Volunteer Spotlight: Amanda Streicher

GWS has grown from an idea to a reality, all with the help of Amanda Streicher. Amanda served as the first organization Chair, and held that role for 3 years. During that time, a business plan, marketing plan, and multiple committees were established. With her help, GWS has grown to a group of volunteers serving multiple committees, with regular corporate sponsors, recognition within CSWEA, and a clear path ahead to move forward with accomplishing our goal of improving sanitation in the developing world. She has helped develop relationships with important members of AyA (the Costa Rican Water/Wastewater authority) and been an advocate for the education program that now has taught more than 1,000 students about wastewater. Though her time as chair is over, she is excited to remain involved with the organization and help us to continue to grow and improve. GWS spoke with her about how she got involved with GWS in the first place, and what she feels like has been the highlight of her time as chair. Read on to learn more….

GWS: Amanda, you’ve basically been involved with GWS since the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about what motivated you to get involved?

Amanda: Well.. A free trip to Costa Rica! I’m only half kidding.. it started shortly after graduation. I graduated from MSOE in 2013 with my Bachelor’s in Architectural Engineering and my Master’s in Environmental Engineering. After graduation I began working for a mechanical contractor. I received an e-mail from Doug Nelson, who was my thesis advisor for my graduate program, that had a flyer from CSWEA attached with information about GWS. They were looking for applications from people to come on a free trip to Costa Rica to help collect data for the first GWS student design competition. I had participated in the CSWEA student design competition before the GWS category had been established but I thought it would be great to be on the other side of that, especially if it meant I could go to Costa Rica. I still had my CSWEA membership since I had previously taken part in the competition, so I applied. It turns out I was the second choice! I was selected because their first choice declined… I’d like to think Mohammed (Haque) and Manuel (de los Santos) were happy to be stuck with me in the end.

GWS: I’m definitely glad they got stuck with you! That’s a great story to look back on. I’m sure you never imagined that you would become a leader in the organization at that point. What did you do to remain involved when you got back from your trip?

Amanda: After the trip I decided I wanted to stay involved. Mohammed referred me to a few different companies that are actively involved in CSWEA that would support my involvement and I ended up switching careers. I was hired by Baxter and Woodman (B&W) at the end of 2014. This was a great career move for me as well because it is in line with my interests.

GWS: Wow, I didn’t realize you started at B&W after GWS. So what was your next move with GWS?

Amanda: The organization was still brand new at this point. We were working on putting together the requirements for the student design competition, and getting more schools involved. We were also trying to get more people involved in general. After the first design competition we began working on establishing our business plan with long-term and short-term goals. Another important aspect of the organization that we started around that time was the education campaign. We realized on the trips that we needed both the school children and the communities to support our efforts and understand how and why these projects were being completed. I helped develop presentations for children and community members that we gave on the August 2015 trip, and have improved and continued to present every August to more schools and communities. We also began developing relationships in Costa Rica with officials who were interested in our mission and had the power and funding available to help realize our goals. We partnered with an engineering firm in Costa Rica to help us develop plans to their specific standards and regulations.

GWS: Sounds like the first few years there was a lot of behind the scenes work being done. What do you feel is your greatest impact over the past 3 years?

Amanda: That’s tough. I think one of my biggest impacts was the organization I brought to the table. I helped keep everything in order and make sure that everything that we said we were going to do got done. Another big impact I think I had was growth. I worked very hard to grow the organization. We went from 4 people after the first trip to over 100 that are interested. I’m very proud of that. Another thing I am proud of is what we have done with our education program. It’s been great working with the kids and helping them to realize that they have an opportunity to help. I think the biggest impact GWS has had is the work done with AyA. The Costa Rican government was previously developing Wastewater Master Plan for the country and I think the work we are doing has really helped to move that along. It was approved in 2015 and we are partnered with them to help them realize the goals in the Master Plan by 2045.

GWS: What do you hope to see the organization accomplish in the next 5 years?

