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Government Affairs Committee Update May 2020

Want to stay updated on regulatory changes in the PNW but don't have time to track all the different agencies? You don't have to! The PNCWA Government Affairs Committee stays on top of issues and gives monthly updates in the PNCWA digest. Not signed up for the digest? We've got you covered. Sign up here. Here's the update for May 2020.

Idaho Biosolids and Stormwater Permits
Idaho is developing the guidance manual for the implementation of biosolids and municipal stormwater permitting, starting in July 2021. Find more information and how to participate, go here.

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The Expert in Sheep's Clothing

Leadership Corner

Now that I’m in the mid-life of my career, I’ve struggled with the following questions lately: Do I want to “move up” in my current job? If so, do I need to go back to school? How much value can I place on hard-earned, practical experience? Do I need to learn a new skill to stay competitive, secure, AND have a job that I love?

I regularly listen to podcasts and devour articles and books on how to better my personal and professional life. I truly enjoy learning and self-improvement. Last year, I came across the book The Expertise Economy: How the Smartest Companies Use Learning to Engage, Compete, and Succeed by Kelly Palmer and David Blake. The authors examine the very culture of learning: what it is, how it’s conducted, and what it means for tomorrow’s workforce. Most importantly, it helps business leaders place value on the well-rounded employee−one who is agile, adaptable, a problem-solver, curious, and has emotional intelligence. It’s not all about the college degree and credentials. Fellow author and business entrepreneur Seth Godin complements Palmer and Blake’s approach. He says the most important skills we can teach our kids are how to lead and how to solve interesting problems. 

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A Message From the 2020 PNCWA Technical Chair

Wow. What a wild year we’ve experienced already and we’re not even to summer yet.  So far 2020 has made us strive for flexibility as we adapt to a new normal at home and work.  For many, those places have merged to become one location.  We’ve seen unprecedented rates of unemployment too, as the impact of social distancing restrictions rippled throughout our communities.  This is truly an unprecedented time.  Never has it been more important to be there for each other.  We all need a support system, and the PNCWA community is one of those support systems. We are stronger when we are together (maintaining an appropriate physical distance, of course). 

As of May 1st, the 2020 PNCWA Annual Conference is still scheduled to take place in Spokane, WA this September. Ultimately, this year’s conference may look a little different from the previous years.  We are weighing options and maintaining flexibility as we take into consideration the evolving information incoming during this dynamic period. Ensuring the safety of our membership is our primary concern.  The most up to date information related to the Annual Conference can be found on the conference website.

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A Message From the 2020 PNCWA Conference Chair

Greetings Pacific Northwest Clean Water Professionals!

Now more than ever, it’s clear that our collective work to protect and preserve public health through clean water is essential, and I want to take a moment to thank each of you for your commitment, especially the operators and field crews.

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Government Affairs Committee Update April 2020

Want to stay updated on regulatory changes in the PNW but don't have time to track all the different agencies? You don't have to! The PNCWA Government Affairs Committee stays on top of issues and gives monthly updates in the PNCWA digest. Not signed up for the digest? We've got you covered. Sign up here. Here's the update for April 2020.


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YP Summit 2020 Recap

The 2020 YP Summit theme was “amping up our communication game.” The way we communicate within our organizations and with our customers is just as fundamental to our daily business as any other task or strategy we perform in the water industry. Erica Haide, Senior Marketing Coordinator at Brown and Caldwell (Portland), was one of our PNCWA YP representatives at the summit. She gave us her top takeaways from the summit below.


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Leadership Corner March 2020

This month's book recommendation comes from Leadership Committee Member, Pamela Randolph, Wastewater Treatment Plant Manager at the City of Edmonds, WA.

While there are many books on leadership and the personal qualities of leaders, it is inspiring to find a book that focuses introspectively in a manner that creates a personal curiosity and a sense of what I bring to the table.  I recommend the book “Leadership and Self Deception – Getting out of the Box” by the Arbinger Institute to anyone striving for continuous improvement in his or her personal and professional life.  

