From the President: An Exciting Time To Be Working in Water

November 13, 2012


Cordell Samuels, 2012–2013 WEF President

Cordell Samuels, 2012–2013 WEF President

I would like to introduce myself as your new Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) president. I live in Ontario and work as superintendent of the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant located in the regional municipality of Durham.

I have worked as an operator for 30 years and first got involved with the Water Environment Association of Ontario (Milton) in 1991. I joined WEF in 1994 and have held various leadership roles in both organizations.

Goals for the next year 

My career as an operator provides me with insight into the way WEF can help operators not only advance in their careers but also support operators in their daily jobs. Many utilities will not pay for operators to become WEF members or attend events. In this next year, as WEF president, I will encourage WEF to continue operator initiatives already in progress and to look for ways to add more.

In addition, I will continue to work for greater involvement from the Member Associations (MAs) in WEF activities. MAs can help both WEF and themselves by implementing WEF programs at the local level. By becoming “ground troops” in such activities as the Work for Water program, both WEF and MAs can cement closer ties and benefit the industry.

I would like to see WEF’s global efforts expand to reach Central and South American communities, as well as those in the Caribbean. I have seen the enormity of the problems in Mexico and how many people are working to meet water-sector challenges. The vast collection of information WEF has produced could help ease the burden in these communities.

I also want to work to increase collaboration among the many water-sector organizations to reduce costs and amplify the voice for water. We all will increase credibility if we can succeed in this goal.

This is an exciting time in the world of water. WEF has a new strategic plan and a new business plan that will chart the future. The next year will be a very exciting and busy time for both staff and volunteer leadership.

WEFTEC spurs innovation and collaboration

The excitement and energy at WEFTEC®2012, the innovation initiatives, as well as the new ideas being explored, make involvement in water now exhilarating.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson speaks at the Water Leader Session during WEFTEC 2012. Photo courtesy of Oscar Ezing Photography.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson speaks at the Water Leader Session during WEFTEC 2012. Photo courtesy of Oscar Ezing Photography.

WEFTEC 2012 had more energy than most. Attendees and exhibitors appeared more hopeful that the corner is being turned and were ready and raring to go to solve the problems which have been identified and targeted.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson spent most of her morning at WEFTEC addressing different groups and participating in various meetings. It also was very gratifying to see many other EPA leaders attending to relate EPA’s goals for the future and to explain how WEF and EPA are working together with other groups, and how this can help improve the world’s water. I was impressed by the caliber of people and groups who took part, and the level of the discussion.

During the next few months, it will be important to see how different groups implement ideas discussed at WEFTEC and to see how this advances the agenda of water. I am ready to play my part.

Embracing innovation and a new mindset

The treatment of wastewater has been steady and predictable in the past. Because of the legal requirements jurisdictions impose, it has not been worth the risk of going too far from the status quo to meet the requirements. Initiatives which might improve treatment or reduce costs have been embraced only timidly. Discussions about “innovation” will change these approaches.

The most ambitious initiative will be changing how we talk, to signal to the public and all other stakeholders involved that wastewater is not a waste to be disposed of but a valuable resource with many benefits. To this end, recovering energy and other useful materials, such as phosphorus, is very timely. The initiative will require a lot of effort and tenacity as we overcome engrained behaviors. Many smaller plants with limited resources may not see the benefit of some of these recovery efforts, but even the smallest facilities can get involved.

During the next several months, I will get an opportunity to discuss issues with you in this forum. I want to encourage you to respond to what you hear and see; let’s keep a vibrant conversation going as we carry out our most important mandate: protecting our water environment.


Cordell Samuels, 2012–2013 WEF President

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