These awards recognize individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the water environment profession.“The Water Environment Federation is extremely proud to honor these examples of top-of-industry excellence in operations and design,” said Jackie Jarrell,  WEF Past President.

Collection Systems Award

The Collection System Award is presented to an individual for contributions to the advancement of the state-of-the-art wastewater collection.

Angela Charles
For more than 30 years, Angela Charles has consistently proven herself to be an accomplished leader, professional and water champion. Angela has been with the City of Charlotte since 1988 and began her career working in the stormwater section of CDOT. Under her leadership, CMUD’s wastewater system received the MA Collection System of the Year Award multiple times since 2013. She has worked her way up the ranks to Charlotte Water Director, leading a group of over 1,000 employees.
With each step in her career, Angela has engaged with her staff to build and strengthen the group. She challenges everyone to focus on the solutions rather than the problems.
Angela developed educational programs, including a career development matrix, to help employees develop in their Field Operations careers. In most recent years, Angela initiated an apprenticeship program that has developed into a highly successful and model program.
Since 1993, she has given back to countless water and wastewater professionals across the state with her extensive involvement and dedication to the Distribution and Collection Schools in North Carolina. She has served as the Grade A Coordinator for many years.
Angela’s leadership has always been focused on empowering employees and providing the highest level of service to her community.
Angela is a longtime WEF member and very active in the Collection Systems Committee and Collection Systems Symposia. She served as WEF Delegate in 2007. She served as the Chair of NC AWWA/WEA in 2017. In 2019, she represented WEF and NACWA by testifying before the US House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
George Kurz
Over the 45-year span of his engineering career, George has worked on many facets of collections systems. He designed and implemented Chattanooga’s Pretreatment Program, which was the first approved by the State of Tennessee. In 1985, he designed and implemented Chattanooga’s Municipal Compliance Plan for sewer rehabilitation and control of sewer overflows. However, George’s passion has been infiltration/inflow (I/I) research.
George transcribed over 170,000 data points that included influent flow, influent BOD and rainfall from Tennessee Monthly Operating Reports (MORs) into a simple spreadsheet for I/I analysis. This spreadsheet could then be used by operators to analyze the inflow/infiltration in their collection system. The spreadsheet was adopted by the State of Tennessee. Smaller communities are often unable to spend money on engineering studies. This tool may provide operators with insight into the quantity of I/I within their collection system.
In 2012, George wrote a “Green Paper” to provoke action by the Tennessee Division of Water Resources to revise its Sewer Design Criteria to handle I/I more effectively statewide and to become proactive in I/I reduction. The Division responded by creating a taskforce, which George co-chaired, to update the Design Criteria.
George has openly shared his work for the benefit of our industry by publishing and presenting the various stages of his research. He is a Life Member of WEF and has served as President of KTWEA. He currently serves on the WEF Collection Systems Committee as well as CWPKT’s Collections and Safety committees.

Morgan Operational Solutions Award

The Morgan Operational Solutions Award honors Philip F. Morgan, who served with distinction as professor of sanitary engineering at the State University of Iowa from 1948-1961. A respected practical researcher, he maintained a strong interest in plant operation. This award recognizes valuable contributions to the in-facility study and solution of operational problems.

Michael E. Parsons
Michael Parsons began his career at the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) in 2009 as Plant Manager of the 22.5 MGD Williamsburg Water Resource Recovery Facility (WBWRRF) and was promoted to Treatment Process Engineer for three WRRFs in 2016. Michael has been a driving force for innovation and optimization at HRSD. He led the effort to get HRSD’s multiple hearth incinerators into MACT 129 compliance and more recently, developed and demonstrated biological and nutrient removal processes that will revolutionize the industry. Michael understands the most complex process engineering concepts and is an expert at applying new research to full-scale innovations. He is also a very creative design engineer and has the rare practical ability of getting his ideas built with limited resources.

Michael converted the aeration tanks at WBWRRF, originally configured as a MLE process, to a unique, 5-stage BNR, step-feed process for less than $200,000. He used PVC roofing panels and fiberglass supports for aeration tank baffle walls at a cost of only $4,000 each. For anaerobic and anoxic zone mixing, Michael designed an inexpensive large bubble mixing system that uses an inverted bell siphon, made with PVC fittings, and low-pressure air from the main aeration system. The mixing system worked so well and cost so little to construct, it was deployed at three other HRSD WRRFs resulting in dramatically decreased activated sludge mixing costs. With the addition of sensors, control system improvements, and other upgrades, Michael’s design resulted in decreasing the effluent TN from about 8 to 3 mg/L, reducing chemical costs through biological phosphorus removal, and reducing aeration energy requirements.

Michael used his homemade baffle walls and large bubble mixers with control system improvements at the 15 MGD HRSD York River WRRF (YRWRRF), converting it from a fully aerobic step-feed process to two-pass step-feed BNR with an anaerobic zone. Michael then went one step further. Based on the success of mainstream partial denitrification/anammox (PdNA) pilot testing at HRSD, Michael controlled ammonia residual in the secondary effluent and established anammox in the denitrification filters. YRWRRF became the first mainstream process in the world to consistently remove a substantial amount of ammonia with anammox. Once anammox were established, it became crucial to operate the BNR process with precise ammonia vs NOx (AvN) control. To meet this need, Michael designed a novel intermittent aeration/intermittent step feed control system, where air is turned on and off, and step feed is controlled to meet ammonia/NOx ratio in the effluent. The results were significant cost savings in chemicals for denitrification, phosphorus removal, and alkalinity, as well as energy savings and an increase in effective plant capacity.