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Government Affairs Committee Update March 2020

Want to stay updated on regulatory changes in the PNW but don't have time to track all the different agencies? You don't have to! The PNCWA Government Affairs Committee stays on top of issues and gives monthly updates in the PNCWA digest. Not signed up for the digest? We've got you covered. Sign up here. Here's the update for March 2020.
  • The White House released the President's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021. The proposed budget includes 27% cuts to EPA and similar cuts to the State Revolving Fund programs used to provide low-interest loans to water and sewer projects. Congress will likely discard this recommendation and draft an independent budget for EPA. EPA Budget - WEF Analysis
  • The Department of Ecology made the preliminary determination to develop a Nutrient General Permit for domestic wastewater discharges to Puget Sound. A call for nominations to the Advisory Committee closed on 2/24. This Advisory Committee includes approximately 15 people that represent dischargers, Tribes, environmental groups, state and federal agencies, agriculture, and business. The purpose of this group is to make recommendations to the Department of Ecology before the development of the preliminary permit draft. Ecology expects to have a formal draft of the permit out for public comment by the end of 2020 or first quarter 2021.
  • On February 6, 2020 the House passed the Promoting United Government Efforts to Save Our Sound (PUGET SOS) Act, H.R. 2247 sponsored by Congressmen Heck and Kilmer. Both Congressmen discussed their concern over the impacts from non-point sources into Puget Sound during the National Water Policy Fly-in and the importance of the Act.
  • WA House Bill 2565 requires specific “Do Not Flush” labeling requirements for nonflushable, nonwoven wipes, which includes the class of baby wipes, personal care wipes and household cleaning wipes. The labeling requirements include appropriately-sized, clear, and high contrast DNF symbols be placed on primary facing wipes packages. You can track the bill status here.
  • Oregon mercury TMDL for the Willamette River (based on 175g of fish consumed per day) was disapproved by EPA. EPA’s proposed TMDL prescribes decreases in discharge of ~85%. Variances are expected to be requested following rule finalization.
  • Michigan has adopted an effluent WQS for PFOS at 12 parts per trillion.

Boise Women of Water Event

“Starting the Women in Water group in Boise means creating a space where women can start a connection with people they might never have met…” 

The Boise Women of Water event took place on December 3, 2019, and all 40 attendees are looking forward to the next event! Emily O’Morrow, Brown and Caldwell, and Allison Hornak, HDR, helped organize the event and each has deeply personal reasons for bringing together women from across the industry to network and learn from one another. Emily credited her motivation to her career and being directly impacted by other women she met in the industry who instrumentally helped her along the way. She wanted to give other women the opportunity to be in a supportive environment as well. Allison worked as the only woman in a new company in the water sector and often felt isolated in her new role. After meeting another woman at a PNCWA networking event and striking up a lasting friendship, she realized the value that these connections can create and also wanted to open the door for other women to have similar experiences. 

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2020 PNCWA InFLOW Application

In 2019, the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association (PNCWA) launched a program called InFLOW (Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water): an initiative that strives to identify promising students and young professionals from underrepresented groups who are interested in careers in the water industry. 

In 2020, this initiative continues to identify and introduce these students and young professionals to careers in the water industry. Building off the successes and the lessons learned from the first year of the program, PNCWA is continuing in its mission to change the face of the water industry and help build a more diverse and inclusive world. The program will engage these underrepresented groups in the form of a sponsorship to attend the PNCWA 2020 Annual Conference, taking place in Spokane, Washington, September 13-16, 2020. 

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Seattle's Thornton Creek is Restored

Thornton Creek is familiar to you as the 18-mile urban creek that runs from Southeast Shoreline through to Northeast Seattle. The creek has been manipulated extensively over the past decades as it was solely a flood conveyance system for the area; however, from these alterations, it became less hospitable for the fish and wildlife. For the fish to thrive, the water layers need to interact in a cyclical habitat, which cleanses the water of waste and regulates the temperature of the water.

