Jessica Rozek, WEF’s operations program manager, blogs about biking to recognize operators on World Water Day.

To celebrate World Water Day on March 22, I joined three other WEF staff members on a mission to recognize operators. Steve Harrison, Megan Livak, Brad Lovett, and I visited Alexandria Renew, DC Water, and the Arlington Water Pollution Control Plant — and we did it all by bicycle!

We wanted to thank the operators at our local facilities for all the hard work they do to collect, treat, and redistribute our world’s most valuable resource, water.

The day before our ride, the region experienced a major weather event with around 2 inches of rain. Some of the facilities still are dealing with combined sewers, so several of the operators we encountered had come to work on their day off to help keep things running. While everyone was clearly very busy, they still managed to take time to welcome us and tell us a little about their work.

Why Operators?

Operators are the core of the work that we do. Without our operators, we would not have clean and safe water. They perform a complex and demanding job that requires significant training and certification. Operators work 24-hours, 7-days a week, 365-days each year. Often, it can be challenging for them to find the time and resources needed to attend events, such as WEFTEC and other WEF conferences.

The United Nations theme for this year’s World Water Day was “leaving no one behind.” After reflecting on this, we decided it would be appropriate to not forget our operators and bring them resources (weighing in at approximately 60 pounds), including a facility copy of Wastewater Treatment Fundamentals I – Liquid Treatment

Why Bike?

Water resource recovery facilities are essential in our communities. Most people don’t think about what happens when they flush the toilet because their facilities do such a good job taking care of it. More and more, facilities are actively becoming a more visible part of their community. For example, Alexandria Renew has a community space available for rent as well as a public athletic field built on top of their nutrient management facility. And the new DC Water headquarters, which was built on top of a pump station and uses the heat from wastewater to generate energy, incorporates meeting and educational space for the public.

As a recreational activity, biking to these facilities helps to further demonstrate how they are and can be a central place in our communities.  For anyone in the DC metro area, I’ve mapped the route we took, so you can ride it yourself, https://ridewithgps.com/routes/29559667.

If you wish to visit the facilities on your ride or at any other time, please make arrangements in advance. For those who do not live in the Washington, D.C. area, I encourage you to map out and ride a route to see to local wastewater sights and visit your water resource recovery facility. I love water, operators, and bikes, so please share any of your stories with me at jrozek@wef.org

WEF staff members Brad Lovett, Jessica Rozek, Megan Livak, and Steve Harrison get ready to hit the bike trail

WEF staff members Brad Lovett, Jessica Rozek, Megan Livak, and Steve Harrison get ready to hit the bike trail.

WEF staff members from left: Brad Lovett, Megan Livak, Jessica Rozek, and Steve Harrison.

WEF staff members from left: Steve Harrison, Megan Livak, Jessica Rozek, and Brad Lovett.

WEF Staff with Alexandria Renew Operators

WEF staff with Alexandria Renew operators in Virginia.

WEF staff with the operations and laboratory staff at Arlington Water Pollution Control Plant

WEF staff with the operations and laboratory staff at Arlington Water Pollution Control Plant in Virginia.

 Lunch Meeting at Bluejacket Brewery to discuss collaboration with the Pure Water Brewing Alliance, joined by Dr. Patrick Dube, WEF Brewer and Biosolids Program Manager, and Ro Guenzel, Director of Brewing Operations at Bluejacket

Let's eat (and drink!): At Bluejacket Brewery to discuss collaboration with the Pure Water Brewing Alliance, joined by Dr. Patrick Dube, WEF brewer and biosolids program manager, and Ro Guenzel, director of brewing operations at Bluejacket (second and third from right, respectively).

About Jessica Rozek

Jessica Rozek works as the Operations Program Manager for the Water Environment Federation (WEF). Previously, she was a member of WEF’s marketing and production team. In 2017, she represented WEF at the UNLEASH Global Innovation Lab to help advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. She also is an active member of the WEF Eco team. Rozek also spent 4 years as deputy director of Opening Possibilities Asia to improve access to clean water and water education in schools in Mandalay, Myanmar.

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