Amanda: I would like a regular operator training schedule like what we are planning for the August trip. I also hope the organization will get more involved in the technical side of things and be used as a resource to answer operator questions. I would like to see a project break ground. It has been tough to get this far without a project in the ground but we are learning that things work very different in Costa Rica than they do here. We are learning the ways around a new country, but we have developed the relationships we need to start seeing great progress. I also hope our education program continues to grow. I would love to work in more high schools with students who are trying to make decisions about college and careers. Another goal I have is to start some conversations in the Dominican Republic. That is the next target area for GWS so I’m hoping within 5 years we will be big enough and have the resources to start making that move. If the past 5 years momentum continues, I believe it’s possible.

GWS: Has GWS helped you professionally at all?

Amanda: Definitely. I think it has helped my management skills, my ability to balance a lot of things at once and has helped me to be better at making sure things get done right and on time. It also has changed my perspective, so I can see the broad picture better, as well as the small steps to get there.

GWS: What is your favorite part of being involved with GWS?

Amanda: I really feel like I can make an impact and improve lives. This is beyond just meeting a stricter permit limit. It is the difference between cloudy grey water in the streets and clean streets with happy healthy residents. It helps remind me how important the work I am doing here is as well and makes me really appreciate the infrastructure we have here.

GWS: Thanks so much Amanda! We look forward to working with you in the coming years to make our goals a reality.

Donor Spotlight: Frey Foundation

We recently sat down with Cam Frey, Frey Foundation Trustee, to understand the motives of the Foundation and why he personally supports the goals and efforts of GWS.

GWS: Tell us about the Frey Foundation, what should people know?

Cam: We are a family foundation with eight trustees and two next generation members.  The foundation was created in 1974 by my grandparents, Edward and Frances Frey.  They had a passion for community and a commitment to philanthropy.  For three generations the Frey Family has continued their work.  We are committed to preserving our grandparents’ interests, passions, and legacy.  As well as make our own impact on the communities we grew up in.

As a group we invest collaboratively in western and northern Michigan to create a better place to live by strengthening its communities, protecting its natural environment, enhancing the arts, and transforming the lives of individuals and families.  One great thing about the foundation is the many different insights, passions, and life experiences of each trustee.  We currently live all over the country and the ages of trustees range from mid-30’s to mid-70’s.  That said, we are all tied together by everyone making a conscious decision to make an impact in Michigan, regardless of where we live now.  I would say we are an evolving foundation that is always open to new ideas and strategies around our focus areas.

GWS: Why does the Frey Foundation, and you personally, support GWS? What motivates you to donate?

Cam:  We have an environmental focus.  To give you more background, we actually have four areas of focus: the environment, community arts, children and family, and building community.  In a way we have a fifth area of focus too – Board driven initiatives.  We call these initiatives FAPS, which stands for Foundation Administered Programs.  Going back to the environment, we have three strategic priorities:  preserving and restoring watersheds, lakes, and streams, in Lake Michigan’s twelve sub-watersheds, 2) expanding and connecting regional trails and greenways, and 3) protecting critical lands, including farmland, park land, and natural habitats.  While the board and organization as a whole stay within the focus areas I previously mentioned, the trustees have the ability to make discretionary donations outside of the these areas. GWS clearly fits within our environmental focus area, but not necessarily within our geographic focus, so I took the opportunity to use discretionary funds.  What’s great about GWS is that our donation hits on other focus areas as well.  It supports children and family and building community.  It’s great when our investments support more than one focus area.

As for what motives me to donate?  Really for me it’s about water.  Water is the life blood of an ecosystem.  Whether is wastewater, watersheds, water management, etc., it’s a great area to focus on.  Many of my discretionary donations have been to animal related groups and causes.  In many cases these animals and their habitat depend on the environment and a large part of that is related to water.  In addition, my role as an architect often involves waste water and water management.  Water systems in the environment are a big part of my job.  Also, I live in Colorado and water is a huge issue in this region.

