Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What the River Knows: Portneuf River, Pocatello, Idaho

The following is an excerpt from the National Geographic's Water Currents blog, originally posted on July 17, 2016 by Basia Irland. To read the full article with photos, click here.

I flood. That is what I — and all my cousins — do from time to time. It is part of our rhythm. In their hubris, humans build cities and towns right on our banks, then get upset with us when our waters rise and destroy some of their property. They try to control us by building dams and straightening our courses so that we no longer flow naturally, aiding the hydrologic cycle, creating meanders, spreading silt, and sustaining entire ecosystems of aquatic life, plants, and animals.

Concrete channelized Portneuf River as it flows through Pocatello, Idaho.

I am the 124-mile long (200 km) Portneuf River, a tributary of the Snake River, in southeastern Idaho, United States. I begin and end on the ancestral lands of the Shoshone/Bannock Tribe, and I will tell you a story of just one reach of my body as it flows through Pocatello, Idaho, a town founded in 1889, and named for a Shoshone Chief. It is a sad tale of how people cannot think of me as a living being, but rather as a nuisance. Here is how they have mistreated me: They have encased my body in 1.6 miles of concrete, putting me in a straightjacket so that there is nothing natural about me any more. I am not even called a river, but rather a “channel”. Locals sometimes refer to me as “the moat” or “the bunker”. One long-time resident who grew up along my bank remembers that when she was young, her siblings would flush the toilet and then run outside to watch the waste dump directly into my bloodstream.

French Canadian fur traders gave me my name in the early 1800’s. Historic photographs depict me meandering through broad meadows in the semi-arid lands upstream of Pocatello. But a series of events happened that would change my fate. In 1877, the Portneuf Valley became the site of the first railroad in Idaho. The straight line of the raised track bed cut off segments of my flow, and the town was built around the railroad, not around me.
Throughout Pocatello’s history I have periodically flooded. As early as 1938 the Works Progress Administration (WPA) put in riprap – piles of rocks on my shore – to lessen the damage I might do to agricultural fields when I overflow. In 1962 and 1963, I created havoc in the valley again, so in 1967 the Army Corps of Engineers built a concrete channel to “keep me in my place”. Upstream and downstream of the channel, my body is confined by a series of levees. Trees are removed and even small critters such as marmots, who love to sun on my banks, are relocated because the holes they dig might inadvertently breach the levee system.

Marmot sunning on rock rip-rap in the levee.

Continue reading about the pollution of the Portneuf River and efforts to restore this body of water by clicking here

Monday, June 20, 2016

Letter from PNCWA President Shannon Ostendorff

Time flies when you are having fun, and the second quarter of this year flew by for me. One of my highlights this past quarter was a trip to Ontario, Oregon, for the Eastern Oregon Operator’s conference. I had a great time with this group. I encouraged attendees to get involved in PNCWA through participation in Operations Challenge, committee participation, attendance at the annual conference, and active participation in their section (hosting a facility tour, leading a training, etc.). 

I also had the opportunity to attend technical sessions,  participated in their “best tasting water” competition as a judge and received amazing hospitality from the conference hosts. Special thanks to Jeff Brown, Deb Cornford, Sue Lawrence and Carolyn Clemons for your warm welcome.

Another highlight of this quarter for me was our April in-person PNCWA board meeting and meeting with the committee chairs. It was so great to see all of our committee chairs and to hear about all of the activities the committees are doing. The two-day meeting highlighted the incredible work that is being done within our organization, and each committee presented on their committee accomplishments, goals, areas for collaboration, and committee needs.

Kelly Shephard from the Member Services Committee gave a presentation on the results of the membership survey conducted last fall, and Communications and Outreach Chair Karen DeBaker gave an update on the PNCWA website update process. There was time for a stroll to the local park and there may have also been a little karaoke involved. The meeting was fun and productive and it was great to see the level of increased community and engagement between committees and the board. These committees need your help. If you are looking for a way to get involved in PNCWA and to expand your professional network, please contact a committee chair. You can find their contact information on their committee website at pncwa.org.

