September 2009, Vol. 21, No.9

WEFTEC Preview

WEFTEC®.09 Preview

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Water: The Giver of Life

WEFTEC speaker Mike Magee will explore the dynamic relationship between water and health during Opening General Session

Following the Flow at WEFTEC.09

One take on the technical program

The World’s Best Battle With Beakers, Brains, Pumps, and PVC

Operations Challenge Preview



Water: The Giver of Life

WEFTEC speaker Mike Magee will explore the dynamic relationship between water and health during Opening General Session

WEFTEC®.09 keynote speaker and health care advocate Mike Magee has one basic philosophy: The best kind of health care system is one that allows individuals to reach their full human potential. And for Magee, health and environmental issues are inextricably linked. Global water scarcity, in particular, is a major concern.

To stay healthy and reach full human potential, an individual must have access to an adequate water supply, he argues in his 2005 book

Healthy Waters: What Every Health Professional Should Know About Water

. He also explores the connection between health and water in his “Drops of Life” tour, a big-screen presentation that he has made at venues throughout the United States.

For several years, Magee has urged health care professionals to make the leap from hospitals into the environmental arena and wants them to become “fully engaged” with water professionals to reach an ambitious goal. “Basically, unite the water professional community with the health care community in order to pursue policy that will assure full human health [potential] in the U.S. and around the world,” Magee said.  Magee said he hopes that during this pursuit, both disciplines will learn from each other and build long-term relationships.

“When you have two populations like the health care community and the water professional community, you on the one hand try to convey to the health care community some of the facts and figures that are quite familiar to the water professional community, while at the same time attempting to bring to the water professional community a health care professional’s sense of context and purpose, and how environmental issues and water issues might be interpreted by [them],” Magee explained. “So you’re attempting to build a common language and culture that would encourage [both communities] and empower them to work closely together on joint objectives in the future.”

From Small-Town Doc to Global Advocate

Though Magee is now a senior fellow for health policy at the Center for Aging Services Technologies at the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (Washington, D.C.) and editor for Web sites Health Commentary and, he started his career humbly in the 1980s as a small-town doctor in New England. He said he became involved in health care consumer advocacy when he noticed a “wide range of issues affecting my patients.”

Magee later did advocacy volunteering, eventually becoming the head of a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization focused on children’s health. Along the way, he began to talk about health care in the media. He became a medical broadcaster for WWLP-NBC, a television station in Springfield, Mass.; a medical editor on a local radio show, Medical Digest; and an editor for publications such as Massachusetts Medicine. In other professional areas, he climbed the ladder to hospital and medical school management.

During those years, Magee wrote several books, includingThe Principles of Positive Leadership and Positive Doctors in America. It was his book All Available Boats: The Maritime Evacuation of Manhattan Island on September 11, 2001 that eventually led him to investigate the relationship between water and health.

An Eye-Opening Experience

Magee had written

All Available Boats

at the request of a small museum that wanted him to document how the U.S. Coast Guard was able to organize a large flotilla of commercial and pleasure boats to evacuate 300,000 people from Manhattan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. “It was the largest maritime evacuation since Dunkirk,” he explained.

The book and his interviews with the Coast Guard led to an exhibit at the United Nations. While at the exhibit, Magee was approached by Kerstin Leitner, then head of water policy at the U.N., who is now assistant director general of Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments at the World Health Organization (Geneva).

“She [Leitner] came up to me and asked, ‘What do you or any doctor really know about water anyhow?’” Magee said. “I said, ‘I don’t know very much, and I don’t think most doctors do.’ And she said, ‘You ought to change that.’”

A week later, Magee received a shipment of five boxes “that, when it was piled up, was about 8 feet [2.4 m] high,” Magee said. “Dr. Leitner had sent me all the published material that the U.N. had complied the last 5 years for the second Water for Life project.”

Water for Life is a decadelong project that began in 2005 with the mission to address various global issues dealing with water. Magee said he spent the summer wading through the material.

“I determined that while I had a tremendous amount of information, it was not useful in its current form,” Magee said. “But if it was translated properly, it might be useful to a wide range of people. I basically absorbed all of that material, and that summer, I wroteHealthy Waters.”

In the book, Magee explores many topics, from the hydrological cycle to the pricing of water globally. He examines the scientific, economic, and social contexts of water. In the epilogue, he wrote that after all his research, he had developed “a different vision of our planet. Earth, covered in vast oceans of water, is actually a quite fragile planet, requiring care and wise policy.

