WEF Members Show Strength in Numbers at Water Policy Forum and Fly-In

WEF President Sandra Ralston and WEF Past President Cordell Samuels stand with members from three Operations Challenge teams on Capitol Hill during Water Week 2014. Photo courtesy of Steve Dye, Nexus Government Relations (Washington, D.C.).

WEF President Sandra Ralston and WEF Past President Cordell Samuels stand with members from three Operations Challenge teams on Capitol Hill during Water Week 2014. Photo courtesy of Steve Dye, Nexus Government Relations (Washington, D.C.).

Water sector leaders gathered on Capitol Hill to show strong support for funding water infrastructure. A total of 184 professionals from around the U.S. registered to attend the 2014 National Water Policy Forum & Fly-In, held April 7–9, during the inaugural Water Week 2014 in Washington, D.C.

The Fly-In, hosted by the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.), National Association of Clean Water Agencies (Washington, D.C.), and Water Environment Research Foundation (Alexandria, Va.), featured congressional speakers, policy briefings, and roundtable dialogue with policy makers. The event began with a briefing on legislative and regulatory issues. It also included a congressional briefing describing innovative technologies and approaches in the water sector, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) technical roundtable, and a Water Infrastructure & Innovation Expo, providing an opportunity for policy makers to speak with experts on the latest water-treatment technologies.

On April 11, as a part of World Water Week, WEF and the Northeast Midwest Institute (Washington, D.C.) hosted a briefing by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA). The briefing, moderated by Alan Vicory, a principal at Stantec Consulting Services Inc. (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) and chair of WEF’s Government Affairs Committee, presented trends in nutrients and pesticides in U.S. streams and rivers with a focus on the Mississippi River Basin.

U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R–Ohio) stands with members from three Operations Challenge teams in the Rayburn House Office Building during Water Week 2014. Photo courtesy of Steve Dye, Nexus Government Relations (Washington, D.C.).

U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R–Ohio) stands with members from three Operations Challenge teams in the Rayburn House Office Building during Water Week 2014. Photo courtesy of Dye.

“So many times clean drinking water and sanitary sewer service are taken for granted. They are out of sight, out of mind, and it is not until we are without them that we realize how important and vital they are,” said Donnie Cagle, Operations Challenge Terminal Velocity team captain and City of Franklin, Va., water resource recovery facility manager. “Events like this are good to help increase awareness of the issues that surround the water/wastewater industry. In particular, this event was special because it allowed us the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of environmental issues to our elected officials.”

Operations Challenge teams — Terminal Velocity and Team HRSD representing the Virginia Water Environment Association, and Motley Poo and Critical Motion representing the Chesapeake Water Environment Association — attended the event.

Bradley Yeakle, Motley Poo team captain and environmental systems supervisor at Maryland Environmental Services (Millersville, Md.), explained that attending helped increase exposure for WEF and the Operations Challenge event as well as his team and employer, he said.

“This kind of event helps our mission as operators to heighten awareness of what we do, and why it is important. In our profession, exposure like this to our legislative branch is priceless in helping our causes,” Yeakle said.

The team had an opportunity to meet with the secretary for U.S. Rep Donna F. Edward (D–Md.), get passes to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate galleries, and see the House in session, he said.

Ohio Water Environment Association (OWEA) leaders attending the 2014 National Water Policy Forum & Fly-In included, from left, Donald Cuthbert, Tom Angelo, Dale Kocarek, and Doug Clark. Photo courtesy of Judi Henrich, executive manager of OWEA.

Ohio Water Environment Association (OWEA) leaders attending the 2014 National Water Policy Forum & Fly-In included, from left, Donald Cuthbert, Tom Angelo, Dale Kocarek, and Doug Clark. Photo courtesy of Judi Henrich, executive manager of OWEA.