Seattle Public Utilities took notice of this issue and evaluated the creek from surface to bottom. The restoration began with Xylem Rental Solutions to dewater the entire site, while the fish were moved temporarily by Seattle Pacific University biologists. This whole restoration effort took four years and cost around $11 million; in the beginning, a major storm threatened the initial progress and two Godwin pumps were used to save the project site.

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Government Affairs Committee Update Jan/Feb 2020

The Federal Government wants to modernize procedures for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act—and the public comment period runs through March 10th. The 2020 Federal Budget passed both chambers of congress and has increased SRF funding and directives for exploring PFAs under CERCLA, read more here. Likewise, at the Supreme Court level, a case is being reviewed which will clarify regulations on point- and non-point source pollutants via groundwater to be finalized in June.

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2020 Leadership Development Book Recommendations

The Leadership Development Committee is excited to announce its top recommended books for 2020. A few of the picks include: “The Power of Positive Thinking,” “Start with Why,” and “The Fearless Organization.” This list was carefully compiled by committee members. Check out the full list here.

Leadership Corner Jan/Feb 2020

As someone who has been part of hiring decisions, I’ve often heard the hiring rationale that the candidate “would be a good fit with our culture.”  As someone who values a culture of teamwork, empowerment, and growth, I used to take that at face value. Find someone highly qualified who will fit right into our group- great!

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Leadership Corner December 2019

Do you love leadership resources but don't have the time to do the research to find the great ones? No problem! The PNCWA Leadership Committee has you covered. Each month the committee members will curate their top leadership resources including a short summary blurb in the Leadership Corner found in the monthly digest. We're getting the Corner kicked off with an entry from Mark Poling of Clean Water Services. Keep reading to check it out. Not receiving the monthly digest? Sign up here.

Creating Psychological Safety at Work. Do you feel safe at work? Not physically safe, but psychologically safe—safe to express your thoughts and ideas. To voice a difference of opinion or point out something that is wrong? I bet circumstances immediately pop into your mind; I know they do for me. I was once so frustrated by not being able to express my strong disagreement with a group of coworkers that I considered leaving the company.  A wise friend asked me, “What if the worst thing happened and you were fired? Do you really want to work for a company where you can’t express your thoughts and ideas?” The answer for me was no. What led to my feeling insecure and afraid in the first place? How do we, as leaders, create a workplace that is free of fear? Without dissenting thoughts and ideas, is it possible to achieve the best in our teams and organizations?  How do we create psychological safety for everyone? In this compelling TedTalk, Amy Edmondson describes years of research on effective ways for leaders to cultivate psychological safety. Tell us about your workplace: what have you done to enable colleagues and employees to say what they really think?

Government Affairs Committee Update Dec 2019

Want to stay updated on regulatory changes in the PNW but don't have time to track all the different agencies? You don't have to! The PNCWA Government Affairs Committee stays on top of issues and gives monthly updates in the PNCWA digest. Not signed up for the digest? We've got you covered. Sign up here. Here's the update for December 2019.

  • E. Regional Office of DOE is working closely with Spokane River dischargers to reduce PCB loading to the Spokane River through requirements in their NPDES permits. All five WA dischargers into the Spokane River have requested discharger specific variances from the 7ppq PCB water quality standard. A variance is a temporary change to a water quality standard requiring Ecology to undergo a formal rulemaking effort. Ecology hopes to issue a draft response to variance requests in early 2020 and to finalize the rule by fall 2020. Find out more information here.
  • We need your help! Please take a minute to take the EPA's Nutrient Survey. The voices in the PNW need to be heard. Nutrient pollution is one of the largest environmental challenges in the country. This survey will help develop a baseline for secondary treatment plants across the nation – which will provide some idea of the costs associated with reducing nutrients on a national level. Surveys are still being accepted. You can fill out the survey here
  • PFAS continues to be a major discussion item, nationally. WEF has issued a new call-to-action requesting letters to our congressional delegations. You can find more information and WEFs form letter here
  • In September 2019, Oregon DEQ released its draft 2018/2020 Integrated Report and is soliciting comments through Jan. 6, 2019. The federal Clean Water Act requires Oregon to report on the quality of its surface waters every two years. Although not a written report, the Integrated Report is a reporting of the status of water quality in Oregon and a list of waters considered to be impaired. You can read the report here