This past quarter I also traveled to the PNWS-AWWA conference in Boise, ID. I was able to attend their Board of Trustees meeting, learn about their plans and goals for this next year, and evaluate areas for potential collaboration. PNCWA hosted the book-end session of the Leadership Certificate program at the PNWS-AWWA conference. This workshop was organized by the PNCWA Leadership Development Committee. I was able to participate in this workshop as a speaker and felt the certificate program was very thoughtful, insightful and motivating. A huge thank-you to Mark Poling and the Leadership Development Committee for organizing, developing and delivering this pre-conference workshop, and the multiple sessions that have occurred as part of this program since kicking off at PNCWA2015. Another workshop is planned for the PNCWA2016 conference. I would highly recommend attending this pre-conference workshop if you have the opportunity.

Not only was the last quarter fun, but it was also productive. Together, your board and committees made significant progress and crossed multiple to-do’s off our 2016 work plan. A copy of this workplan is available for reference on the PNCWA website on the PNCWA Board page. Major work plan accomplishments of second quarter include: update and approval of four committee charters, development and implementation of committee chair training, Membership Committee strategic plan development, attendance at the Washington DC Fly-in by the Government Affairs Committee, planning of the second annual joint YP summit, significant work by PNCWA management and the Communication and Outreach Committee updating the PNCWA website, and the development of the 2017 member calendar. 

Thanks to the many of you who submitted photos for the calendar. Board members also helped host and attend the Idaho Operators’ Conference and Eastern Washington Operators’ conference. Special thanks also to this newsletter issue’s guest editor Rick Kelly, chair of the Emerging Technologies Committee, for sourcing the articles on the focus topics of innovative emerging technologies and sustainability.

As we head into summer, my excitement is growing steadily for our annual conference in October, hosted this year by my hometown of Bend, Oregon. This conference will be the last time PNCWA is hosted in Bend, and we plan to pull out all the stops. A few specific events I am especially excited for include our Saturday riparian planting service project, the Water For People and Scholarship Committees’ golf tournament,  the first Women’s Networking Luncheon and the First-time Attendee and New Member Meet & Greet. 

In addition to all of the fun activities, we also have an exciting technical program and tours planned for PNCWA2016. I especially want to thank Conference Chair, Brady Fuller, Technical Program Chair, Dan Laffitte, Pre-conference Workshop Chair Jeff Coyne, and Oregon Region Director Chris Miccolis for their help in planning what promises to be our best conference yet.

I hope you will come to PNCWA2016 this year and are able to utilize this year’s conference as an opportunity to get involved in PNCWA. We need your talents to help make our organization stronger. See you in October!



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Operations Challenge

Sometimes someone says it so well, you just want to say...look...see there...that's what I mean! PNCWA Operations Challenge Chair Chad Clay (Chad.Clay@kingcounty.gov) brought this to our attention. In passing this on, Chad said

TRA gets it! All things combined to create the perfect run on events is the goal. It takes a lot of cooperation, coordination and some creativity. This is certainly a program worth looking up to, like an older sibling. It’s a great article that reflects the feelings of many participants. Come on out and support the PNCWA teams at PNCWA2016. The King County Poo Fighters, the Oregon Region House Divided, and the Clean Water Services River Rangers will be there, giving it their all.

Reprinted from Treatment Plant Operator Magazine, June 2016 (as Much More Than a Contest) by Jim Force; http://www.tpomag.com/editorial/2016/06/the_race_is_on_operations_challenge_sharpens_skills_at_trinity_river_author

Trinity River Authority teams find the Operations Challenge sharpens workplace skills, builds strong teams and helps operators advance their careers.

Supporters whoop and holler as teams race through a safety rescue operation or repair a pump. The tension mounts as contestants check and recheck their numbers during the lab event, or pore over tough questions on process control

But the value of the Operations Challenge competition, conducted every year by the Water Environment Federation with finals at WEFTEC, goes much deeper than the races against the clock in the arena on the exhibit floor.

Teamwork, pride in the profession, introduction to new technologies, discipline, humility, respect for others, networking — these are all benefits of competing in the Challenge. That’s the unanimous feeling of this year’s Division 1 champions, the TRA CReWSers from the Trinity River Authority in Dallas, Texas. That sentiment is shared by the Waste Warriors, TRA’s Division 2 entry, which won the lab competition at the national event and finished 13th overall.

