August 2013, Vol. 25, No.8

WEFTEC Preview

WEFTEC 2013: Same quality, new perspectives

In many ways, the 87th annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC®) will be much like the previous 86 — packed with reliable and useful information on water and wastewater operations and engineering as well as a vibrant exhibition showing off the latest technologies and solutions. But much has changed this year as well. 

This year’s conference offers several enhancements that open the experience to new audiences, take full advantage of technology, and capture and share the expertise and opinions of everyone present. WEFTEC 2013 is not about attending, listening, or seeing; it’s about participating, interacting, and sharing. 

  

Lowering barriers  

To help ensure that as many water professionals as possible experience all that WEFTEC has to offer,  WEF and the WEFTEC exhibitors worked together to streamline registration categories and reduce prices. 

In fact, all registration fees have been reduced and simplified for WEFTEC 2013. Now full-conference and one-day attendees will pay less for the same amount of content and be free from navigating date-sensitive specials and categories.   

In addition, for WEFTEC 2013 there is no charge for exhibition-only registration, which is provided compliments of WEF and the WEFTEC exhibitors. To get the no-charge exhibition-only registration, attendees must register online. (There is a $50 fee for exhibition-only registration if attendees do not take advantage of online registration.) Visit www.weftec.org/register for full details.   

  

Leveraging technology  

Attendees also can benefit from this year’s WEFTEC Mobile App, which has been completely reimagined and redesigned. This helpful preshow planning and onsite navigation tool is available for tablets and smartphones for Android, Apple, BlackBerry, and Windows devices. It enables users to build a schedule to make the most of WEFTEC on the go. WEFTEC Mobile also can be accessed via the Web, giving users the ability to create a schedule on one device and access it on another. Visit  http://app.core-apps.com/weftec2013  to access the WEFTEC Mobile App. 

The app features are robust: 

 

  • The dashboard provides up-to-the-minute exhibitor, speaker, and conference program information.   
  • Sync creates a schedule with one click.   
  • Alerts deliver important real-time communications.   
  • WEFTEC 2013 News keeps attendees current on the news stories of the day.   
  • Social media feeds let users participate in show chatter.   
  • Rating abilities enable users to comment on sessions and events.   
  • An interactive floor map helps to locate exhibitors.   
  • The Friends feature lets users connect with colleagues.   
  • The photo gallery collects event photos and experiences to share.   
  • Travel accommodation helps attendees plan their Chicago travel and lodging.   

 

Assembling the players  

The new pricing options and better technology integration all serve the same purpose: to make WEFTEC as accessible and useful to as many members of the water sector as possible. This year also includes special focuses for two particular groups: operators and stormwater professionals. 

Since the beginning of sanitation, operators have been the backbone of effective treatment. WEFTEC exists in large part to help operators find the information they need. The article on p. 20 details precisely which sessions, tracks, and opportunities have been especially designed to help operators learn, interact, and network at WEFTEC 2013. 

On the other end of the spectrum, stormwater professionals are relative newcomers to the wastewater sector. However, as green solutions emerge to stormwater and overflow challenges faced by utilities, stormwater practitioners are becoming valuable partners. To that end, WEF has co-located the Stormwater Congress with WEFTEC 2013 to foster continued interaction and collaboration. Read the article on p. 26 for details. 

  

— Steve Spicer, WE&T  

    

WEFTEC offers a bounty of hands-on learning opportunities for operators  

 

WEFTEC© 2013 offers something for everyone, and water-sector operators will find a range of topics and activities designed for them. Operators only have to look for sessions and workshops listed under “Facility Operations and Maintenance” on the program to find events designed especially for those in the profession, according to Chibby Alloway, chair of the WEFTEC Program Facility Operations and Maintenance Subcommittee. 

The subcommittee’s mission is to make sure WEFTEC incorporates topics that “have experienced operational efficiencies or have gone through an operational test or an evaluation,” Alloway said. These sessions and workshops portray “practical applications” of the research and technology also featured at WEFTEC, he added.  