GWS:  One of the foundation’s focus areas is the environment.  Talk about why you focus on the environment and why you think it’s important?

Cam:  A few years ago we fine tuned our areas of focus.  For the environment we wanted to make an impact on the Great Lakes.  So we have a focus on watersheds.  We do a lot of watershed projects with the understanding they all feed the Great Lakes’ ecosystem while being a hyper-local resource as well.  Our grandparents had a passion for the environment and we all grew up exploring the dunes, forest, and lakes of western and northern Michigan.  We want everyone to be able to enjoy the same wonders we did as kids.  And as a family that continues today, from our northern Michigan fishing trips to a family farm.  Our family is passionate about the environment.

GWS: Tell us about a few contributions, achievements and accomplishments you and the foundation are most proud of?

Cam: Environmentally speaking, we’ve supported a lot of different trails and parkways connecting western Michigan to different parts of northern Michigan.  We’ve worked with counties and community foundations to bridge the gaps between existing trails.  We have also been a committed supporter of dam removal in parts of the Michigan that help restore these ecosystems to their natural state.  This can have a profound effect on the surrounding ecologies and communities.

GWS: You mentioned that previous donations have gone to animal related groups.  Tell us a little more about that and what other organizations you personally support?

Cam:  Growing up as a kid, I have many great memories of fly fishing and playing in the rivers and lakes nearby.  As a group we have a lot of memories in Northern Michigan enjoying the environment.  That is one reason the foundation has an environmental focus area.  In the past I’ve supported everything from lemurs to lions to sea turtles along with related organizations such as Trout Unlimited and Water.org.

GWS:  Cam, it was great to talk to you and learn more about your passions and the foundation.  From all of GWS, we want to say thank you for your and the foundation’s support.  Your donation was unexpected and we greatly appreciate your investment!

Cam:  I am really lucky to be able to do this.  I believe in what GWS is doing.  It’s a worthwhile area for people.  All of your members are volunteers.  People are donating their time and energy and that’s amazing.  We work with a lot of large groups, but we believe in supporting small groups, volunteer organizations.  It’s a great way to make an impact.

For more information about the Frey Foundation and what they do, visit www.freyfdn.org.

Volunteer Spotlight: Zack Wallin

This fall’s volunteer spotlight is the one and only Zack Wallin.

Our volunteers dedicate their time and resources with a hope that they can make a difference, but that’s not to say they don’t get something back from their involvement. Being a GWS volunteer provides wastewater professionals with a place to channel their passions, increase their networks, and develop their skills further in a market they typically may not have had the chance to experience. It’s a great place for young professionals to learn and get involved in CSWEA early! One of our new young professional volunteers deserves a shout-out! Zack is a 2016 graduate from UW Platteville and was a winner of the 2016 student design competition. He traveled to Costa Rica in August with the GWS team and has since remained very actively involved, even though his duties as student design winner were complete after WEFTEC. He played a crucial role in the completion of the preliminary design for the Bahia Ballena project during the competition phase and continues to be flexible and dedicated to the project’s success. He now serves as Student Design Chair.

Liz: How did you decide to work on the GWS project for your senior design project?

Zack: I originally decided to study environmental engineering because I wanted to provide people in the USA, and abroad with access to clean water. As my time in college progressed, I discovered that I also really enjoy the wastewater side of things, and that there is a big need for improved sanitation worldwide that often goes unnoticed. When I saw the opportunity to be a part of the solution to a wastewater issue in Costa Rica as a senior design project, I could not resist.

L: What type of treatment system did you and your team recommend and how did you decide that was best?

Z: Well to start, here are a few quick things to note about the project, to help readers understand: Costa Rica has few wastewater treatment facilities, many homes are on failing septic systems, so most Costa Rican communities do not know how to operate wastewater facilities. Most communities do have potable water systems, and have successfully managed them for some time now. The particular community that we worked with attracts and depends on revenue from tourists. The fast growing community is seeking to attract even more tourists. Electricity in Costa Rica can be unreliable, and is double the cost of electricity in the USA.