"What I truly love about Operations Challenge is how the workforce gains more respect for other departments,” says John Bennett, manager of TRA’s Denton Creek Regional Wastewater System. “As a mechanic, I understand what my buddies in operations go through. I have more respect for them. It goes beyond the Challenge event.” Adds David Brown, senior maintenance technician and a 15-year member of the CReWSers, “You gain knowledge, you move up to the highest level of licensing possible. That’s the story that’s repeated in the Operations Challenge program a multitude of times. The number of operators who move up to supervision and management from this program, it’s incredible.”

Successful run

The CReWSers, now five-time national champions, won their other titles in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009, representing TRA’s 162 mgd Central Regional Wastewater System Treatment Plant.

The team included, in addition to Brown: Steve Price, chief operator for the liquids division, with 22 years on the Challenge team; Raudel Juarez, chief maintenance mechanic, four years; Dale Burrow, interceptor systems specialist, 22 years; Jake Burwell, construction inspector II, 10 years.

The Waste Warriors competed for only the second year, representing TRA’s 11.5 mgd Denton Creek facility. Team members were Andrew Moore, senior operator; Clifford Woods, operator II; Andrew Esquibel, mechanic II; and Howard Williams, operator I.

For both teams, practice is what makes perfect, and management support is critical. “We’ve been together for a while,” says the CReWSers’ Burrow. “All team members have been the same for the last four years.” For that reason, the CReWSers’ practice schedule doesn’t ramp up until about a month before the competition.

“We practice a couple of hours, three days a week, but as the competition approaches, we’ll practice all day for about a week,” Burrow says. The team has a mock-up of all five event categories — safety, lab, process control, collections and maintenance — set up in the back of the plant to simulate the real thing.

For the Warriors, the practice schedule is more demanding, and not just because they’re newer to the competition. “At a smaller facility like ours, the challenges are unique,” says Bennett.
“Our team actually practices at the CReWSers’ facilities.”
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That’s an hour drive, with traffic. “We have to practice before and after shifts,” says Bennett. “It takes a lot of coordination to do that. We’re really blessed that all 15 of our staff are really dedicated to the Challenge. They take a tremendous amount of pride in how the team does. From a management perspective, this is an excellent team-building activity. All the team members come together. It’s really exciting to see it happen.”

Brown adds, “We spend a lot of time on our own, maintaining our physical fitness and studying for the various tests. We couldn’t do this without great management support.”

Keys to victory

In the eyes of the TRA teams, experience counts heavily in a successful competition. “We have been working together so long, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Burrow. “We can put the right person in the right spot for a particular event.”
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Says Price, of the CReWSers, “Consistency definitely is a key, especially to stay competitive at the national level. Consistency is necessary both during practice and at the event itself. We spend a lot of time going over the rules, working on speed and accuracy. We’re always pushing to better our times.”

At the same time, teams need to be able to adapt to change. “The events change so often,” says Bennett. “The safety event is radically different now than it used to be.” Equipment and procedures change, and vendors bring in new technology, he notes, so teams need to keep up to date and up to new challenges, as the events change about every three years.

The ability to accept criticism is just as important.  “One of the things you learn right off the bat is to take constructive criticism,” points out Burrow. Members shouldn’t get upset when things are pointed out that need to be done better, to help the team overall, he notes.

Brown adds, “If you do mess up, you need to forget it and move on to the next event. It can seem simple, but if you have one little blip, it can throw everything off.” He recalls a time when his team recorded a slower time in pipe cutting because they weren’t familiar with the pipe material: “You need to get it out of your head and work through it.”

Finally, success calls for strong individual effort. “We study for the process control event all year long,” says Brown. “The amount of time spent individually is often overlooked. It ties in with how the team does. All eyes are on you. If you don’t bring it on game day, you’re dead in the water. The guys around you are there to help and support you. We back each other up.”

Friendships and networks 

A key outcome of the Operations Challenge is the opportunity it gives participants to get to know other teams from around the country and network with them. “It’s great to get out there and meet teams from other states,” says Burrow. “It’s nice to talk with them. We’ve become very good friends. During the recent flooding in Texas, other teams offered to bring pumps down to us if we needed them. They had our back.”

Likewise, he says, when Hurricane Sandy tore up the East Coast a couple of years ago, his team touched base with teams they knew in that area, offered any help that might have been necessary, and made sure everybody was all right.