Key features of WEFTEC this year include workshops and the complimentary exhibition floor. Both offer opportunities to learn about the range of topics that appeal to operators, Alloway explained. Topics cover everything found in a treatment facility, from laboratory and treatment processes to asset management and workforce issues. 

  

Bring on the interactive learning in workshops  

Workshops provide in-depth and interactive learning opportunities each year. “Workshops are always very informative and hands-on,” Alloway said. Workshop 20, “Activated Sludge and BNR [Biological Nutrient Removal] Process Control: Hands-On in the Real World,” is one example. The Oct. 6 workshop will be held at the John Egan Water Reclamation Plant in Schaumburg, Ill., where presenters will demonstrate process-control tests, measurement techniques, and troubleshooting methods focusing on the BNR activated sludge system. 

  

Take advantage of the complimentary exhibition  

New this year, attendees who register in advance online can experience the technical exhibition free of charge, courtesy of the exhibitors. The registration includes the opportunity to participate in the many educational opportunities on the exhibition floor, including the mobile, technical, and exhibitor showcase sessions, as well as the innovation and stormwater pavilions and theaters. 

Participating in this year’s exhibition offers an “incredible opportunity,” Alloway said. The exhibition enables operators to “walk up and talk to any expert … from any type of treatment facility that they would ever come across,” Alloway said. The opportunity is particularly valuable for operators working at facilities planning for a future expansion, looking to install a new technology, or expecting a permit change, he said. And operators should attend many years in advance of any of these events to be prepared early in planning phases, he added.  

  

Navigate the exhibition with WEF’s mobile app and website  

The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) has provided a new mobile app that attendees can access on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android devices or online at http://app.core-apps.com/weftec2013.  

In addition to finding and adding WEFTEC events to a personal schedule, the app enables users to search for exhibitors based on topic area, view a map of the exhibit floor on-the-go, and take advantage of a “locate me” option that provides walking directions from their current location to the exhibitor they want to visit. “Anybody’s that’s been there for the first time is just amazed at how big [the exhibition] is,” Alloway said. The new app also is a useful tool to optimize one’s time on the floor, he said. 

  

Go mobile in the exhibit hall  

Mobile sessions combine educational presentations on a topic with in-depth information on technologies related to that topic. “You actually get taken to specific vendors, and the vendors have specific pitches and discussion items,” Alloway said. 

Mobile Session 324, “Innovative Inline Technologies Support Treatment Plant Process Decisions,” starts in the exhibit hall at Booth 161 on Oct. 8. The session highlights the link between the laboratory and plant operations, focusing on innovative in-line analytical technologies. Participants will be able to see these types of technologies, which can help treatment plant operators monitor and optimize processes. 

  

  Attend a session on the exhibit floor  

Exhibition registrants also can access technical sessions on the floor. Technical Session (TS) 310, “Laboratory Done Right,” and TS 412, “Fueling Human Energy To Achieve Operational Excellence,” are designed to appeal to operators. Both sessions take place on Oct. 8 at Booth 161.  

In the morning at TS 310, attendees will learn how laboratory results and innovative technologies can be used by treatment plant operators to make operational decisions to optimize treatment processes. In the afternoon at TS 412, attendees will learn how agencies have adopted practices to successfully develop and replace wastewater treatment workforce to achieve operational excellence.  

  

Take advantage of other events and learning opportunities at WEFTEC  

Operators also can watch their peers compete in the 26th Annual Operations Challenge. Teams of operators compete Oct. 7 in process-control and laboratory events, and Oct. 8 in maintenance, collections, and safety events. 

In addition, posters outside of technical sessions require no preregistration and enable interaction with presenters. “You can talk directly with the principal investigator [who] wrote the paper,” Alloway said. 

Attending WEFTEC is especially important so operators can learn about new equipment and technologies that may be needed or recommended for their facilities. “You want to have some insight, and the only way to have insight is to have knowledge, and that’s really what WEFTEC can give you,” Alloway said. “There’s a lot of data and a lot of information to make informed recommendations and decisions.” 