Magee concluded that in addition to enlightened policy, good planning and prevention also are required to save the world’s waters and, therefore, improve global health. “Sound system design, proper land use rights, ongoing investment in technology, stakeholder participation and careful monitoring, design and operation are critical,” he wrote

The Next Step

After publishingHealthy Waters and launching his Web site,, Magee was approached by Duarte Design (Mountain View, Calif.). The graphic design company is the same firm that produced the presentation for Al Gore’s Oscar-winning environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth. “They felt that [Healthy Waters] would be an ideal companion piece to the work Vice President Gore had done on global warming and wanted to know if I would be willing to work with them in the creation of ‘Drops of Life,’” he said.  Magee opened his “Drops of Life” tour at the Massachusetts Medical Society in April. Now he will bring it to WEFTEC, but Magee said he plans to present more than just facts during WEFTEC’s opening session. “You have to not only present the right facts and figures, but you have to present them with a sense of honesty and urgency in a way that is both entertaining and inspirational,” he said. And the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.; WEF) is looking forward to what he has to share. “We are just delighted to have Dr. Magee make what I know will be an engaging, informative, and very likely inspirational presentation on the importance of water to environmental and human health,” said Eileen J. O’Neill, chief technical officer at WEF. Attendees will have the rare opportunity to hear a physician and professional communicator discuss the bigger-picture context of the work they do day to day.

— LaShell Stratton–Childers,WE&T





Following the Flow at WEFTEC.09  

Each year, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) seeks out technical sessions for WEFTEC® to cover leading-edge research and the newest technological developments to satisfy the needs of experts and veterans in the field. In addition, WEFTEC can be valuable for newcomers to the field, as well as those who have recently taken on extra responsibilities in new subject areas. At WEFTEC.09’s technical sessions, attendees will be able to follow the flow from flush to final effluent and beyond.

Collection Systems
The first challenge in wastewater treatment is effective and efficient transportation of wastewater from the customers to the treatment plant. WEFTEC.09 includes nine technical sessions dedicated specifically to collection systems issues.

Session 112, Improving Collection System Design Practices, begins at the very beginning of the process. With presentations such as “Look Before You Dig — Use of an Abandoned Gas Main To Install a 7500 Linear Foot Wastewater Force Main,” this session examines ways to optimize system capacity for dollars spent.

Session 50, Building Best Management Practices for Private Property Issues, contains presentations on such topics as completing an inflow and infiltration reduction program on private property as inexpensively as possible, as well as developing shared virtual libraries of private property information to reduce duplicated efforts.

Sessions 74 and 92, Effective Operation and Maintenance Practices, and Effective Rehabilitation and Emergency Response, respectively, examine the best ways to keep things flowing all the way to the treatment plant. For example, one presentation in Session 74 explores a cost-effective way to evaluate hydrogen sulfide deterioration in a concrete interceptor. Another looks at using global positioning system tools as a quality-assurance measure for collection system maintenance. In Session 92, attendees will learn how the City of Los Angeles rehabilitated a 100-year-old noncircular brick sewer, as well as how to push the limits of cured-in-place-pipe rehabilitation.

Preliminary Treatment
Once the flow reaches the plant, it’s time to begin treatment. The first step is to remove large debris to protect downstream equipment and prime the wastewater for further treatment.

Session 19, Let’s Be Up Front: What’s Happening at the Front End of the Plant, covers many headworks and preliminary treatment topics. Among these are how to improve grit removal using computational flow dynamic analysis and hydraulic software modeling of inlet works.

Session 90, meanwhile, covers grit and solids handling. Presenters will talk about managing fine grit, as well as grease. But grease isn’t always a waste product. One presentation will examine using what comes out of the grease interceptor as a supplemental carbon source.

Primary Treatment
On the topic of primary treatment, WEFTEC.09 goes beyond the basics to examine enhanced treatment options for dealing with high flows from wet weather, as well as preparation for advanced biological treatment techniques.

Session 46, Clarifier Performance and Sludge Volume Index Control, includes “Making Chemically Enhanced Primary Clarification Work for You.” In Session 12, Sustainable Solutions in Wastewater Treatment: Perspectives From Our Young Professionals, one of the presentations will include a case study on high-rate primary treatment preceding membrane treatment during wet weather.

Secondary Treatment
While membrane treatment is certainly a growing area, both in the industry and at WEFTEC, activated sludge still dominates. For example, Session 65, Advances in Biological Wastewater Treatment, includes presentations on seasonal changes in secondary treatment sedimentation and how this is linked to variability in biomass density. This session also examines which bacteria are present and how they interact in the activated sludge process.

