as well as Director of the Office of Regional Operations within EPA’s Office of the Administrator where he served as the Administrator’s designee before Regional Administrators were appointed, he coordinates all 10 U.S. EPA Regional Administrators and serves as an advocate for the regions at headquarters.  Additionally, he serves as the de facto ambassador of cooperative federalism with all 50 states’ top environmental regulators and tribal governments. Additionally,  Mr. Wagner is responsible and helps lead numerous policy initiatives for the Administrator. 

Mr. Wagner was appointed and currently serves at the Administrator’s Designee and chairs the Gulf Coast Economic Restoration Council, also known as the RESTORE Council.  EPA and Acting Administrator Wheeler was appointed by the President as Chairman of the RESTORE Council which is responsible for implementing the RESTORE Act and administering billions of dollars of settlement funds that were paid by BP as a result of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. 

Mr. Wagner is also closely involved in the Office of Research & Development’s initiative to better partner with states to solve everyday environmental challenges and make their vast inventory of research more readily accessible for states, tribes and the public.   He also coordinates the intra-agency working group to tackle the waste discharges entering the U.S. from our border neighbors in Mexico, and assists the Administrator in his goal of bringing certainty to the American people by returning the Agency to its core mission: improving  water quality, accelerating land clean ups,  modernizing aging water infrastructure and bringing the country back into air attainment by improving air quality.  

Mr. Wagner joined the Agency from the private sector where he practiced law and held private business interests for nearly 25 years. He was a founding member and managing partner of a successful mid-sized law firm in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he practiced and managed a diverse practice that included commercial, energy and environmental matters. In addition to running a successful law firm, he was involved in various successful business and commercial ventures, including being a minority partner in Oklahoma’s Triple-A baseball team based in Oklahoma City from 2003 to 2010. 

He received his degrees from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa College of Law.   

Water Heroes Award  

The purpose of the Water Heroes program is to recognize individuals or municipalities who performed duties above and beyond the usual call of duty during an emergency situation to continue to protect the public and the environment. These duties shall elevate the status of the water sector industry.

  1. Bowling Green Municipal Utilities (Bowling Green, KY)
  2. Gulf Coast Authority (Houston, TX)

Bowling Green Municipal Utilities (Bowling Green, KY)

Water Heroes-Bowling Green Municipal Utilities 1.JPGBowling Green Municipal Utilities (BGMU) is a multiple utility company located in Bowling Green, KY.  BGMU provides water, wastewater, electric and fiber optic communications services to the City of Bowling Green and surrounding area.  BGMU provides potable water to over 130,000 people as retail or wholesale customers.  Our water and wastewater crews operate and maintain 580 miles of water mains and service lines, and 540 miles of sewer mains and lateral lines. Our 45 MGD drinking water treatment plant and 15 MGD water recovery facility (WRF) serve as regional systems for water and wastewater treatment, providing for the needs of Bowling Green and Warren County, KY.  The WRF is an award winning facility that has received The Commonwealth of KY Operational Excellence Award for over 10 consecutive years. The facility has also received the Kentucky Control Authority Pretreatment Excellence Award and employees have been honored with the Golden Manhole Award, the William D. Hatfield Award, and the Arthur Sidney Bedell Award.  BGMU employees live and embody the BGMU vision statement “To be customer focused in all we do”. 

Gulf Coast Authority (Houston, TX)

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Gulf Coast Authority (GCA) is a political subdivision of the State of Texas created in 1969 by the Texas Legislature to clean-up Galveston Bay. Since that time, our ability to provide reliable, cost-effective regional wastewater and water services has been expanded across the State of Texas. GCA is a key component in creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth by providing essential centralized industrial and municipal wastewater and water services. Our customers can focus their attention and efforts on their core business purposes while assuring their environmental compliance. GCA also acts as a national financing entity for the issuance of conduit private activity bonds for qualified projects. 

GCA operates four regional wastewater treatment plants in the Houston area and one regional wastewater treatment plant in Odessa, Texas. These plants provide wastewater treatment service to municipalities and industries in their respective service areas. Four of the plants treat primarily industrial wastewater. GCA also has a laboratory that processes over 400 samples daily.  

 GCA employees approximately 180 employees in operations, maintenance, engineering, management, and leadership roles. Our workforce has diverse educational and personal backgrounds. We represent varied educational backgrounds, have attended different training, and hold different certifications or licenses in alignment with our roles. Our team includes early-, mid-, and late-career members including many with decades of service with GCA.  

During Winter Storm Uri, which began on February 11, 2021 at our Odessa Facility and had moved eastward to our Houston area facilities by February 13, 2021, the teams at our wastewater treatment facilities demonstrated their commitment to safety, communication, reliability, integrity, planning, teamwork and stewardship.   

