By Peter Daniels
I wanted to use my first message as the Minnesota Section Chair as a reason to do a little historical research about CSWEA. I have been active in the organization for about ten years or so and know the organization has existed for over 90 years, but I was curious about some of the details. So, in just a few bullet points, here are some highlights about the evolution of CSWEA.
I am interested in this because I have recently been reminded in several ways of the significance of the work that has been completed by others before us, in whatever field we are in.
I recently attended the funeral for Jim Miller, our colleague from CSWEA and a co-worker of mine for the past four years. As I looked around the room during the service, I couldn’t help but think about all the knowledge and years of experience that were present with all of Jim’s friends and colleagues. Jim had been in the wastewater industry for 46 years and had an experience and story for most questions I could ever ask him. Many of the others attending the service had similar levels of experience. During my relatively short career, I have benefited from the experience of Jim and others present at his service. I have been able to make better decisions and avoid (some) mistakes as a wastewater engineer because of what I have learned from them.
The other reason I thought about this topic is something my brother is doing. While I write this, he is at the Johnson Space Center in Houston participating in a project for NASA. He is living in a capsule for 45 days with three other scientists, for the sake of data collection that NASA will use to further their understanding of how humans are affected by long distance space travel (he will be out of the capsule when this article is published). Each day he and his teammates work on tasks related to their simulation of traveling to an asteroid. They also talk with psychologists, are connected to monitors that continuously record biometric data, provide blood samples, and are generally under a very watchful eye. Although I know he misses not being able to go outside, he is enjoying his unique contribution to science.
His experience has piqued my interest in space travel. I recently watched the movie The Right Stuff, which tells the story of Air Force and Navy test pilots who became NASA’s first astronauts. Accomplishments by that group and NASA scientists in the 1960’s paved the way for future expeditions and led to improvements in technologies and processes. The work NASA has done and continues to do, including the study my brother is involved with, will help push the limits of future space exploration.
Although space travel and wastewater collection and treatment seemingly don’t have much in common, current practitioners in each industry benefit from the work and accomplishments by those who came before us. I consider myself relatively early in my career – I have less than one-third of the experience of Jim Miller’s 46 years – and I know that I have a lot yet to learn. I am thankful for the many wonderful teachers and mentors within CSWEA that work every day to make our industry, communities, and organization successful. Throughout CSWEA’s 91-year history, our organization has benefited from the leadership of individuals passionate about water quality and the environment.