Looking Back, Looking Ahead
By Chris Marschinke
Another successful Annual Conference in the rearview mirror, and opportunities dotting the horizon. It never ceases to amaze me the level of dedication and passion surrounding us in this unique organization. A decade ago the prospect of organizing 500-plus attendees for a conference seemed an impossible task to my younger, spryer self. Today I understand how it happens – through the tremendous effort and commitment of a multitude of people. It requires fearless (or at least appearing!) Local Arrangements, Technical Program, and Executive Committees working in unison.
One of those dedicated people is my predecessor as IL Section Chair, Zach Matyja of RJN Group. A year ago Zach set clear goals to increase committee involvement and to expand our reach to encompass the entire state. To that end we’ve been able to bring new blood onto the committee rosters, and successfully held the first Collection Systems and Operations Conference in Bloomington this past October. The event saw more than 50 registrants, including a contingent of students from Bradley University, to participate in the nine workshop sessions. It was a successful first year to build on as we continue to develop and expand our technical impact and professional networks.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t recognize the contributions of our now Past-President, Sue Baert. Sue has been a role model for volunteerism, especially for me and the other Illinois YP’s. Her contagious laugh reminds us all to take a step back, and first and foremost have fun. Overseeing some significant changes in the Annual Conference format, Sue never wavered in her leadership.
One of those changes was a concept near to my heart (and Scott’s checkbook) – the Service Project. Following the format held for more than a decade at WEFTEC led by the WEF SYP Committee, the inaugural CSWEA Annual Conference Service Project was equally successful. Natalie Cook of Donahue & Associates spearheaded the effort to bring this international endeavor into our backyard. The WEF Service Project aims to create a water legacy in the WEFTEC host city by educating the next generation of water stewards. And the CSWEA Service Project is a fantastic example of that legacy – It was spurred on by a fifth grader at Skinner North Classical school in Chicago who saw the 2017 WEF project, and wanted to replicate at her own school. Volunteers from CSWEA, teachers and students from the school, and the neighborhood all worked to build a rain garden in the middle of a paved expanse. Student classes were brought out during the construction and learned about infiltration, runoff, pollutants, and the importance of water. Thank you to everyone who made the inaugural year a success!
With one great conference behind us, there lay a number ahead to fill our summer and fall. On June 13th the Illinois Section will partner with the Illinois Association of Wastewater Agencies and the APWA Chicago Metro Chapter to hold the 11th Collection System Conference at NIU’s Naperville Campus. This will be held in parallel with the USEPA’s Effective Utility Management Workshop, a great example of the teaming and collaboration Zach sought during his tenure. Following the Collections System Conference, the joint CSWEA / IWEA LIFT Tour of the Aqua Aerobics Research and Technology Center will take place on June 29th at the Rock River WRD. The Operations Seminar will be held at Wheaton Sanitary District’s facility this year on July 10th with topics covering tertiary filtration, and a walkthrough of Wheaton’s in-progress disc filter conversion and Glenbard Wastewater Authority’s recently completed conversion. Rounding out the mid-summer events is of course CSWEA’s CSX conference – all active volunteers and committee chairs are invited to attend and share ideas for the future of our organization!
And with that, I close my first message as your Illinois Section Chair. I’m proud to represent our section and excited to build on the tremendous base laid by past leadership. I encourage anyone reading who is interested in becoming more involved to reach out to me or another member of the section leadership – I assure you that you will be as thankful for it as I have been.