Names Do Matter – WWOA or WRRS?

Resource Recovery Specialists do incredible and lifesaving work every day.  The British Medical Journal recognized the importance of our work when it published survey results (18 January 2007) in which readers voted that the introduction of clean water and sewage disposal was the most important medical milestone since 1840.  Efficient water management is crucial to public health, a viable economy, and a livable urban environment.  Water truly is our most valuable resource and must be protected!

Wastewater treatment has well exceeded the Clean Water Act standards set and passed in 1972.  We continually work to optimize our facilities in the most efficient and financially sound manner possible.  We not only clean and reclaim our water more efficiently than ever before; we also recover the energy and nutrients from the waste stream and produce valuable, renewable resources.  The WWOA is largely responsible for training and helping the Wisconsin wastewater operators earn and maintain their certification.  We offer great resources and technical support for operators, managers, engineers, laboratory technicians, regulators, mechanics, and specialists of all wastewater disciplines.  WWOA provides training and networking opportunities for all of our members.  If we are to continue to grow as an organization, we need to attract new members.  We need to help the future operators embrace the industry and become passionate about cleaning and recovering the resources from wastewater in a fiscally sound manner.  In this busy time period that is filled with instant messaging and quick returns, we need a name that will properly reflect what we do while catching people’s attention.  We need to let the public and our future specialists know what we do.

We are an amazing, unique, and highly valuable group of professionals.  We deal with sewage, recognizable solids, grease, septic conditions, harsh environments, pollution, corrosion, confined space, and bacteria.  We embrace the challenges and recover resources from the waste and produce water that is cleaner than many surface waters!  And we do this 24/7, 365 days a year no matter how harsh the conditions.

Are we Wisconsin Wastewater Operators Association (WWOA) or Wisconsin Resource Recovery Specialists (WRRS)?  It's hard to get someone to open a book if the title does not sound interesting.  When I first entered the wastewater field over 20 years ago, I was asked what I did for a living.  I excitedly told people I worked for a sewage treatment plant.  I thought working with crap was cool!  Many did not understand my enthusiasm thus the conversations usually ended.  Until one of my coworkers schooled me to answer the question by saying I was an “environmental scientist” and worked in the “environmental field.”  Once I changed the language, people wanted to listen and became intrigued in my work and wastewater treatment.  The book was opened.  I was then able to share with others that crap was cool and that I was part of an important and diverse profession.

WWOA or WRRS?  In addition to name accountability, name recognition is important.  The WWOA has built a strong and successful organization that is nationally recognized.  I believe we can continue that tradition and continue the path to grow by adopting a name that reflects and demonstrates our technical field and recovery role.  I invite you to discuss amongst your peers what your job and career mean to you and how we can best attract members and gain the respect our profession deserves.  Adopting a new name does not change our organization, but perhaps it does more accurately share what we do and who we are with ourselves and the public.

Sharon Thieszen, WWOA President


51 Years of Recovering Resources

The Wisconsin Wastewater Operators’ Association (WWOA) plays an integral role in our Resource Recovery industry and I have been honored to serve as your president and lead this great organization through our 51st year.  I have enjoyed traveling across Wisconsin to Regional meetings and seeing the countryside, several resource recovery facilities, and listening to presentations on issues and advancements within our industry.  I am constantly in awe of the talent and dedication of our members.  I always learn and gain new information and leave more energized.

Talking with our members at the Regional meetings and other seminars is always a highlight.  I recently had the privilege to have lunch with one of our most experienced and senior members who has remained passionate about WWOA over the years.  At this same meeting, I met a young woman who was new to wastewater treatment and was excited to learn everything she could about the Resource Recovery specialty.  My hope is that this young woman will remain excited and will enjoy WWOA for as many years as this senior member.

I want to personally thank the Board of Directors, Regional Officers, and Committee Members for the time and effort they have put in leading the committees and organizing the numerous training events and the Annual Conference.  Without these dedicated volunteers, the WWOA's membership would not be possible.  I encourage you to participate in WWOA and consider joining either your Regional Board or the State Board as your time allows.  If you are interested, please contact any of the current board members or officers for more information and to get their thoughts on what is involved.  Serving on the WWOA Board of Directors has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career.  I also want to thank our Executive Secretary, Karen Harter, for all her work and assistance in keeping the WWOA functions operating smoothly.

I look forward to seeing you at our 51st WWOA Annual Conference in Middleton, October 17-20, where we will discuss and celebrate Recovering Resources.  If you have not registered for the conference, please do so as soon as possible.  I encourage you to sign up for one of the social events as they allow for good networking opportunities in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.  The pre-conference workshops, technical sessions, and the new Septage Compliance held session Thursday afternoon offer many opportunities for continuous learning and exchange of ideas.  The Board of Directors invites everyone to attend and participate in the Annual Business Meeting on Thursday, October 19, at 12:30pm following the Operators’ Business Lunch.  Please note you do not need to purchase a lunch ticket to attend the Business Meeting.  Please visit the WWOA website for full conference details.

Enjoy the final summer days and welcome in the cooler, autumn days.  Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your 51st President.

WATER is our resource to protect, renew, and share!

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