As Winter Storm Uri approached, GCA facilities prepared according to the freeze preparation plan. Plans were executed to allow for safe staffing at each of the facilities including shift changes. Facilities had people who were a part of a ride out crew or housed close to the facility to minimize commutes during the storm. Those personnel were responsible for operating the facility and available to perform critical maintenance during the storm.  

Personnel worked in challenging conditions. Tap water service from third party sources was lost at several facilities. Boil water notices were issued for extended periods of time that varied by jurisdiction. The duration of the freezing temperatures resulted in freezing of lines. As these lines thawed, personnel worked in very cold conditions to repair leaks and restore service. Compliance sampling continued during the storm and sampling teams took pride in their completion rate. Facility management supported the teams with decision making needed to deal with the conditions at the facility. Because of widespread power outages across the power grid, employees who were working from home were creative in using their car to power cell phones and computers to support the needs of the operations team.  

Employees continued to work to maintain wastewater treatment service even as their families or property were suffering disruption or hardship. One maintenance employee that was part of a ride out crew asked a nephew to check on his empty house during the storm.  The nephew discovered broken pipes and water damage. The employee just had his nephew turn off the water supply and decided to stay at the plant to help and dealt with the damage to his house after the storm.  

Industrial dischargers were severely impacted because of power loss to their facilities as well as the unprecedented loss of natural gas and nitrogen supplies to their facilities. As a consequence, flows and loading to some of our treatment plant dropped significantly and took weeks to recover as industry worked to recover from the freeze damage. These conditions added to the challenge of recovery at the wastewater treatment facilities. 

The commitment of our wastewater workers to maintain service under difficult and trying conditions at work and at home was outstanding.   

Phyllis Frank, Chief Administrative and Strategic Projects Officer, will accept the award on behalf of Gulf Coast Authority. 

Water for People Robert W. Hite Outstanding Leadership Award

The Robert W. Hite Distinguished Leadership Award recognizes a person (or couple) who has demonstrated active leadership to benefit others and is supportive of Water For People’s mission – someone who inspires a shared vision, is forward-thinking, and truly envisions a world where all people have access to safe water and sanitation facilities. The award is annually presented at WEFTEC.

Rahim Kanji
Water Environment Association of Ontario

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Rahim’s unique experience in the water sector stretches across more than 15 years. Having progressed through a variety of roles in the water and wastewater sector from system commissioning, project management, and business and partnership development, Rahim is a champion of the water innovation ecosystem as the Executive Director of the Ontario Water Consortium. In this role, he creates opportunities to advance the development and adoption of novel water solutions by connecting challenges with solutions through multi-stakeholder engagement across the sector.  

To Rahim, it is unimaginable that in today’s world there are still billions of people without access to adequate water and sanitation, hundreds of millions that practice open defecation, and that there are more cell phones in the world than there are toilets. To this end, Rahim is a champion for Water For People Canada’s efforts to support resilient and sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in the developing world. It is a way to multiply his impact around the world and literally change people’s lives with taps and toilets. Rahim currently serves as the President of the Water For People Canada Board of Directors.  

Rahim is a professional engineer with a master’s degree in business, with a focus on entrepreneurship and technology. 

 

WEF Mentorship Award

The purpose of the award is to acknowledge those WEF members who have had a significant impact on the professional and personal development of one or more water quality professionals, including providing personal, social, and intellectual support.

Rebecca West
South Carolina Water Environment Association

Rebecca West is the President of RFW Consulting Services in Greenville, SC, and has served in the water profession for over 35 years. Previously, she served as the Director of Project Management for AECOM, Chief Operating Officer of Greenville Water, Chief Operating Officer of Spartanburg Water and the Operations Manager for Renewable Water Resources.
 

Rebecca is a 1986 graduate of Wofford College and served as the President of the Water Environment Federation. In addition, Rebecca participated in a People-to-People Delegation of Water Professionals to China under the leadership of Joe Stowe in 2000 and led a Delegation of Water Professionals to South Africa in 2009.   

Rebecca is a WEF Fellow, a graduate of Leadership SC and Furman University’s Diversity Leaders Initiative. 

Lastly, Rebecca works closely with a ministry based in Greenville, SC, Teleios Ministry, and in support of this ministry, she has led several water related mission projects in Harghita, Romania; Lemuru, Kenya and Iringa, Tanzania. 

Rebecca is a member of the SC Water Quality Association, the Water Environment Federation and serves on the Board of Directors for UGSI Solutions, Inc. and serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Conestee Nature Preserve.