Are We Missing Something?

Should the focus of TPO expand to include industrial as well as municipal operators? We’d like to hear thoughts from professionals on both sides.

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One obvious benefit of getting out of the office and into the field is seeing things from a new perspective. I had that privilege back in March when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency invited me to speak at its annual Wastewater Operators’ Conference.

I gave a keynote presentation Wednesday morning, then stayed through the following morning for the exhibit session, meeting operators from the state next door to mine and handing out copies of TPO and its sister publication, Water System Operator (WSO).

I was surprised (maybe I shouldn’t have been) to find industrial clean-water operators very well represented among the 500 or so attendees. Most seemed already familiar with TPO. And that got me thinking: Have we been ignoring a group of professionals who are already part of our readership?

Before I go on, my question to you is: Should TPO include at least some articles of specific interest to operators on the industrial side? We’d like your honest viewpoints no matter which side of the fence you are on.

Two sides to ‘focus’

With that, a little background. When COLE Publishing started TPO in 2009, we decided to focus tightly on municipal plants and people. Experience (ours and other publishers’) shows that the closer focus a trade magazine has, the more likely it is to succeed. If you try to cater to everyone, you can dilute your efforts and end up serving no one very well.

We reasoned (after gathering insights from a few trusted sources in the profession) that the needs and interests of municipal and industrial operators were quite different. For example, municipal operators everywhere deal with largely the same kinds of flows — some mix of residential, commercial and manufacturing wastewaters — while industrial operators face flows highly specific to their niche (be it metal finishing, meat processing, dairying, or chemical production).

Furthermore, municipal operators are by nature collaborative. They all have one goal in mind — treating wastewater efficiently and meeting a permit. It is in their interest to share information and advance the profession. They are all part of a community; they don’t compete with each other and have no reason to.

Industrial operators, on the other hand, work as part of closely held and proprietary processes. They themselves may not be competitors, but their companies (if in the same industry) most likely are. Therefore, we thought, they would be far less willing and able to share information.

What do they share?

So we asked ourselves: Since municipal and industrial operators are so different, does it make sense to create one magazine for both groups? We decided it did not, and we have written and edited TPO for the municipal side.

My experience at the MPCA conference caused me to question our decision. A goodly number of industrial operators were present. They seemed well integrated with the group. And after all, there’s a natural coming together of municipal and industrial operators in the realm of pretreatment.

So, does that mean the two disciplines have enough in common so that TPO can effectively serve both without watering down its presentation? Or would industrial operators be better served by a magazine or other communication designed just for them?

Time for your views

We don’t have enough information to answer that question — we could use some other viewpoints. So, now it’s your turn. If you are a municipal operator, what would you think of TPO carrying an article or two catering to the interests of the industrial side? Why or why not? Can you think of subjects for industrial operators that would also interest and benefit you?

If you’re on the industrial side, what would you like to see in the magazine that would serve you well (understanding that we can’t get into the specifics of all the many industries and processes that exist)?

If you already read TPO regularly, what do you get out of it? What kinds of articles do you read, and why? What topics and what concerns do you feel municipal and industrial operators have in common?

You’re not limited to answering those questions — feel free to share any thoughts and insights whatsoever. Send an email to I promise to respond, and we will publish a collection of comments in a future issue.


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