Whether on a winning team or not, participants in the Operations Challenge event have a special opportunity to learn what’s happening in the clean-water profession and transfer that know-how to their daily work. “A lot of things we do for Operations Challenge give us a better understanding of what we’re doing in our job,” says Moore, of the Waste Warriors.

Juarez, a four-year veteran of the competition, explains it this way: “When I got involved, it provided me with a window as to where the industry was going.” In particular, he says the process control tests introduced him to changes in technology that he hadn’t been exposed to: “It forces me to stay updated on technology. It’s helped me learn more than any class could ever teach me. I’m getting a lot of knowledge that’s useful in my daily routine.”

Burrow echoes that: “For safe entry, we’re seeing new gas detectors, new safety harnesses and new gantry tripods.” In collections, he says, the team got to see new autosamplers for the first time. “We get exposed to a lot of new equipment supplied by vendors, and we can take that experience into our own departments.”

Price adds, “It carries over into our day-to-day responsibilities. After doing this for so many years, it almost seems a mindset, trying to figure out more efficient ways of doing things.”

Texas Pride

Dale Burrow says one of the things he’s most proud of is that Texas is one of only four states that have won the Division 1 Operations Challenge competition since it was introduced in 1988.

The only other states that have had winning teams are California, Colorado and Virginia. In this year’s competition, 44 teams qualified for the national event, coming from the U.S., Canada, and, for the first time, Germany.

“The Ops Challenge makes me proud to represent Texas,” Burrow says. “We’re there to show folks what we do. As they watch and witness the test runs, they realize there’s more to it than they may have thought.”

The TRA CReWSers have every intention of winning it all again. The Waste Warriors just want to keep on getting better and “take something that we learned home with us,” says team member Andrew Moore.

What’s It All About?

The Operations Challenge is one of the most popular events at the annual WEFTEC conference. It’s a chance for wastewater collections and treatment personnel to demonstrate, before cheering audiences, their skills dealing with flooding, workplace accidents, process problems and other emergency situations.

Each team is sponsored by a Water Environment Federation Member Association or recognized Operator Association. In many cases, state and regional competitions determine which teams will compete in the national Challenge at WEFTEC.

Winners are determined by a weighted point system for five events: collections systems, laboratory, process control, maintenance and safety. To find out more about the Operations Challenge, send an email to opschallenge@wef.org.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Infrastructure Matters

From PNCWA President Shannon Ostendorff

Infrastructure Week – May 16th-23rd, 2016 – is a week-long series of events raising awareness about how #InfrastructureMatters to our country’s
economy, health and safety, and communities. Across the country, businesses, labor organizations, elected officials and more will join together to tell citizens and policymakers alike how #InfrastructureMatters to their businesses and jobs, communities, health and safety, and daily lives – and the need for increased and continued investment from all levels of government and the private sector.
Want to take part in our efforts around or find ways to urge others that #InfrastructureMatters? Find out more here: http://infrastructureweek.org/participate/.
It is scary to realize how complacent our country has become in accepting crumbling infrastructure as the norm. We’ve been told over and over that our bridges are crumbling, that our international competitors are investing more in high speed rail, modern airports, and bigger shipping ports. While just about every few months, some kind of preventable catastrophic infrastructure event happens in America. But nothing seems to spur leaders into taking decisive action.
Infrastructure matters. It matters, in big ways and in small, to our country, our economy, our quality of life, our safety, and our communities. Roads, bridges, rails, ports, airports, pipes, the power grid, broadband… infrastructure matters to companies that manufacture and ship goods. It matters to our daily commutes and our summer vacations. Infrastructure determines if we can drink water straight from our taps and flush our toilets or do our laundry. It brings electricity in to our homes. Ultimately, infrastructure matters to every aspect of our daily lives.
That is why PNCWA has teamed up with hundreds of other groups around the country to participate in Infrastructure Week 2016. We’re raising awareness about the need to invest in infrastructure, which is the backbone of our economy, locally and nationally.
Every year America fails to adequately invest in our infrastructure, the United States becomes less competitive, our economy grows more slowly, and families and businesses lose valuable time and money. The goods we manufacture cost more when they get stuck on congested highways, rerouted around structurally deficient bridges, and stranded at outdated ports. Continued reliance on World War II era technology and airports that lack sufficient capacity cause U.S. consumers to skip travel, costing the economy tens of billions of dollars each year.

