Racial and Social Justice Subcommittee

On July 10, the Member Services Committee kicked off the first meeting for the Racial and Social Justice Subcommittee. The purpose of this group is to provide education and leadership opportunities for PNCWA members to advance and promote racial and social justice into water resources organizations, programs, projects, and the impacted communities in our region. Contact the Subcommittee Chair Rob Lee if you're interested in joining. We need your voice!

The national Black Lives Matters movement has put a spotlight on systemic racism and injustice. In response, PNCWA has created this new subcommittee with the goal to educate our membership on the issues. If you have not yet read it, here is the statement against racism that PNCWA released, PNCWA Statement Against Racism; these ideals will be the backbone of the Racial and Social Justice Subcommittee.

Committee Spotlight: Stormwater

New Stormwater Management Strategies and Benefits During These Unusual Times

Community leaders continue to be pressed to determine essential services and define the critical activities to operate safely and continuously in their communities. The need for clean, safe, and reliable drinking water is high on that list, as well as the need for functioning wastewater collection and treatment systems. With tight budgets and little time, these leaders find themselves asking critical questions: What level of functionality of stormwater infrastructure is essential? Can we wait to perform some of these functions when things are safer? What activities are truly essential?

The vitality of stormwater infrastructure is necessary to protect our urban areas during storms and prevent pollutants from entering our waterways. We increasingly rely on green infrastructure to better manage stormwater, deliver water quality benefits, enhance the appearance of urban areas, and make movement safer for pedestrians and bicycles.

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PNCWA: Racial and Social Justice Initiatives

The PNCWA board issued a statement last week calling on PNCWA members to “commit time to be educated, to increase your understanding, and to promote ideas and programs that eliminate structural racism in our organization, region, and the communities we serve.”  In follow up to that message, here are some actions that PNCWA has been and will continue to take promote diversity and social and racial justice.

Our Members Services Committee has a goal for the PNCWA membership and the water industry to represent the communities we serve. We recognize that overall, the water industry lacks racial and gender diversity that truly mimics and represents our communities and we want to change that. At our 2019 PNCWA conference in Portland, 13% of attendees were people of color (PNCWA conference Survey data) compared to the population of Oregon, which is composed of 25% people of color (US census data). Similarly, less than 20% of the conference attendees were women. We strive to increase the diversity of both our membership and our leadership. We have therefore developed a goal to increase diversity in membership by 2025 with a targets to increase membership of women, people of color, and young professionals.

Table 1: PNCWA current and target demographics. Target demographics are defined for new joining members.

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Government Affairs Committee Update June 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 June 2020.

Navigable Water Protection Rule
In a Notice published in the Federal Register on April 21, EPA and the Department of the Army (Army) finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, (the “Waters of the US Rule”), which provides updated regulations on what waters fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Several states and NGOs have challenged the new rule.

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Dare to Disagree

Leadership Corner

I am, generally speaking, a HUGE fan of Ted Talks. I browse topics regularly, and just this past weekend, I watched one with my 12-year-old while we were baking in the kitchen. There is one talk, which I have come back to repeatedly: Margaret Heffernan’s “Dare to Disagree.” She emphasizes that allowing ourselves to be challenged (in our work or paradigms) is not good enough. We should willingly seek out conflict and ask for input from those with other points of view. That conflict should be viewed not as something to be avoided- but as a mechanism to do our best collective thinking.   

On projects, I’ve worked to incorporate this approach: Asking questions like: “Before we discount this option- can anyone make a case for why it should still be on the table? Or, X is one of our fundamental assumptions, how confident are we that this assumption will hold?” are good ways to welcome input. I’ve also found verbalizing the team expectation of respectful discourse sets the tone for maximizing diverse perspectives. 

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PNCWA Statement Against Racism

PNCWA exists for the, “education… increased public understanding, and promotion of sound public laws and programs in the water resources and related environmental fields.” Like all of our members, PNCWA believes that the right to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right, just like the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. And yet the recent senseless murders of Black Americans such as George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have shown us that we cannot talk about protecting human health and the environment without talking about the systemic racism and injustice that has existed from our nation’s beginning and still exists today. We realize our silence and inaction makes us complicit in denying certain segments of our population, like the Black Community, of their basic rights, not just to clean water but to life itself. We have much to learn.

Our membership is comprised of people who joined this industry to be a part of something greater than themselves – wanting and willing to make the world a better place. As PNCWA leaders, we promise that the Black Community does not simply have our solidarity but our enduring voices, resolved to help carry the burden of fighting institutional racism, discrimination, and bias. This is not a Black problem, but a human problem. And we call on all of our members to use their privilege and platforms to lessen the burden off of the shoulders of those who are the subject of these injustices.  This will take each and every one of us, committed to this hard work that must endure even after the protests have quieted and the headlines have faded.

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Meet Mark Walter, PNCWA Contract Manager

When the Covid-19 crisis broke it impacted us all a little differently, but it was a reminder to all of us about the power of human connection. Mark Walter is the new PNCWA Contract Manager. His role is to facilitate connection between contracted vendors as well as to connect PNCWA members to the resources and support they need. While not a stranger to PNCWA involvement, we asked Mark to tell us a little more about himself, in his own words.

It has been exciting to serve as Contract Manager for the PNCWA as the association transitions to new business management practices. My experience with the PNCWA has been a wonderful part of my career in water quality. I cannot imagine a better group of people to be around. No matter what the challenge, PNCWA members rally together to solve some of the most complex water quality challenges.

I became a WEF member in 1988 as an Operator at Irvine Ranch Water District in California. My local Section was the Santa Ana River Basin Section, where I competed in the Scott Air Pack Challenge. This was a timed response to a simulated gas leak, back when gaseous chlorine was used for disinfection. I moved back to Oregon in the early ’90s and became a member of the NW Oregon Operators Section (now Lower Columbia Section), where I became an active Operations Challenge competitor. After several years competing, I served as the PNCWA Ops Challenge Chair, Oregon Region Director, and went on to serve on the PNCWA Board. I was elected as the PNCWA President in 2000. Throughout the 2000s, I dedicated my volunteer time to the Oregon Water Environment Foundation’s Water Environment School. In 2015, I was asked to establish the PNCWA Awards Committee. The Awards program exposed me again to the great contributions of the members of the PNW. The PNCWA Awards program continues to evolve as new members bring their “style” into the committee. We sure know how to have fun!

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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.