Now to answer your question, we first looked at potential sites, and created a decision matrix as to which site was preferred. We considered items such as odor, whether or not lift station(s) would be needed, the size of the site, and cost and ease of official acquisition to name a few. We wanted to select and design a process that would minimize adverse socioeconomic impacts, capital and O&M costs, power demands, and operator expertise to provide a solution that would fit the community well. In addition, we looked at treatment options that could produce the desired effluent quality and fit onto each of the sites. A mechanical treatment facility such as activated sludge requires a small area, but can be complicated to operate, whereas a lagoon is easy to operate, but requires much more land. The sites that were potentially available had a mixture of desirable and undesirable qualities, so we had to try to find a balance. One of the two finalist sites had a large enough area to fit a completely mixed aerated lagoon, and would require one lift station immediately preceding the treatment facility. However, the site was in prime real estate near the ocean and near the heart of the community, meaning potential for lost tourist revenue, and slower growth. At the time, acquiring the land was no guarantee as well. The other finalist site was too small for a lagoon, and would require a long force main with a higher elevation change than the other finalist site. However, the second finalist site was already owned by the government, was downwind of the community, and the land had little real estate value.

We went with a trickling filter system on the second finalist site that included primary and secondary sedimentation tanks, and an equalization basin. This system is easier to operate than traditional activated sludge, and requires less land than aerated lagoons, so our team felt that this system was a good compromise.

L: In what ways did traveling to Costa Rica with GWS add to what you learned during your undergraduate education, and particularly, your senior design project?

Z: Traveling to Costa Rica with GWS really emphasized the importance of communication, especially communication with various government entities, community members and other stakeholders. An idea is useless if it cannot be communicated accurately to people with different backgrounds and different experiences. I also learned more about the design process throughout the project and then during the visit to Costa Rica. Our team had redesigned our proposed solution a couple times through the semester, and then we ended up having to redesign again after competition as new information came out. We will have to redesign at least one more time due to new information we got during our visit. At times it was frustrating having to change things we had already worked so hard on, but it was good for us to realize that engineers have to be able to adjust and make good decisions as the project changes.

L: I agree the trip was frustrating at times, but definitely an incredible experience. On that note, why did you decide to stay involved in GWS?

Z: I decided to stay with GWS because I believe the work they are doing is going to make a big difference. There are billions of people that lack adequate sanitation, which can lead to preventable illness and disease. To undertake in the mission to try to save lives, and keep our world clean is an honorable cause. In addition, the people of GWS are great to work with. They have a wide variety of skills and backgrounds that I have already greatly benefited from, and I continue to learn from their experiences and guidance.

L: It’s definitely great to work for something you can believe in and be proud of. What are you working on now for GWS?

Z: Right now, I am helping with setting up the next student design competition. Because I went through the competition as a student, I have a unique perspective on how the competition was run, and how it can be improved.

L: And now that you’re done with school and out in the real world, has your work with GWS helped you in your job and if so, how?

Z: I would certainly say GWS has helped me with communication skills. Being exposed to the project, and working with other engineers across the Midwest has forced me to sharpen my communication skills. This has been really important, especially when interacting with contractors and at times, community members.

As a recent graduate, I do not have a ton of experience. GWS has given me an opportunity to gain experience faster than just working a job. From the work that I have done, am doing, and will do along with relationships with other engineers who help me along, I am learning and gaining experience which will pay dividends as I run into various challenges. Even now the additional experience has helped keep me calm when challenges arise, and I can contemplate solutions with a level head.

L: Why did you choose to make water/wastewater your career?

Z: I decided to make a career in water/wastewater for several reasons. I love the outdoors, and want to do my part in stewarding it well. I enjoy the technical side of things in the field. My belief in God has taught me that He wants to provide everyone with their most important needs. I want to reflect that by playing a role in providing people with essential needs such as sanitation and clean water.