Our failure to invest in our infrastructure ripples throughout the economy: for every $1 invested in infrastructure nearly, $2 in output is created – putting our friends and neighbors to work.
Decades of underfunding and deferred maintenance have pushed our country to the brink of a national infrastructure crisis. And we accept preventable tragedies as normal, when they should in fact be entirely unacceptable: fatal mass transit accidents; deadly, poisonous drinking water; sickening gas leaks; levee-breaking floods; deadly pipeline bursts; and rivers contaminated with raw sewage.

America’s poorly-funded infrastructure and transportation systems can be more than just inconvenient; they can be harmful to our health and safety. Importantly, all of these tragedies are preventable with adequate investment – they are not merely unfortunate accidents we must endure.
Every dollar we invest in infrastructure is an investment in our neighborhoods, and our future. Because our roads are in poor condition and littered with potholes U.S. drivers pay more than $500 in avoidable vehicle repairs and operating costs each year. And, instead of wasting over 40 hours each year stuck in traffic jams, we could spend that time better.

Americans deserve a 21st century transportation network; modern aviation systems; safe, clean, reliable water and wastewater service; broadband access in every community; and, a freight network and ports that can keep pace in the global economy. To grow our economy, keep Americans safe, and our communities strong, we need all levels of government and the private sector to work together to rebuild and repair our nation’s infrastructure.

During Infrastructure Week, groups are coming together recognize progress and leadership at the federal, state, and local levels – and there is much to celebrate. But our work is nowhere near complete. As we look to 2016 and beyond, closing our country’s trillion-dollar infrastructure investment gap demands a strong federal partner in funding large and transformative projects. We are going to need real collaboration between the public and private sectors to identify and implement innovative solutions. And leaders at all levels are going to need to finally wake up and commit to building a long-term, sustainable plan to invest in America’s infrastructure. There is too much at stake to fail at any of this. Infrastructure matters too much.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From the President, Mike Ollivant

It is a rewarding experience representing all of the hard working volunteers that make PNCWA such a robust and exciting association. This year is certainly no different from years past with numerous Committee and Board Members volunteering countless hours to move the association forward and to be a voice for clean water throughout the Northwest. I’m also excited to report on just a couple of the important actions taken by the Committees and the Board of Directors in the early part of the year.

New Sponsorship and Conference Options - As part of this year’s budgeting process the Board of Director conducted a comprehensive review of the annual sponsorship opportunities and value, conference registration costs, and overall value that our members, sponsors, and exhibiting manufactures receive when supporting PNCWA. As a result of that review PNCWA has instituted some particularly exciting changes that we believe will provide better value, and greater flexibility for our members and the great companies that support and participate in PNCWA. Some of the exciting changes include:

•    Priority exhibit booth options for vendors / manufactures at the annual conference
•    Greatly increased value for Tertiary, Secondary, or Primary sponsorships
•    Better value for PNCWA member vs nonmember conference fees

We appreciate our sponsors, members, and vendors / manufactures for supporting PNCWA throughout the year and at the annual conference, and I would like to thank you all in advance for your continued support this year.

Governmental Affair Committee – In 2013 PNCWA formed the Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC) to stay abreast of important policy issues that can and will affect our members. The GAC represented PNCWA last year at the WEF – AWWA Fly-In in Washington D.C., bringing a common voice to the Congressional delegations for Washington, Idaho, and Oregon on policy matters that affect the Northwest as well as the. Again this year, PNCWA will represent the Northwest and will be partnering with NACWA for the 2014 National Water Policy Forum and Fly-In, April 7-9 by sending a representative for each of our three great states. 

In addition to broader national policy issues, GAC members are focusing on human health toxics rules/criteria and fish consumption, and water quality trading as a potential option for compliance with NPDES Permit Limits in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. More is to come on those topics.

Our Mission and the Newsletter – As a member of PNCWA you can help us reach out to our profession, other members, and the public by providing articles for the quarterly newsletter. This is a great opportunity to educate others and to help preserve and enhance the water quality in the Northwest. Please contact Sheri Wantland, Chair of the Newsletter Committee, with your contribution.