WEFTEC gives operators the opportunity to take practical knowledge back to their facilities while earning continuing education units to obtain certification renewals, Alloway said. He recommends that attendees make a plan of action by first listing technical topics they want to learn about, then finding and registering for sessions or events that provide the information they need, and, finally, mapping out technologies and booths they want to see on the exhibit floor before arriving. 

  

Jennifer Fulcher, WE&T  

  

Meet Cordell Samuels, WEF president 2012–2013 

   

WE&T: Why did you decide to become an operator? 

Samuels: I started in operations after getting laid off from the maintenance department in the city of Toronto in 1983. I was drawn to the sector because of all the heavy equipment that was in use in the plants, as well as all the learning I would be exposed to, and needed to do the job. There were a lot of challenges presented, and I was keen to learn. 

  

Q: What’s the best thing about working in the wastewater treatment sector as an operator? 

A: The knowledge that daily I am making a valuable contribution to public health. When I was younger, I lost a couple of my relatives and almost lost my brother and sister to an outbreak of gastroenteritis. This was an outbreak that occurred every year during the rainy season. This drives me to work hard every day and make any other contribution I can to protect others. 

  

Q: What skills and personalities make for the best operators? 

A: The ability to learn and apply what is taught makes for the best operators. Attention to detail, calmness in difficult circumstances, and quick thinking ... are great skills, which enhance the operator’s work. A person who does not take themselves too seriously and can bounce back quickly from setbacks is the best personality trait for an operator.  

  

Q: Are great operators born or made? 

A: I believe that great operators are made. The ability to learn and apply what was learned is an indispensable quality of an operator. There are new methods, processes, and approaches that constantly are being introduced into the day-to-day operation of a wastewater recovery facility. For example, almost everything is changed in the plant since I started in the business. What has served me well has been the ability and willingness to adapt and learn many new things.  

  

Q: How important is it to have qualified, well-trained operators? 

A: The new facilities and processes constantly require well-trained operators. New legislation and the constant reduction of the compliance limits demand that persons running the facilities and processes are well-trained to begin with and are constantly being upgraded in their training. The best, most-qualified graduates are needed in this industry now more than ever.  

  

Q: When and why did you attend your first WEFTEC®? 

A: I attended my first WEFTEC in Chicago in the 1990s. I attended as a result of my involvement in Operations Challenge in Ontario, where I was the coordinator of the Water Environment Association of Ontario [WEAO] competition, and traveled with the team from the city of Toronto. I got involved with the WEF [Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.)] Operations Challenge committee at that time and have never missed a WEFTEC since. 

  

Q: What surprised you most as an operations expert when you came to WEFTEC? 

A: I was first enthralled by the microbiology workshop. I was so impressed that on my return home I organized a 2-day seminar with [the presenter] on the weekend of the next WEAO conference. The size of the trade show even then was an eye-opener for me. I had never seen so many big toys — I mean pieces of equipment — in one place before. 

  

Q: Are you looking forward to any events in particular this year? 

A: Being president, I have many things I am looking forward to. However, the opening session and gavel passing will be my favorite. I am looking forward to another great trade show and hope to be able to assist in making this a great experience for attendees. 

  

Q: What do operators get out of attending WEFTEC? 

A: The first benefit of WEFTEC for operators is the opportunity to learn and be exposed to the latest technologies in operation in the industry. The large population of experts in one place who are ready and able to assist with any process or maintenance problems is a very great benefit. Also, learning what others are doing to solve similar problems is always helpful. The new initiatives being introduced, including the operator innovations, are really helpful at this time. 

  

Q: What’s the hidden gem for operators at WEFTEC? 

A: It is becoming a cliché, but the relationships that are built are the real gems — it’s not obvious but is a real benefit of attending WEFTEC. I have formed friendships and shared solutions to plant problems with people from all over North America and other places in the world. I received a call from an operator in Australia a few years ago who heard from a person I had met at WEFTEC that had developed a process to do a polymer trial on a plate-and-frame press. I sent him the information electronically, and he used it to do his trials. This demonstrates what is possible. 