Dale Kocarek, 4-year veteran of the Fly-In and associate with Stantec, attended with other leaders from the Ohio Water Environment Association (OWEA), including three past presidents and the current executive manager, he said. Kocarek, the current WEF House of Delegates member representing OWEA and member of WEF’s Government Affairs Committee, attends these events to stay up-to-date on current regulatory discussions, to network with fellow WEF members and water-sector professionals, and to keep fellow OWEA members informed.

Past presidents of OWEA, Clark, Angelo, and Kocarek, visit the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D–Ohio) during the 2014 National Water Policy Forum & Fly-In. Photo courtesy of Henrich.

Past presidents of OWEA, Clark, Angelo, and Kocarek, visit the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D–Ohio) during the 2014 National Water Policy Forum & Fly-In. Photo courtesy of Henrich.

OWEA leaders met with U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R–Ohio) during the Fly-In. Pictured from left are Henrich, Angelo, Clark, Chabot, Alan Vicory, OWEA member and chair of WEF’s Government Affairs Committee, and Kocarek. Photo courtesy of Henrich.

OWEA leaders met with U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R–Ohio) during the Fly-In. Pictured from left are Henrich, Angelo, Clark, Chabot, Alan Vicory, OWEA member and chair of WEF’s Government Affairs Committee, and Kocarek. Photo courtesy of Henrich.

This year the Fly-In featured a new format where speakers presented attendees with information and strategies to craft unique messages for government officials.

“Our Ohio contingent had nine congressional appointments,” Kocarek said. During meetings in the offices of eight representatives and two senators, the OWEA group discussed supporting House Resolutions 2707 and 3862, which address water-sector affordability, integrated planning, and schedules of compliance, he said. The team has even written a letter of support for House Resolution 2707.

“One of the morning speakers in the general session, Sara Ewell, spoke of the importance of grass-roots representatives [versus] paid lobbyists. This left a big impression on me,” Kocarek said. “For the first time, I felt that my message and presence on the Hill was important and might be perceived as genuine and relevant,” he said.

Christopher Stacklin, first time Fly-In participant and engineer at the Orange County Sanitation District (Fountain Valley, Calif.), attended to talk about regulations and laws that best serve his district’s ratepayers. Stacklin, vice chair of the Regulatory Subcommittee of WEF’s Government Affairs Committee, met with many regulators and congressional representatives, and collaborated with other attendees on advocacy strategies.

“My primary focus was to meet with EPA officials to discuss draft rulemaking and discuss the impact of the rulemaking to municipalities and water resource recovery facilities,” Stacklin said. He met with EPA officials to discuss the status of the biosolids risk assessment and regulation of products derived from biosolids.

In addition, Stacklin met with congressional officials to discuss clean water priorities and he attended the congressional briefing where officials participated.

“[House] Representatives sat in the audience and spoke candidly on issues, including sustainable water infrastructure, water project assistance in regions impacted by drought, water quality and jobs creation, and potential impacts of sequestration,” Stacklin said.

For Stacklin, one of the best benefits occurred after returning home. “I was able to put together a calendar of dates and actions which will help coordinate resources to respond to upcoming regulatory and legislative activities,” Stacklin said. Information provided during the event helped him develop this action plan, which will help local water-sector leaders be effective in public policy outreach, he explained.

Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

Fly-In Launches Ongoing Discussion

The discussion held during the 2014 National Water Policy Forum & Fly-In did not end on April 9. It continues through work the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) is doing with partners.

WEF is working with American Water Works Association (Denver) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (Washington, D.C.) to address how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determines municipalities’ ability to pay for infrastructure projects. Together, the group has developed an affordability assessment tool to help municipalities navigate through this process. Bob Perciasepe, deputy administrator of EPA, discussed work the agency is doing to establish a framework acceptable to both EPA and municipalities during the event.

Also during the Fly-In, Nancy Stoner, EPA acting assistant administrator for water, announced EPA will hold a forum in June. The forum will bring public health experts together to discuss the implications of discharges of blended effluent from water resource recovery facilities. EPA seeks qualified public health experts and facility design and operation experts to serve as advisors to forum participants. WEF plans to work with committees to provide input for the forum.

 

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