“Doing More with Less, and Learning from Others”
By James Kerrigan
Yikes! It seems like summer went by faster than usual. With that comes another missive from yours truly. It has become obvious that with the new and more stringent regulations being brought upon the industry, and with less and less real estate available, we are having to get more creative in how we plan, design and build. In other words, dial it in a little tighter regarding how we operate our facilities.
We all hear about the design life of new equipment being around 20 years, which seems like a long time. But in reality, with budget restraints and the unflattering nature of our business, facilities often get pushed far beyond their design life, frequently outliving the people who installed them.
Concrete lasts decades and one of the challenges for all of us is to ensure we do things the right way now and avoid any “Regret Capital” by having to redo something already built to meet a new need. A wise man once told me, “Someone designed a perfect project; it was beautiful but never implemented. It was perfect all right, but only in his mind.” It was perfect because it was never questioned or challenged and was never put to the test. Nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan, and if it does you can bet some things may not be right. Few people remember the projects that went well – there are no good stories from them. Almost everyone remembers the ones that didn’t go well, the frantic calls pleading for help or when everything went dark. These are the ones that kept us up at night. We all need to do a better job of being critical and sharing our knowledge, both the good experiences and often more important the bad, so we learn how to do more with less and put the new concepts into practice.
At the end of the day it’s everyone’s challenge to run the facility? We must all share the sleepless nights when a severe storm threatens any weak link in the chain potentially causing a permit violation. When the contractors have packed up their tools and moved on, and the engineers are working on the next design, is the managers and operators are left to live with the new facility. Operators are tasked with the challenge of keeping the water flowing and meeting the permits day in day out. They must do this regardless of what is being built at the time, what improvements are being made, or how the facilities are being torn up. If we miss our permits none of us are doing our jobs.
We need to engage this group more both as an organization and in our own roles in the industry. Operations know the facilities better than anyone else does, they know what valve sends flow where, and it is critical that this group be more involved in the planning of the improvements. Conversely, the conversations on implementing new ideas into existing facilities needs to flow both from the designers to the plant and vice versa with the knowledge and experience of everyone contributing to a successful solution.
CSWEA is a venue to help with that. A wealth of knowledge is available in CSWEA and WEF, in the conferences, meetings, committees, seminars, and training courses. These training courses are a resource that we can highlight more to our peers as a way to share knowledge. This is what CSWEA’s operations certification program does without explicitly trying. What started out as a training program for operators to meet the IEPA’s requirements for CEU’s is also a great venue for sharing knowledge. This knowledge sharing is one of the fundamental goals of CSWEA, not just for operators, but for engineers too. It provides a great opportunity for engineers and operators to figure out how we do more with less, to learn from others and work cohesively to determine what we are really trying to accomplish. Think of how we can get a bit more out of CSWEA, learn a different perspective on what we do, communicate with others who we might not normally see at a conference and expand your own venues for leaning.
Let’s all work together to broadcast this program to our operators and others as a stepping stone to seeing what CSWEA is about. Use it to get to know more about the conferences coming up, and, most importantly, discover more thoroughly from our coordination what works and what doesn’t work so we don’t recreate old mistakes.
So what’s the next topic? The next session is the Purpose and Fundamentals of Wastewater Treatment being held in Urbana Champaign Sanitary District on October 24th. The CSWEA website has this and other upcoming events listed at:
Also, don’t forget the upcoming Operations Seminar next month at the Fox River WRD. With a focus on Data collection and SCADA at facilities it will have a little something for everybody. These are some of the most immediate opportunities with more to come. In the next issue, we’ll rundown the training sessions to date, provide some feedback, and provide a sneak peek a peek on what to expect in each of the future sessions.