  

— Jennifer Fulcher, WE&T  

  

WEFTEC welcomes a new variety of water professional 

  

For many years, WEFTEC® has included a focus on wet weather. Sessions, workshops, and exhibits have provided analysis and solutions for handling rainfall-swollen volumes, inflow and infiltration, surcharged sewers, and other wet weather issues. But this year, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) is taking this focus one step further and co-locating the Stormwater Congress with WEFTEC 2013. 

The Stormwater Congress will include professionals from the public and private sector who work with the effects of stormwater runoff on the landscape, as well as on drainage, treatment, and water supply infrastructure, according to Seth Brown, stormwater program and policy manager at WEF. “This includes consultants, stormwater managers, regulators, wet weather professionals, stream restoration specialists, environmental scientists, watershed managers, stormwater-related NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], and producers of proprietary devices in the stormwater/wet weather sector,” Brown said. 

  

Why split out stormwater?        

The focus of this event will be on how stormwater and wastewater, while separate topics, have begun to follow parallel and overlapping paths. Keynote speaker, Andrew Reese, vice president of AMEC (London) will speak about how stormwater and wastewater management differ at their core, especially as these fields address topics associated with financial and asset management issues. He will highlight that stormwater is well on its way on moving to a more business-like framework that already has been embraced by the wastewater sector for many decades. 

However, Brown added, this message does not mean that no ties exist between these two sectors, nor that there can be no learning between them. Changes in the sector, such as integrated planning, reflect the growing connection between stormwater and wastewater on the regulatory as well as programmatic fronts. In fact, the recently released WEF Manual of Practice 23, Design of Urban Runoff Controls, sets forth a view of stormwater treatment in terms of unit operations and unit processes taken directly from the wastewater treatment sector. 

  

An evolving topic  

Also, with wastewater as the more mature brother to stormwater, many lessons can be learned and provided to the stormwater sector regarding such issues as funding/financing, utility management, regulatory compliance, permitting, and technical processes, Brown said. 

According to William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 85% of water quality impairments in 1970 were attributed to point source pollution, such as industrial and wastewater discharge, with the remaining resulting from nonpoint discharges, including agricultural and urban stormwater runoff. By 2010, he also pointed out, these figures had reversed: 85% of water quality impairments now come from nonpoint discharges. 

Stormwater and urbanization, unlike other challenges in the water sector, cannot be solved wholly by a new membrane treatment method, digester, or other in-line engineered technologies. This challenge requires a combination of technical, natural, regulatory, and public-based solutions. 

In 2012, WEF brought together stormwater practitioners at the inaugural Stormwater Symposium in Baltimore. At this meeting, more than 400 people met to hear high-quality technical content and discuss the issues of the day. 

Now, the Stormwater Congress at WEFTEC 2013 will expand the breadth and depth of information to be shared and bring stormwater practitioners together with the rest of the water sector. 

  

Congressional docket 

On the docket for the Stormwater Congress are  

 

  • 19 sessions with more than 100 presentations,   
  • a hands-on workshop with four expert facilitators,   
  • a tour of Chicago stormwater facilities and best management practices, and   
  • a keynote luncheon featuring Reese’s remarks.   

 

The sessions will be organized in four concurrent tracks of technical and policy presentations focused specifically on stormwater and related topics. This programming will be located in an area separate from other WEFTEC sessions but still close enough to enable attendees to visit WEFTEC presentations easily. 

Co-locating the congress with WEFTEC offers participants access to the hundreds of WEFTEC presentations, Brown said. Of particular interest is that seven WEFTEC technical sessions will be focused on wet weather. 

  

Stormwater exhibition  

In addition to the technical sessions, the Stormwater Congress also includes an exhibition — the Stormwater Pavilion. The Stormwater Pavilion, initiated at WEFTEC 2012 as the first topic-specific exhibits pavilion within the greater WEFTEC exhibit, continues to be the focal point for stormwater exhibitors. In 2013, the pavilion also includes a theater that will extend the education opportunities onto the exhibition floor. 

Some of the events planned for the theater include a screening of a new documentary on green infrastructure, an award ceremony for a national stormwater design competition, a launch point for a mobile session focusing on stormwater and wet weather products, and opportunities for pavilion exhibitors to showcase products in brief presentations. 

  

— Steve Spicer, WE&T