Operations Takes Center Stage at WEFTEC 2016

December 7, 2016

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During “A Celebration of Operator Innovation, Excellence, and Professionalism” at WEFTEC 2016, each of the winners was invited to present their fix. Gregory Williams, winner of the Beaker Peeker Award, shares his vision of using glass beakers to measure scum depth in tanks. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

During “A Celebration of Operator Innovation, Excellence, and Professionalism” at WEFTEC 2016, each of the winners was invited to present their fix. Gregory Williams, winner of the Beaker Peeker Award, shares his vision of using glass beakers to measure scum depth in tanks. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Operator accomplishments and skills took center stage the morning of Sept. 28 in the Innovation Pavilion during WEFTEC© 2016. The event, “A Celebration of Operator Innovation, Excellence, and Professionalism,” spanned the breadth of what operators do, from fixing problems to pursuing continuing education to motivating others to serving as core team members in well-run utilities.

Presenting the 2016 WEFTEC Ingenuity awards

For 5 years, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) has recognized ingenious operators for their simple and effective fixes through the WEFTEC Ingenuity Awards. The six awards for 2016 cover topics ranging from encouraging public education to maintaining excellent operations during cold weather.

  • James Spielvogel from Ellwood City (Pa.) Wastewater Treatment Plant received the Ice Breaker Award for inventing a device that safely and easily lifts the clarifier skimmer in the winter to prevent the skimmer from freezing to the grease box.
  • Aaron Dressel, Chris Wize, Kelly Wolfe, and Dan Danhauer from York, Neb., earned the Trough Toaster Award for installing a heat lamp to prevent a thickener scum trough from freezing to a skimmer arm.
  • Cheryl Read from King County (Wash.) Wastewater Treatment Division earned the Danger Dodger Award for conceiving a plan that involves repositioning valve handles to avoid the need for confined space entry. Industrial maintenance mechanics Marvin Romack and Dalen McMichael repositioned the valves.
  • Brandon Pfleckl, Yeoanny Venetsanos, Annie Short, Ben Slater, Ani Guha, Maureen Knight, Irma Houck, Terry Dye Jr., Karen Hogan, Andrew Cockram, and Tracey Beaver from the Prince William County (Va.) Service Authority received the Digital Trailblazer Award for building map-based applications to display information on laptop and mobile devices for operators in the field.
  • Gregory Williams from Good Harbour Laboratories (Mississauga, Ontario) received the Beaker Peeker Award for his vision to use the graduations on a simple glass beaker to measure scum depth from the top of an open tank.
  • Walton J. Summers II from the Jacksonville (Ark.) Wastewater Utility earned the Explainer-in-Chief Award for educating the public with such ideas as a Christmas parade float showing the wastewater treatment process and a tabletop display showing the consequences of misusing sewers as trashcans.

John Hart, Deb Houdeshell, Mike Kyle, Jorj Long, Russ Martin, Jon Meyer, and Christine Radke judged a total of 24 entries for the 2016 competition.

Yeoanny Venetsanos, part of a team from the Prince William County (Va.) Service Authority, presents information about his team’s map-based application tool for operators in the field. Their tool won the team the Digital Trailblazer award. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Yeoanny Venetsanos, part of a team from the Prince William County (Va.) Service Authority, presents information about his team’s map-based application tool for operators in the field. Their tool won the team the Digital Trailblazer award. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

In addition to award certificates, one copy of the three-volume set, Operation of Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants, Manual of Practice 11, was presented to the winning individual or team in each award category. The books were donated by WEFPress, a publishing partnership between McGraw Hill Education (Columbus, Ohio) and the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.).

Each of the winners was invited to present their fix at WEFTEC 2016, and has the chance to be featured in an upcoming Operator Ingenuity column that appears in Water Environment & Technology magazine.