Session 107, Secondary Biological Treatment Design Considerations, delves into the give-and-take of ensuring thorough mixing yet using as little energy as possible, as well as how to aerate a high-rate, low-solids retention-time activated sludge reactor.

For membrane- and integrated fixed-film information, see Session 69, MBBR [Moving Bed Bioreactor] and IFAS [Integrated Fixed-Film Activated Sludge] Processes. Some of the presentations in this session include “IFAS Optimizes Use of Existing Infrastructure and Upgrades Performance” and “Pilot Testing of Structured Sheet Media IFAS for Wastewater Biological Nutrient Removal.”

Solids Handling
To handle the solids generated during primary and secondary treatment, WEFTEC.09 has seven sessions dedicated to residuals and biosolids. These sessions cover the gamut from reducing solids production to digester optimization and thickening and dewatering practices to end-use options. Many of the solids-handling papers being presented detail comparisons among different processes and technologies.

For example, Session 6, Solids Reduction Advancements, includes a presentation examining the full-scale performance of solids reduction technologies. This presentation also looks at laboratory evidence explaining how these reductions occur.

Session 49, Digester Innovations, includes a presentation comparing two dual-digestion processes — thermophilic aerobic pretreatment followed by temperature-phased anaerobic digestion versus mesophilic anaerobic digestion. Likewise, one of the presentations in Session 64, Developments in Solids Treatment, includes the presentation “Optimizing Removal of Estrogenic Compounds in Biosolids: A Comparison of Anaerobic, Post-Aerobic, and Cambi Digestion Processes.”

Bioenergy and thermal processes are key topics in the biosolids and residuals arena. Session 73 is dedicated to these issues and includes a presentation on costs to use digester gas to produce energy, ways to boost digester gas production, factors in burning biosolids to produce energy, and methods to produce biofuel products from biosolids.

Another robust topic at WEFTEC.09 is disinfection, both chemical and ultraviolet (UV). One of the sessions discussing chemical techniques is Session 109, Application of Chlorine and Alternative Disinfectants To Achieve Permit Compliance. With presentations such as “Combining UV and Chlorine: Disinfection Efficacy, Byproducts, and Endocrine Disruptors in Pilot-Scale Experiments” and “Disinfection Performance of Iron (VI) for Wastewater Disinfection, Reuse, and Wetland Restoration,” this session looks at many different aspects of chemical use.

UV practices, on the other hand, play the lead role in several other sessions. In Session 24, Keys to Successful Application of UV Disinfection, attendees will learn about site-specific testing of UV disinfection at a trickling filter plant, as well as hear a discussion about whether UV disinfection is needed after ultrafiltration using a membrane bioreactor. Session 24 also includes a presentation titled “Disinfection Utilizing an Innovative Microwave UV System.”

Discharge, Reuse, and More
All of these treatment steps lead to the point of effluent discharge or reuse. It’s here where final concentrations of turbidity, bacteria, and nutrients show how well the upstream treatment processes work. Many topics come to play at this point — reuse technologies, microconstituent detection and quantification, public education strategies, total maximum daily load calculations, and more.

For example, Session 34, Treatment Technologies for Reclaimed Water, includes presentations such as “Cost-Effective Technologies for Small-Scale Water Reclamation Plants,” “Cost Benefit Economics of Recycled Water Disinfection Technologies,” and “Application of Ozone and Biological Media Filtration for Reclaimed Water.”

Even though following the flow through the wastewater treatment process highlights many important topics and presentations, it only scratches the surface of what’s offered at WEFTEC.09. The conference program also includes presentations on environmental and financial sustainability, work-force planning, energy conservation, and governmental affairs and regulations.


— Steve Spicer, WE&T

The World’s Best Battle With Beakers, Brains, Pumps, and PVC

Despite an “average” prediction for the 2009 hurricane season, a perfect storm is brewing in Orlando, Fla., as this year’s Operations Challenge shapes up to be another record-setter. With 43 teams sharpening their saws, dusting off their defibrillators, and preparing their pipettes, the field of competitors is more intense than ever.

As the Trinity River Authority (TRA) CReWSers from the Water Environment Association (WEA) of Texas look to establish themselves as an Operations Challenge dynasty, they face noteworthy opposition in last year’s runners-up, the LA Wrecking Crew from the California WEA. Likewise, the rest of the Division 1 field is watching their backs as Wasted Gas, from the WEA of Utah (WEAU), looks to make waves as it moves up from Division 2.