Michael oversees the operation of two pilots testing PdNA. A pilot system at YRWRRF uses PdNA filters and allows for conditions to be tested that cannot be simulated at full scale. At the 20 MGD HRSD James River WRRF, Michael is using data collected from a moving bed biofilm reactor PdNA pilot to advance PdNA technology through full-scale demonstration in an integrated fixed film activated sludge (IFAS) configuration.

Industrial Water Quality Achievement Award

The Industrial Water Quality Achievement Award is presented to a corporation and, if applicable, to its engineering firm that best demonstrates significant, lasting, and measurable excellence in water quality improvement or in the prevention of water quality degradation as demonstrated by innovative design and operation of an industrial wastewater, pretreatment or source prevention program.

Bongards Creameries – Perham MN

Bongards Creameries (BC), located in Perham, MN, faced critical decisions regarding their continued increase in production without overwhelming their water supply and wastewater treatment capabilities. Bongards followed in the footsteps of many industries during the 2000s in evaluating water conservation and energy conservation programs which resulted in significant savings at the time. However, additional improvements across the board were needed to accommodate the 60% increase in milk processing since 2015.

Sustainable practices for controlling the organic and hydraulic loading for the wastewater treatment facility by minimizing the volume of wastewater produced and decreasing the volume of potable water used have been set in place and are continually optimized. Bongards uses continuous monitoring of the organic and hydraulic loading (inline BOD/TSS monitoring and flow monitoring) to allow immediate reaction to the exceedance of allowable loading and the implementation of corrective action. In addition, the increase in milk processing caused an increase in a by-product, “salt whey”, from natural cheese production which added to the loading on the wastewater treatment facility. Bongards found a sustainable solution for this problem by turning the by-product into a viable feed product which is licensed to sell to the local farmers.

Since 2015, Bongards has had a 28% reduction in gallons of wastewater produced and a 40% reduction in the gallons of potable water used per pound of milk processed while increasing milk processing 60% as mentioned above. A secondary benefit from the improvements has been the apparent elimination of odor emanating from the treatment pond which was common in the spring which is a double win for Bongards and the community.

WEF Project Excellence Award

WEF's annual Project Excellence Award pays tribute to excellence and innovation in the execution of projects and programs in the water sector.

Longmont (CO) Biogas Treatment and RNG Fueling Station
Honorees: City of Longmont Public Works and Natural Resources, Carollo Engineers (consultant) and CGRS, Inc. (design/build contractor).
The City of Longmont’s innovative biogas-to-renewable-natural-gas (RNG) project equipped their 13-million-gallon-per-day Wastewater Treatment Plant with a biogas-upgrading system that treats and converts 140,000 cubic feet per day of biogas into RNG. This gas is transferred to a new vehicle-fueling station that serves the City’s waste services department natural-gas-fueled trash and recycling trucks.
Metro (Denver CO) Wastewater Reclamation District Nuisance Struvite and Dewaterability Improvements
Honorees: Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, Stantec (consultant), PCL Construction (contractor).
Driven by regulatory requirements, water resource recovery facilities have been implementing biological phosphorus removal to address current and future total phosphorus (TP) limits.
Anaerobic digestion of the waste solids from the Bio-P process has been associated with deterioration of dewatering performance. This innovative project involved constructing the world’s largest phosphorus recovery reactor tank to address these challenges.
Portsmouth (NH) Peirce Island Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade
Honorees: City of Portsmouth (NH), AECOM (consultant), and Methuen Construction (contractor).
The Peirce Island WWTF Upgrade sustainably upgraded an operating water resource recovery facility on an island with limited access and extensive archaeological and recreational resources located in historic downtown Portsmouth, NH. The team delivered a successful project on a court ordered schedule with increased capacity, secondary treatment, and total nitrogen removal without expanding the site while overcoming public opposition.

Project Excellence Award Honorable Mention:

Springs Union Free School District Spring School Sewage System Upgrade.

Participants: Springs Union Free School District, H2M Architects (consultant). Aligning with the Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan and the Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection Groundwater Resources Management Plan, a necessary sanitary upgrade for Springs School evolved into an advanced onsite treatment system design with performance that is well below the existing limits for effluent nitrogen removal in an environmentally-sensitive area.  The sustainable aspects of the treatment system are highlighted in the school’s curriculum.


WEF Safety Award

The purpose of this award is to encourage active and effective safety programs in the water environment field, and to recognize entities that not only invest their resources to develop high quality safety programs and adopt them within their own culture, but also actively seek out opportunities to share these programs with others in the water industry for the benefit of all.

City of Garland, Texas

The City of Garland, Texas was selected as the 2021 Awardee for Safety based on their comprehensive safety program, as well as success demonstrated by a long track-record of incident avoidance. The City has established a strong program for investigation, corrective action, and education to prevent recurring issues. The City trains its employees in safety and risk management trends, legislation, products, and practices through their drafted Safety Connection: an inter‐departmental forum for safety review, education, and exchange of ideas and information. These efforts manifested in two long-term streaks of zero lost-time incident over many years of operating two WRFs.


Water Quality Improvement Award

This award was not awarded in 2021.


Innovative Technology Award

This award was not awarded in 2021.