Celebrating a Day To Call Their Own

July 27, 2016

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Virginia names June 30 as Drinking Water and Wastewater Professionals Appreciation Day

Jacob Oney, wastewater operator trainee, samples the outfall at the H.L. Mooney Advanced Water Reclamation Facility in Woodbridge, Va. Photo courtesy of Kipp Hanley, Prince William County Service Authority.

Jacob Oney, wastewater operator trainee, samples the outfall at the H.L. Mooney Advanced Water Reclamation Facility in Woodbridge, Va. Photo courtesy of Kipp Hanley, Prince William County Service Authority.

From now on, June 30 will be known as Drinking Water and Wastewater Professionals Appreciation Day in Virginia. The day celebrate the efforts of water sector professionals to protect public health and the environment.

The Virginia General Assembly passed Joint House-Senate Commending Resolution HJ 88 to focus public attention on the need for quality drinking water and wastewater treatment programs, said Virginia Rep. Richard L. Anderson (R – County of Prince William), who sponsored the legislation.

During 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, Anderson witnessed the effects of inaccessible safe drinking water or inadequate wastewater treatment services on those living in impoverished areas. “I am keenly aware of the importance of quality drinking [water] and wastewater services,” Anderson said. “I was eager to patron this bill.”

The Prince William County Service Authority (SA; Woodbridge, Va.) came up with the idea to pursue this legislation. After obtaining internal approval, the SA Communications division began contacting various regional and state water sector organizations to gather support and worked with Anderson to compose the legislation. Both the Virginia House and Senate passed HJ 88 in February.

H.L. Mooney Advanced Water Reclamation Facility employees pose after the facility won its third National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.) 2015 Platinum Peak Performance Award. Photo courtesy of Kipp Hanley, Prince William County Service Authority.

H.L. Mooney Advanced Water Reclamation Facility employees pose after the facility won its third National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.) 2015 Platinum Peak Performance Award. Photo courtesy of Kipp Hanley, Prince William County Service Authority.

“The Service Authority believes that the thousands of professionals who operate these systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in all types of weather conditions deserve recognition for the crucial work they do,” said Dean E. Dickey, SA general manager. “It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

SA obtained support and assistance in drafting the legislation from the

  • Virginia Water Environment Association (VWEA),
  • Virginia chapter of the American Water Works Association (Denver),
  • Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (Washington, D.C.),
  • Northern Virginia Regional Commission (Fairfax, Va.), and
  • Virginia Rural Water Association (Buena Vista, Va.).

VWEA committee members “provided information on why treating wastewater is integral to the health and welfare of both the people of Virginia and the environment/ecosystem, and provided an estimate of miles of sewer lines in the state,” said Kathy Rabalais, association manager for VWEA.

In Virginia, water sector professionals provide drinking water and wastewater services for the state’s 8.3 million residents. On average, these professionals clean more than 2.4 million m3/d (620 million gal/d) of wastewater with much of the infrastructure and work unseen by the public, Rabalais said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to educate the public on what water professionals do each day to ensure our water is safe,” she said. “We hope that the day will garner the attention of the public and bring focus to the valuable work our members do.”

In addition to encouraging professionals and organizations to use the day as a platform to educate about the services the water sector provides, SA encourages utilities and other organizations to lobby for their own state recognition.

“It starts with a call or email to a state senator or delegate and introducing the idea to them,” Dickey said. This communication should emphasize the importance of clean water to communities and on local economies.

“As more politicians better understand the importance of the water and wastewater industry, we believe many states will follow suit and pass similar legislation,” Dickey said. Water sector organizations can use the language from HJ 88 to help craft their own legislation, Anderson said.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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