This year’s Operations Challenge will be scored, as always, by a team of dedicated judges. Among them, Rich Weigand is celebrating 20 years of judging authority at WEFTEC®, and Joe Yochim joins the judging team, bringing his experience as a Division 1 National Collegiate Athletic Association (Indianapolis) official (see below).

This year, Operations Challenge also features a revamped safety event, which adds new equipment and tests the operators’ ability to use an automatic external defibrillator (see below).

All events will be held in Hall C of the Orange County Convention Center. The Process Control Event begins at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 12. Also on Monday, the Laboratory event begins at 11:30 a.m. and is scheduled to conclude about 4 p.m. The following day, the competitors return to face the Collection Systems, Godwin Pump Maintenance, and Safety events. These three events will run simultaneously beginning at 9:15 a.m.

Whether teams are competing for the first or 22nd time, each team arrives in Orlando with one goal: Operations Challenge victory.

Defending a Fluid Title
The term “dynasty” is frequently debated within the sports world. But what’s clear is that the TRA CReWSers have established themselves as a dominant force in the Operations Challenge competition.


 Though victory at WEFTEC.09 would give the TRA team their fourth win in 5 years, team captain Dale Burrow is quick to recognize the talented field of competitors.

“It just gets tougher and tougher each year,” Burrow said. “We’ve got our eye on Virginia,” noting the skilled teams, Terminal Velocity and Team HRSD (Hampton Roads Sanitation District) of the Virginia WEA.

Burrow credits the health and staying power of his team, which has competed together for the last 5 years, with the CReWSers’ repeated success. He noted that, in the past, his team went for speed over accuracy. “Now we’re trying to slow down and cut out the mistakes,” he said.

Safety First

The Safety event for 2009 includes a significant change from last year. The restructured event uses different equipment, including a Safe Approach fall-protection device. After recovering the victim, the team also must revive the victim with an automatic external defibrillator training module.

Dale Burrow, captain of the Trinity River Authority (TRA) CReWSers from the Water Environment Association of Texas, and Paul Johnson, captain of the LA Wrecking Crew from the California Water Environment Association, commented that the new event is a positive change. For Burrow, the additional practice required to master new steps is bonus job training. Johnson noted that it could be a place to gain needed points but also a place to falter, adding that “you just hope you have found the best way to do it.”

— Calder Silcox, WE&T

Even with a talented group of competitors from across the country, Burrow confessed his biggest concern was local. “The Dallas Aqua Techs came close to beating us at the state competition,” he admitted. He also credited the San Antonio Power SAWS with a solid performance at the state event.

The Operations Challengers

Though the CReWSers proved in 2005 and 2006 that they could claim back-to-back titles, a field of nine Division 1 challengers is out to stop that from happening again. Their closest competition last year was the LA Wrecking Crew. Finishing only 14 points behind the CReWSers last year, the Wrecking Crew has victory in sight for Orlando.

Victory, according to LA Wrecking Crew captain Paul Johnson, lies in consistency. “We can’t blow up on any one event,” he said, noting the team’s solid performances in each event last year, leading to high overall marks.


Tell It to the Judge

In his 20-year tenure as an Operations Challenge judge, Richard Weigand has judged both the Laboratory and Safety events and written the Process Control exam. He noted the pride and professionalism he has seen in the operators every year since he started. “Plus, the uniforms and hard hats are a lot fancier,” he said.

With his lengthy experience at Operations Challenge, Weigand emphasized that practice makes perfect. “Choreograph each step,” he said in advice to competitors. “Try to anticipate and prepare for problems and mistakes so they can be corrected quickly.”

Where does Weigand think Operations Challenge is headed in the next 20 years? “I’d expect more technology events using advanced electronics [and] computers,” he said.

Also, in judging news, the Godwin Pump Maintenance Event is receiving a new judge this year with some special officiating qualifications. Joe Yochim of the Delaware County (Pa.) Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) brings 22 years of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA; Indianapolis) officiating experience to Operations Challenge. He referees football, basketball, lacrosse, and volleyball at both the college and high school levels.

Though Yochim has competed in Operations Challenge for the last 6 years with the DELCORA Loonatics, he decided this year to take off the hard hat and put on the judge’s uniform.

“I know what my responsibility is,” Yochim said on making the change. “When I’m in the striped shirt, I have a job to do.”

According to Yochim, judging an event at Operations Challenge is not so different from officiating an NCAA game. “It’s all a matter of knowing the rules,” he said. “You get into position, observe, and react to what’s going on in front of you.”