Special operator recognition

The operator celebration event also included a special recognition of Jerome Marshall. The quality assurance service inspector for the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) is the first operator to receive the 2016 Marcia St. Martin Public Service Award from the SWBNO. To further promote innovation in water and to support operations professionals worldwide, WEF presented Marshall with an Honorary Operator Ingenuity Award.

Jerome Marshall (center), coach of the Water Dawgs, received an Honorary Operator Ingenuity Award from Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans Executive Director Cedric Grant (left) and Deborah Houdeshell (right), past member of the WEF Board of Trustees and senior project manager at ms consultants inc. (Columbus, Ohio) during WEFTEC 2016. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Jerome Marshall (center), coach of the Water Dawgs, received an Honorary Operator Ingenuity Award from Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans Executive Director Cedric Grant (left) and Deborah Houdeshell (right), past member of the WEF Board of Trustees and senior project manager at ms consultants inc. (Columbus, Ohio) during WEFTEC 2016. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

Marshall, who also is a founder and the 2016 coach of the Water Dogz Operations Challenge team, accepted this Honorary Operator Ingenuity Award from SWBNO Executive Director Cedric Grant. The award reads, “for his ingenious continued support of fellow operators both locally and abroad.”

At the event, Grant shared an example of Marshall’s “undying professionalism and infectious enthusiasm.” Operations Challenge Manager Steve Harrison asked Marshall for help in finding a local practice location for the Argentina Operations Challenge team, TNT. Marshall not only found the location, but also practiced with the team, giving them pointers and setting up a lunch to welcome the international competitors with “true Southern hospitality,” Grant said.

While receiving his award, Marshall asked the packed audience, “Are you serious? Are you guys here for me?” The crowd responded with a resounding “yes,” and applause.

Marshall said his drive comes from wanting to “be a part of something, and talk to people and get to know them.” He said, “Right now, I feel very connected to all of you.”

“Being here at WEFTEC with Operations Challenge and just meeting people from different aspects of water distribution and wastewater, it has been great,” Marshall said. “And I have a lot of good teachers. I have people in my organization who care about me and who also help me take my talents and use them.”

ABC Professional Operators ceremony recognizes education and experience

WEF House of Delegates member Lonn Rasmussen (left) and Chair of the Association of Boards of Certification (Ankeny, Iowa) 2016 Board of Directors Mike Gosselin (right) present Mike Humes and Christen Wood with the Professional Operator recognition. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

WEF House of Delegates member Lonn Rasmussen (left) and Chair of the Association of Boards of Certification (Ankeny, Iowa) 2016 Board of Directors Mike Gosselin (right) present Mike Humes and Christen Wood with the Professional Operator recognition. Photo courtesy of Oscar & Associates.

“A Celebration of Operator Innovation, Excellence, and Professionalism” continued with the pinning of two new Professional Operators (POs) — Mike Humes and Christen Wood — by the Certification Commission for Environmental Professionals (C2EP) of the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC; Ankeny, Iowa). Humes is a foreman for the City of Kelowna (British Columbia) Wastewater Treatment Facility. Wood is a unit process manager for the Northeast Ohio Sewer District (Cleveland).

The PO designation signifies that recipients have met the most rigorous standards of their profession. To earn the PO title, operators must pass the relevant certification exam and meet specific education and job experience requirements. The PO designation can be earned for water treatment, distribution, collection, and wastewater treatment operations. As of September, 81 people have received 100 certificates (some hold PO credentials in more than one area).

During her remarks, Wood shared that having a national certification helps make her feel more comfortable that her skills and education will be acknowledged more readily outside the area of her professional licenses. Earning the PO also challenged her as a professional, she said. She had to brush up on her skills for the exam; and that effort translated to Operations Challenge, where Wood’s team received a top score on a wastewater simulator in the Process Control event.

“The standards are grueling, but they are totally worth it,” Wood said. “The test was very applicable to what I do on a day-to-day basis.”

— Steve Spicer, WEF Highlights

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