What is Your Water Story?”
By Samidha Junghare
For those of us who were able to attend the CSWEA Luncheon at the Annual Meeting, you know that one of our networking exercises was to share with others at our table the answer to the question: “What is your water story?” Well, we were having so much fun at my table explaining our cell phone background photos, that we ran out of time to share our water stories. I thought this topic might be a good way to introduce myself to you as the new chair of the MN Section of CSWEA. I hope to have the opportunity to meet as many of you as possible and learn your water stories as well!
My water story starts after I finished college in the Twin Cities (B.S. Chem Engineering, University of Minnesota). I went to work for a pharmaceutical company in Chicago and spent seven years there. One of my favorite roles was as a fermentation manufacturing engineer making antibiotics. Then I switched companies and went on to spend three years making Cheerios as a “Puffed Cereal Systems Engineer” in Georgia. When my husband and I wanted to add to our family, I realized I wanted to return home to MN. We landed in Duluth, but there is not much manufacturing here, so it was a difficult road. That’s until I was offered a temp job at the Superior WI Environmental Services Department, where I first dipped into wastewater treatment. Lo and behold, there were many of the same concepts as my manufacturing days, process monitoring (including looking at reactor DO and pH trends of biological systems) and optimization of various unit operations. The NPDES requirements seemed both different and analogous to FDA regulatory and quality compliance requirements. After three years at Superior, I came to WLSSD in Duluth and have spent the last (almost) 15 years here. It has been so fulfilling working in the water, energy, and nutrient sector – water is life and I am so grateful my path has led me here.
It was about four years ago that I started to get more heavily involved in CSWEA when Kathy Crowson convinced me to take on the role as chair of the MN Operations/Safety/Lab Committee. At first, I was reluctant to take on a role that “took me out of my comfort zone,” but I am truly glad for her leadership and encouragement that has led to me being more involved in CSWEA. I have really enjoyed participating in the amazing conferences that CSWEA hosts, having such valuable resources available to me, and feeling like I have made friends in the industry, not just colleagues. You are all in a position to encourage yourselves, your colleagues, and future professionals to attend our events and get involved as committee members – so please do!
Now that my introduction is out of the way, here is an update on MN section. We hosted the Annual CSWEA meeting last month, and by all measure’s it was a huge success. We had record attendance and very highly rated technical sessions. Kudos to Liz Kramer for doing an amazing job as Local Arrangement Committee Chair. This week we gathered in St. Cloud for MNX, where our committees shared updates and we kicked off planning and discussing goals for next year. Some highlights include Sam Lobby and Ashley Hammerback participating in the WEF DC fly-in, the selection of Joanna Bernus as the MN state winner of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, and huge participation in the R2E (Resource Recovery and Energy) Committee, which has grown to more than 30 members. The Students & YP committee are arranging a tour of the Ostego East plant in mid-July and a construction tour with MCES this summer. The stormwater committee has a bike tour planned for September. The industrial waste committee is targeting an industrial pre-treatment seminar for mid-August. The collection system committee will be holding a fall workshop in Duluth in September. Planning for the Conference on the Environment as well as the Innovative Conference is already underway. If you have interest in helping to plan any of these awesome events and getting to network with other wastewater and stormwater professionals, consider joining one of our committees. Please visit the CSWEA website and fill out the “Get Involved” form under the “About Us” tab on www.cswea.org or reach out to me directly at email@example.com or 218-740-4841.