Collaboration and Inclusion = Environmental Wins
By Patrick Haney
This past fall the Minnesota Section was a buzz with activity. In September, we conducted our Fall Collections System workshop in Duluth. Additionally, our stormwater committee hosted is annual Cycling, Stormwater, and Suds tour. In November, we hosted the 36th Annual Conference on the Environment. Laura Bishop, the new Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner provided a great opening discussion about the Governor’s environmental initiatives. The conference was well attended, with XYZ people participating; marking a new record. In December, the City of Rochester in conjunction with the R2E Committee, hosted an open house highlighting their recent pilot testing of Orege SLG System. The City generously provided lunch, tours, and highlights of the pilot testing results.
While at the Conference on the Environment, I had the opportunity to speak with the WEF Delegate XYZ from Kansas City Water. While our conversation was brief, we spoke about Missouri’s regulatory approaches to Inn Planning, Point Source to Non-Point Source nutrient trading, and the idea of bubble permit’s amongst multiple utilities within the same watershed. These regulatory approaches allowed utilities in the area to find cost effective approach to treatment and nutrient management that provided an overall financial and environmental “win” for all stakeholders.
In Minnesota, the MPCA and communities along the Minnesota River have engaged in healthy dialogue through the Minnesota River Ag-Urban Partnership Forum. The group includes a discussion of both environmental, wastewater infrastructure agricultural, and financial challenges. The goal of the group is to find collaborative approaches to improving the water quality of the Minnesota River through shared understanding of stakeholder challenges, innovative solutions, and move initiatives forward that maximized public investments. The approach is much different than dictated effluent standards based on Total Maximum Discharge Limits, River Eutrophication Standards, Waste Load Allocations, or other regulatory driven improvements at wastewater plants. I strongly believe that the collaborative efforts of the MPCA, farmers, cities, and environmental groups will lead to better environmental results.
At the end of the day, most of us are environmentalists. We want clean food, clean air, clean water, and an overall clean environment. How we get there, how we pay for it, and how we communicate is often the challenge.
In addition to collaboration, inclusion and diversity are key to the success of our environment. Our CSWEA community consists of a wide range of genders, gender identities, sexual orientation, races, religions, and cultures. Still, we need to make sure we’re casting our net as wide as possible to bring in fresh ideas, perspectives, and approaches to our greatest environmental challenges. For example, while Andrew Benedek of Zenon is widely credited for taking the MBR concept from an idea to a commercial product, Professor Kazuo Yamamoto and his team at Tokyo University were first to present study results from submerged hollow fiber membranes within the bio reactor. Moving forward, I’m proud to note that Ashley Hammerbeck, Vice Chair of the Membership Committee, has taken a leadership role to help make the MN Section more inclusive. We’re taking steps forward to make sure that our wider wastewater community has access to our committee meetings that are often conducted via conference call. She’s also working on a centralized cloud-based location for Section documents and collaborative efforts. Finally, she’s working with the Inclusion and Diversity Committee at the MN Section of AWWA to help implement best practices and lessons learned through their efforts.
This winter and spring, our Section remains dedicated to serving our states Water Resource Recovery Facilities, Cities, and Utilities. We’ll host the winter Collection System Workshop on January 22nd at the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services Regional Maintenance Facility. In February, the Innovative Approaches to Wastewater Operational Problems Workshop will be St. Cloud and our Section will conduct an outreach event at the University of Minnesota School of Engineering during E-Week. Last year the Innovative Workshop was widely successful in its new location at the St. Cloud Rivers Edge Convention Center and we’re looking forward to another strong workshop on February 5th this year. In April, the MN Section and Central States at large will be hosting the WEF Residuals and Biosolids Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I’ve attended this specialty conference in the past and I’d highly recommend attending. The conference includes high quality and innovative presentations about biosolids treatment and management issues. I’d be surprised if PFAS wasn’t a major topic of discussion at this year’s event. The Central States Annual Meeting at the St. Paul River Center May 18th through May 20th. The River Center will be a new location for the Central States Annual Meeting, in response to the growing attendance at this event. The MN Section will host the golf event at Top Golf this year to further promote a fun social, interactive, and collaborative event that can be enjoyed by those of us with a strong hook or slice.
MN Section Chair