The results are in! Congratulations to the 2014 WEF Operator Ingenuity winners!

Duct tape and cardboard, recycled bottles, toilet bowl floats and other items help solve tricky problems.

It’s not always costly engineering solutions that fix problems in clean-water plants. Sometimes, it’s operators mixing the simplest materials with a heavy dose of ingenuity.

Today at WEFTEC, the Water Environment Federation recognized winners and finalists in its third annual Operator Ingenuity Contest. The nearly 30 entries ranged from innovations in process control to public education programs. Six judges evaluated entries on three criteria:

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  • Relevance/usefulness — Is the idea transferable to other plants?
  • Originality/creativity — but also safe.
  • Resourcefulness — Did the entrant use easily accessible materials?

Several of the award winners and finalists gave brief presentations at the WEFTEC Innovation Pavilion in the exhibit hall. Winners were:

Inflow Fighter Award for Public Education 
Walton Summers II, Luke Avery, Todd Collins and Cody Sims, Jacksonville (Ark.) Wastewater Utility, for a public education program around fixing or replacing private sewer lateral cleanout.

Gadget Guru Award for Resourcefulness 
Stanley Caberto, King County (Wash.) Wastewater Treatment Division, for a carbon launcher, alignment tool and a self-cooling apparatus.

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Team That Mixes It Up Award for Resourcefulness 
Linda Garcia, Luis Sahagun and Edmund Tyser, Western Municipal Water District of Southern California, for a baffling dye.

Taking Out the Trash Award for Maintenance
Vern Ressler, Donita Parks and Bryan Durbin, Tillamook (Ore.) Wastewater Treatment Plant, for creative use of a garbage can.

Ugly Duckling Award for Maintenance
Armin Borick, San Francisco (Calif.) Public Utilities Commission, for temporary emergency air venting “engineered” from duct tape and cardboard.

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Wipe Defender Award for Maintenance
Michael Carle, Town of Hampton (N.H.) Wastewater Treatment Plant, for use of a recycled plastic bottle to shield an influent sampling port from rags.

Time Turner Award
Also Carle, for a clever way of alerting team members when to read coliform bacteria test results.

Time Lord Award for Process Control
Todd Boulden and Justin Myers, Maryland Environmental Services, for using toilet bowl floats to create a level gauge for sequencing batch reactors.

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Also recognized were seven finalist entries:

  • Joe Bates, Yellow Springs (Ohio) Water Reclamation Facility, for a safety program to prevent injuries from slips and falls.
  • Sam McAdoo, Hampton Roads (Va.) Sanitation District, for a unique method of bleeding off air vents.
  • McAdoo, Gina Serge and Dan Porter of HRSD, for a method of dissolved oxygen sampling.
  • Annie Kolb-Nelson, King County (Wash.) Wastewater Treatment Division, for a “Don’t Flush Trouble” public education campaign.
  • King County Wastewater Treatment Division CSO Branding Team of Kolb-Nelson, Rachael Dillman, Erika Peterson, Doug Marsano, Michael Pipiwny, John Phillips, Heidi Sowell, Susan Kaufman-Una, Jessie Israel and Sandy Kilroy, for a “Protecting Our Waters CSO education program.
  • Jo Krebs, Ames (Iowa) Water Pollution Control Plant, for pipe reconfiguration for in-plant water reuse.
  • Dale Miller, Sanimax Corp., for reducing water usage.

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