And the athletes? Both have similar dedication, according to Yochim, but sports can be everything to a college athlete. “An Ops challenge guy has family to take care of — Operations Challenge is just icing on the cake to him.”

Calder Silcox, WE&T

Johnson, like Burrow, acknowledged the entire Division 1 field as contenders to this year’s crown. “Anybody can win on any given day,” Johnson said.

Even the teams making the jump up from Division 2 this year command attention. Johnson pointed out that the difference between the divisions is not a wide gap. “There may be a bit of a learning curve,” he said. “But once they move up, you remember their names.”

Movin’ On Up
Looking to make a name for themselves is the Wasted Gas team from WEAU. The Operations Challenge fervor is evident in Utah, where organizers had to add bleachers to accommodate the crowds who came to watch the state competition at the annual WEAU conference. The conference organizers also had to reschedule the event because, according to Lance Wood, WEAU’s past president, “we were finding that people wanted to attend the competition, rather than attend the technical sessions.”

Wood noted that WEAU has seen an increase in membership during the last few years, thanks to new subsidy programs. As an added benefit from the recent growth, Utah secured a second spot in the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) House of Delegates, which enables WEAU to send a second team to compete in the national Operations Challenge competition.

Both WEAU teams finished strong at WEFTEC.08. The Wasatch All Stars and Central Valley Wasted Gas earned second and third place, respectively, in Division 2. This year, Utah is looking for robust performances from its teams again.

“We believe they are capable of being a worthy Division 1 team,” Wood said about Wasted Gas, which moves up to Division 1 this year.

Chris Reilley of the Wasted Gas team admits that he isn’t quite sure what Division 1 will be like. “All of our practice times are consistent with [Division 1] times,” he stated, “but practicing and competing are two different things.”

The Wasatch All Stars will compete in Division 2 again this year. The All Stars are a composite team, formed from members of each of the teams that compete at the state event. Due to Operations Challenge rules, composite teams cannot compete in Division 1.

With the Wasatch All Stars eyeing Division 2 and Wasted Gas making its move on Division 1, WEAU could achieve a state sweep, most recently realized by the TRA CReWSers and San Antonio Power SAWS in Dallas in 2006.

— Calder Silcox, WE&T

2009 Operations Challenge Events List

Process Control Event.

Teams must answer a number of multiple-choice questions, some short math questions with multiple-choice answers, and as many as four operational-type scenarios with four to six questions each that may require considerable calculations. The event is timed, with a maximum of 25 minutes allowed for completion. If a team completes the test before the end of the event, its actual time is recorded. The event should be viewed as an opportunity for team members to demonstrate their collective knowledge of wastewater treatment and skill in plant process control. This year’s event includes extended multiple-choice questions and fewer regular multiple-choice questions, partial credit for work shown in operational scenarios, and decreased penalties for wrong answers. The only difference between the Division I and Division II events is the number of operational scenarios

Godwin Maintenance Event.

This event will test the teams’ ability to respond to a pumping station outage through the routine maintenance and operation of an emergency backup pump. Teams will prepare a Godwin Pumps of America (Bridgeport, N.J.) Dri-Prime model CD100M, diesel-driven, solids-handling, trailer-mounted pumpset for service at a disabled lift station. Tasks include removing, installing, and rebuilding various parts. Procedures are outlined in an operations and maintenance worksheet.

Collections Systems Event. Teams will remove a section of in-service 200-mm (8-in.) gravity polyvinyl chloride pipe, fabricate a replacement section with a 100-mm (4-in.) service saddle, and install the replacement section with flexible repair couplings. Teams also must install a Sigma 900 Max sampler, manufactured by Hach Co. (Loveland, Colo.). After completion, judges will evaluate the repair’s water-tightness.

Safety Event.

Teams will respond to an unconscious colleague in a manhole. After testing the atmosphere and ventilating the confined space, they will assemble Safe Approach (Poland, Maine) fall-protection equipment and descend from a Fibergrate Composite Structures (Dallas) training platform to retrieve the victim. The victim will be revived with an automatic external defibrillator training module.

Laboratory Event.

Teams must perform all steps of a biochemical oxygen demand analysis using Orion 3-Star Plus benchtop dissolved-oxygen meters and portable pH meters manufactured by Thermo Fisher Scientific (Waltham, Mass.). Teams must follow all method requirements as outlined in Method 5210B of the 18th edition of

Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater

(with the exception of using transfer pipettes instead of wide-bore volumetrics for planting seed correction series and samples).

©2009 Water Environment Federation. All rights reserved.