I would like to thank all of the members of PNCWA for your contributions, support, and hard work.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Southwest Idaho Operators Section - Annual Meeting
December 11, 2013
Address from the PNCWA Board
PNCWA Secretary, David Keil, P.E. (SPF Water Engineering, LLC)

On behalf of the Board of the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association, thanks to all of you for inviting us to participate in your annual meeting and celebration.  You clearly have a healthy and vibrant section thanks to the hard work and dedication of many.  Laurelei, special thanks to you for leading the section recently and for putting together a terrific operators’ conference earlier this year.  Also, congratulations on your somewhat recent promotion, all the awards you’ve been winning, and your marriage this summer.  You’ve had a big year and we’re all really happy for you!

Have you ever had to explain your job to your family?  I’ve had the pleasure of having to explain what I do several times.  I recall, not long after college, when I traveled to visit my mother for Thanksgiving, she had some of her friends over and we were sitting around the coffee table talking and one of my mother’s friends had asked my older brother and me what each of us do for a living. 

My brother is an engineer at Boeing and was deeply involved in the design of the 777 jumbo jet.  The 777 at the time was Boeing’s hottest new airplane, capable of flying long distances, and which had broken multiple sales records for Boeing.  It was the airplane to save Boeing and keep Seattle as “the Jet City.” My brother had since moved on to manage the design of various parts of the 787, Boeing’s newest airplane, and he had traveled to really cool and exotic places – Japan, England, Italy, Germany, and Israel.  As far as I am concerned, he is in just about as “sexy” of a career as any engineering student could be – that is, if you want to call engineers sexy.  In my mind, my brother has a really cool career. 

To answer the question about what we do, my brother proudly answered, “I design airplanes for Boeing.”  The eyes of my mother’s friends seemed to open widely as they were clearly impressed.  When they turned to me, clearly looking for an equally impressive response, I said, “I design sewer systems.”  I don’t know if they were disappointed, confused, or astonished, but I suspect they were not as impressed with my response as they were with my brother’s. After several moments had passed, one of my mother’s friends had commented, “Well, I know which one I cannot live without!”  She meant the sewers.

Each of you provide a service to our communities that none of us can live without.  If we did not have clean water, what would we do?  You give us clean water.  Thank you.

I also like to look back on my favorite high school English teacher, Mr. Schmang.  He was a funny, jaded, old guy who took pleasure in challenging youthful idealism with provocative conundrums in his class, “Literature of Conflict and Survival.”  What a cool class name?  I’m sure every Idaho kid would stand in line for hours to get that class!  Mr. Schmang liked to tease us kids with various moral dilemmas.  He would sort of go through his desk drawer full of literary hand grenades, toss one into the middle of the room, and sit back in his chair and smile widely as we kids debated whatever topic de jour he felt compelled to detonate.

Of all the long discussions we had, my favorite one-liner by Mr. Schmang is, “Be sure to flush your toilets so Chinook can drink!”  Yuck!  Our water – or more correctly, our wastewater – flows downhill? Is he serious?  Wait a minute, who is upstream of us?  Hmmm…  It was around that same time that my father encouraged me to get into the water industry.  I really didn’t know much about why we have safe and reliable water when we turn on our taps, nor did I appreciate what happens to our wastewater when we flush.  Getting into the water industry required math and science – hey, I’m pretty good at both of those – and we’re always going to need people who can keep our water clean.  Seemed like a great move to me!  So, here we are.

Each of you have your own stories of how you got here.  Why are you in the water industry?  What is it about what you do that keeps you coming to work? 

This is an exciting time in the water industry.  We are not short on challenges.  We have new regulations that we need to navigate.  We have limited funds to implement systems to meet unlimited pressures and push beyond the limits of technology or we seek and find alternative solutions when technology seems to be a barrier.  Even though you are doing your best, someone is always pushing you to do more.  Why?  It’s because we all value our water and you are on the front lines of keeping our water clean!  It isn’t personal.  It’s what you do.  Embrace it.  Be proud of it.

