Watershed Warriors Look Upstream

As nutrient restrictions get stricter, notably for phosphorus, clean-water agencies are looking upstream. Adaptive management regimes in states like Wisconsin allow agencies to control phosphorus not just at the treatment plant but through better management of runoff into waterways.

In this respect, clean-water agencies become like local fire inspectors, visiting properties and looking for preventive measures. Just as it’s better to prevent a fire than to have to put it out, it’s better to prevent pollution than to remove it at the treatment plant.

At NEW Water in Green Bay, Wis., Brian Vander Loop, field services manager, is preparing his team for an evolving role. He and the agency’s seven field service technicians (Duane Fish, Dan Renier, Matt Schmidt, Kevin Schuettpelz, Chris Thompson, Kim Williams, and Bob Zepnick) have taken on the internal title of “Watershed Warriors.”

Today, they handle a wide range of duties that include sewer system flow monitoring, I&I prevention, odor control, regular manhole and pipe inspection and cleaning, and facility locates for contractors, all to protect system integrity and function for customers.

“The watershed approach is a broader way of thinking,” Vander Loop says. “Our watershed is significantly larger than our sewer service area. I can see in the future that our duties could be expanded. Everybody will have to take on a little more to cover that watershed. We welcome those new challenges,”

Bill Oldenburg, pretreatment coordinator, and William Lobner, pretreatment intern, already play a kind of “fire inspector” role with local businesses. They monitor 57 significant industrial dischargers according to U.S. EPA guidelines. They also work less formally with a number of proactive companies that want to help NEW Water and the local waterways by limiting their discharges.

“We do a lot of chemical and product approvals,” Oldenburg says. “If someone wants to use a chemical in a process that ultimately will be discharged in some amount to the sewer system, we determine whether it’s compatible with our treatment processes. We also offer opinions on how industrial facilities could use their pretreatment infrastructure more efficiently and effectively.”

Vander Loop says the “Watershed Warriors” handle is a way to help keep the work atmosphere “light and fun” for the team. It’s also a way to further the two key aims of the Fire Chief Project:

  • Raise clean-water operators to the status of the fire chief
  • Make kids grow up wanting to be clean-water operators


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.