Inaugural PNCWA InFLOW Cohort Makes Waves at PNCWA2019

PNCWA celebrated a special milestone at the 2019 conference: the InFLOW cohort attended for the first time.  InFLOW is a scholarship program developed by WEF that invites students from underserved minority groups to attend WEFTEC for free. The PNCWA InFLOW effort was spearheaded by Member Services Chair, Brittany Burch, with support from several other members of PNCWA leadership including Steven Drangsholt, Kristi Steiner, Dick Finger, and Brittany Park. Brittany Burch was inspired by the stories and successes already coming from WEF’s InFLOW program and wanted to create the same opportunity for PNCWA students.

“People who work in water are passionate. It shows in our work, on our faces, and in our interactions. Many of us attend conferences to be inspired, and sharing this inspiration with the InFLOW group is so critical to the long term success of the program. The support from our PNCWA members made that part easy,” said Burch. By creating a regional program, PNCWA has opened up opportunities for students in the Pacific Northwest who may not have had exposure to the water sector before. PNCWA InFLOW helps pique students’ interest in the water sector and sets students up with networking opportunities to increase their potential for employment and long-term success.

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2019 WEFTEC: One YP’s Experience

Each year, the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association (PNCWA) offers scholarships to Student and Young Professional (S&YP) committee members to attend the national Water and Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC). As the lucky recipient of one of this year’s two scholarships, I had the opportunity to join over 20,000 water professionals gathering in Chicago for the 92nd WEFTEC, the largest annual water quality exhibition in the world.

The conference kicked off with an opening session featuring keynote speaker Dr. Lera Boroditsky, an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California-San Diego. Dr. Boroditsky spoke about how language plays a critical role in influencing our perception of the world, including the development and reinforcement of personal biases. She connected this power of language to the importance of understanding how to use communication in developing a diverse and inclusive workforce in the water industry. Dr. Boroditsky’s message was echoed in the remarks of (past) WEF president Tom Kunetz who emphasized the power of building an inclusive and diverse workforce in the world of water and wastewater.

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PNCWA 2019: In Their Own Words, PNCWA Board Member, Tony Benavidez

It’s that time of year again — the time when we start planning next year’s conference. But Tony, you say, PNCWA 2019 was just a few weeks ago? It can be hard to keep up the excitement after such an incredible time together, networking with so many dedicated water professionals. Post-conference feels like the time of year we tend to put the cruise control on and coast to the end of the year. Here are some things that I learned through the connections I made at conference and also some of my plans for the coming year to stay motivated. I might even help you keep the energy all the way to PNCWA 2020 in Spokane.

This year’s conference for me was amazing. I saw so many new faces and spoke with a number of both first-time attendees and long-time attendees. There were several commonalities amongst our conversations. First, we are a passionate group of people. We love water and the environment, and we're doing all that we can to improve water quality for as many people as we can reach. Our reach extends far beyond the Pacific Northwest, and we are very proud of that. Second, we have the desire to be a part of something. It might be something local and important to specific communities, or it might be something big. I mean really big—like cleaning up Puget Sound big! The third takeaway was how much talent and knowledge we have. We all bring something to the table that is of value. We have brilliant design engineers, accomplished PhDs, inspired city officials, skilled operators, and many others. 

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Bridging Connections: What's Your PNCWA Story?

With the PNCWA annual conference just around the corner, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on the myriad of reasons why membership and involvement are so important. Membership not only impacts our own professional development, but the connections we make have the potential to create ripples across the region. We asked a few PNCWA members to tell us their story and why PNCWA matters so much to them in their own words. We also hear from the Membership Committee Chair, Brittany Burch, about an exciting initiative PNCWA is taking on to build diversity in our member association. Read their story here.