Let the ideas flow! Here are this year’s Ingenuity Award winners.


Operators from six communities and utilities received 2016 Operators Ingenuity Contest Awards at WEFTEC on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

In the fourth annual ingenuity competition conducted by the Water Environment Federation, entries were judged for relevance and usefulness, originality and creativity, and resourcefulness. Here is a summary of the awards:

  • Icebreaker Award for Resourcefulness: James Spielvogel, Borough of Ellwood City (Pennsylvania) Wastewater Treatment Plant. Spielvogel built a device to lift a clarifier skimmer from the grease box to keep it from freezing during winter.
  • Trough Toaster Award for Maintenance: Aaron Dressel, city of York, Nebraska. Dressel built a heat lamp enclosure above the scum trough on the plant’s solids thickener, also to prevent winter freeze-ups.
  • Danger Dodgers Award for Redesign: Cheryl Read, Marvin Romack and Dalen McMichael, King County (Washington) Wastewater Treatment Division. Valve actuators on secondary treatment tanks were located in a way that required a confined-space entry to turn the handles. The team rotated the actuators by 90 degrees so the handles could be reached from the outside, eliminating the need for confined-space training at that site.
  • Digital Trailblazer Award for Originality: Brandon Pfleckl, Prince William County (Virginia) Service Authority. Pfleckl and a team integrated the authority’s information systems around GIS so that workers in the field could access utility asset information from a single web-based application. They can now visualize information in a map-based context and map their locations as they check on assets.
  • Beaker Peeker Award for Process Control: Greg Williams, Monteco, Ltd. This innovation uses markings on a 2-liter beaker (which Williams calls a Slurry Jury) instead of a Sludge Judge to measure the grease/scum (FOG) layer in above-ground interceptor sewers.
  • Explainer in Chief Award for Education: Jay Summers, Jacksonville (Arkansas) Wastewater Authority. Summers created two public education projects: a display for public events that shows the items that can block sewers, and a Christmas Parade float showing how wastewater is treated.

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