We have countless opportunities to be creative and meet new challenges!  We’re already seeing emerging technologies that are no longer emerging, but are commonplace, all in the spirit of pushing that much more and meeting new clean water challenges.  And, it isn’t just about water anymore!  What we have called sewer plants has shifted to being called wastewater treatment plants and then to being called water reclamation facilities and now some are being called resource recovery facilities.  First, resource recovery facilities recycle water – they’ve been recycling water since before the Clean Water Act – so that Chinook, the town downstream from my home town, and other downstream communities, can drink.  Second, a global phosphorus limitation can limit the world’s future agricultural production and increase an already alarming starvation rate.  Do you know anywhere in the world that has more nutrients than they want and would be more than happy if someone would simply come and take it?  How about your wastewater treatment plant?  Resource recovery moves beyond removing nutrients into recovering nutrients.  Last, our treatment plants typically use more energy than any other asset owned by a city or a utility, yet our treatment plants oftentimes produce large amounts of energy waiting to be captured.  Resource recovery doesn’t just “waste” gas in a burner, it recovers the energy that is available in excess biogas. 

These are great opportunities to learn and do more!  But, where do we learn about these things?  How can we affect change to make sure these things are done in a smart way and add to the betterment of society instead of become a burden of just one more thing to operate? 

We can learn about these kinds of things by being active in the Southwest Idaho Operators Section on the local level, the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association on the regional level, the Water Environment Federation on the national or international level, or any one of these great organizations.  These organizations have a healthy blend of operators, engineers, manufacturers, academics, and regulators who engage in healthy conversations relating to key issues that affect what you do.  All you need to do to participate is to get involved in something.  It can range from participating in a webinar, which are often free and rarely go more than an hour, to joining a technical committee or a conference organizing committee, or even being an active SWIOS, PNCWA, or WEF board member.  Whatever it is, you are involving yourself in a conversation with your peers in the water industry – the people on the front lines of producing clean water – to discuss what more we can all do to leave clean water not just for Chinook and other downstreamers, but also for our kids and grandkids.  You make it happen, but you don’t do it alone.  It takes a team.  SWIOS is your team and PNCWA is your team.  We’re all here to help you and because we believe in clean water for ourselves, for our families, and for future generations as much as you do.

So, whether you are interested in learning through webinars or conferences, or you have an interest in helping on a committee, or anything else, pick up the phone, write an email, go to our websites, or for those young or young at heart professionals, send a tweet or text to any board or committee member about getting involved.  It only takes an interest to get active. 

Finally, we should all keep our perspective.  While we might not have sexy jobs building shiny, new airplanes that take us to the four corners of the globe, not many people in the world can say that they carry out as important of a mission on a daily basis as you do.  Be proud.  Be active. 

Thank you for asking me to visit with you today and thank you for keeping our water clean!  Have a great meeting!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

PNCWA President Mike Ollivant

Dear PNCWA Members, Colleagues, and Good Friends,

This year is promising to be busy and productive at PNCWA. We started the year at the annual conference asking for membership involvement in committee work, and sections to continue to keep moving the great work of PNCWA. Membership involved is certainly needed this year as we have a very aggressive Strategic Plan with many actions for the committee’s to accomplish this year. The board has been working with the committee’s over the last few months since the annual conference, and with their input the Strategic Plan (along with strategic actions) was adopted by the Board of Directors on 11/15/13. Past President Mark Poling has also provided greater detail about the Strategic Plan within the newsletter and I would encourage you to review the article.

We also implemented the “Ask PNCWA” button on the website to allow membership to ask PNCWA to take action on important issues facing our industry. We have received a range of questions from simple administration to actions to be considered by one or many of the Committee’s. As I continue to meet and engage with more and more of the committee’s and people that belong to our association I’m amazed by the shear talent that we have available to address our industry challenge. I would encourage members to access the Ask PNCWA button and challenge this extremely talented association.

It’s never early too plan and that is exactly what it takes to get ready for our 2014 annual conference. The kickoff for the 2014 Vancouver Washington conference happened on 11/13/13 at the Hilton Conference Center. It is shaping up to be an awesome event that addresses many of the innovations in plant and collection improvements along with renewed emphasis on non-point and storm water challenges and solutions.

So I will leave you with this thought /request: we can accomplish much more through the combined talent of our association PNCWA, so get involved, be engaged, and continue to challenge each other.

Michael Ollivant P.E., Parametrix Inc.