By Veronica Loete
You’ve probably heard this a lot over the last several months, but these are unprecedented times. At least when it comes to what is precedented for most of us in our lifetimes so far. The thing is these times are not impacting us all in the same way. Some people are experiencing only minor changes to their daily routine. Their jobs may be functioning almost the same as they always have. Essential water and wastewater services do not stop for a pandemic. Others have had their daily lives turned upside down by losing their job or working at home and/or taking care of children with changes in school and day care arrangements. Not to mention people who are dealing with serious illness in themselves or a loved one. Many of us fall somewhere in the middle. We are months into this pandemic (and we’ll be even further into it by the time you read this message). Hopefully you have been able to find a version of a “new normal” or maybe you’ve even had multiple versions of your “new normal” as conditions continue to change.
Despite the many difficulties during these times, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the role CSWEA has played in my life and the lives of others. Obviously, I already saw value in CSWEA or I wouldn’t have gotten to the point where I am serving as Chair of the Wisconsin Section, but my experience in the past has been focused on conference attendance or a little bit of social fun at a Brewer game outing. Now my eyes have been opened to the next level of support and value that CSWEA can provide.
I got a report from outgoing Chair Rachel Lee about the COVID Roundtable Discussions that our Operations Committee has been hosting on a weekly or bi-weekly basis since March. The discussions have been well-received. An interesting topic discussed this summer is the statewide COVID RNA sampling effort that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the State Lab of Hygiene are coordinating. They are targeting a 1-year study at 100 facilities in over 70 counties. The roundtable discussions gave people a chance to hear about the study and discuss it with others outside their own organization. The study will be testing wastewater treatment plant influent to monitor virus activity. They expect that the influent will show activity 7-10 days before it is observed through patient testing. Kudos to the Operations Committee for giving people a place to connect and get information and thanks to Rachel for the update!
The Ops Committee isn’t the only committee finding a way to fulfill CSWEA’s mission during the pandemic. In early August, a version of the CSWEA/WIAWWA Management Seminar was held in the form of three webinars. In late July, our Section YP/Students Committee held a virtual YP Happy Hour on Zoom. Even though I may not really be putting the “Y” in YP anymore, I had the pleasure of participating as part of my section officer role. It was great to see both new and familiar faces via Zoom and nice to connect with fellow water professionals! Working from home has reduced that connection for many of us. I was happy to see the YP Committee do its part to foster connection virtually. The committee is planning to host another similar event in September or October so, YPs, I recommend you keep an eye on your inbox for the invitation.
Lastly, I’m excited about the virtual Annual Meeting that is happening as I write this message. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing we could meet in person, but I think the virtual option being offered is a great alternative given the circumstances. I know the meeting will be long over by the time this hits your mailbox, but my message to you is this: Even if we can’t be together now in the ways we are used to, the CSWEA Wisconsin Section can still provide the same benefits you are used to and maybe even one or two new ones.
I’m wishing you a happy and healthy fall season!