What We Can Learn From COVID-19

August 21, 2020

Featured

The COVID-19 pandemic has attracted widespread attention to how WRRFs approach biohazard preparedness, worker safety, and personnel management. Staggered schedules, erratic shifts, and stringent safety protocols have become another part of the job for wastewater professionals.

Robert Pontau, Jr., a Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Virginia) member and assistant general manager of the Brunswick (Maine) Sewer District, recently reflected on how working in WRRF management during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed his perspective. Image courtesy of Pixabay

While challenging, the pandemic also provides an opportunity to re-examine how the wastewater sector operates to create a more effective, efficient future.

Robert Pontau, Jr., a member of both the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Virginia) and the Maine Water Environment Association and assistant general manager of the Brunswick (Maine) Sewer District, recently reflected on how working in WRRF management during the pandemic has changed his thinking. The editorial, which appeared in the May 2020 Maine Water Environment Association newsletter, details how the Brunswick Sewer District has adapted to unprecedented stresses on operations staff by emphasizing flexibility.

“Since the pandemic first hit Maine, when the schools closed and a state of emergency was declared, the District has been adjusting to what has become our new normal,” Pontau writes. “We are operating on the expectation that staff will do what is necessary to ensure our operations run smoothly and the District will continue to meet its mission to protect the health and environment of the communities we serve through wastewater collection and treatment in an environmentally responsible, efficient, and reliable manner.”

The editorial describes that the Brunswick Sewer District has begun moving away from time clocks and enabling operators to customize their schedules when possible. By incorporating flexibility into the ‘new’ normal, Pontau writes, the wastewater sector can become an even better place to work than during the ‘old’ normal.

“The world has changed. I have changed. The District has changed. Rather than rush back to the way things were, I am going to use this opportunity, this gift, to make improvements both personally and professionally,” Pontau writes. “I will not be returning to normal.”

Read the Full Editorial

Share Your Experience

WEF wants to know more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way the wastewater sector operates. If you are interested in sharing details about adaptations in place at your organization or how the pandemic has changed your outlook on your work, please email WEF Highlights editor Justin Jacques at jjacques@wef.org.
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