L : What advice would you give to students who are about to begin work on their senior design projects?

Z: Find a way to get along with your design team. If you cannot get along with your design team, the project will be rough, and its chance at success will fall. If everyone works well together, the project has a better chance to succeed. Everyone is different, and has unique talents and mindsets that they can bring to the project. When there are conflicts, address them and seek to understand the other side first. I was fortunate in that our design team was able to work together well, which was really good for our project.

Donor Spotlight: Lakeside Equipment Corporation

Every spring, summer, and fall, the GWS team interviews donors and volunteers.  Next up!  For the fall of 2018 – Lakeside Equipment Corporation.

Lakeside Equipment is one of GWS’s newest corporate donors. After learning about GWS from an employee, they decided that ours was a mission worth supporting. Elizabeth Bohne had the opportunity to talk to Warren Kersten, the Vice President of Lakeside Equipment, about his background, Lakeside Equipment, and why he supports Global Water Stewardship. Read on to learn a little more about Warren…

GWS: Tell me how you first got involved in with wastewater work?

Warren: My father was an environmental engineer, so from the time I was three years old he was dragging me around to wastewater plants. I was always interested in nature and protecting the environment. I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps. We used to fish the Mississippi River together and I would see all the floating debris, and the poor water quality, and wanted to be involved in fixing it.

Growing up and going through high school I always liked science so it was natural for me to continue on to study Biology for my undergraduate degree. I received a scholarship to play football at Augustana University. They did not have an engineering program, but I then went on to South Dakota State University to complete a second Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Master of Science in Environmental engineering. The biology background definitely helped in my masters studies and has helped me further my career as a large portion of the work Lakeside does is in biological wastewater treatment and nutrient removal.

I graduated in 1979. After graduate school I took a job with a consulting firm in Twin Cities, Minnesota where I mostly did wastewater treatment process design. Throughout school I had interned with Lakeside Equipment during the summers. In 1990 they reached out to me and offered me a position with the company. I have been with them now for 28 years.

GWS: Wow! So you’ve really grown with Lakeside. What do you find most challenging about wastewater treatment?

W: I think it’s most challenging, but also most interesting, that each wastewater treatment plant and project is different. Not only that, but I’ve watched the industry develop. I graduated high school in 1972, the year the Clean Water Act was passed, so I’ve watched the industry develop and seen the effluent limits change to become more and more stringent. I’ve worked with Lakeside to help adapt our processes to the changing effluent limits. I remember the first Earth Day! It’s amazing to think back on how much things have changes since then.

GWS: Where does Lakeside mostly work?

W: Most of our product is in the US, but we also have some in Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Guam, and the Philippines. We even work at some military bases in Korea.

GWS: What kind of process would you have at a Military base?

W: Typically we use our Closed Loop Reactor (CLR) Process, or more commonly known as the oxidation ditch…But Lakeside provides pretty much everything on the liquid side of wastewater treatment. We have a variety of screens and grit removal options. We even still have trickling filter rotary distributors and in the right conditions they are still the best option. We have clarifiers, oxidation ditches, and we are the only manufacturer that has all three types of screw pumps. We also have SBRs.

GWS: I’m looking at your brochure online right now. It looks like you cover pretty much everything! What do you wish other people knew about Lakeside and wastewater?

W: Lakeside is a company that is 90 years old this year. It has always been employee owned, meaning we have no investors outside the company. Something that I think is really amazing is that the average employee has been here 15 years, which is unheard of these days. We all know each other very well, everyone knows everything about everyone and we are all very comfortable. It’s like a family atmosphere here. I think that it’s real testimony of the environment and company culture we try to keep. It’s been a great place to work for the last 28 years. I am proud that I can look back on my career and feel good about it, and like I have hopefully done something to help preserve the environment and make the world a better place.

GWS: What’s your personal philosophy on what should be done about availability of wastewater treatment in the developing world?

W: I have taken a number of trips to the Philippines. It was shocking to see the lack of wastewater treatment and solid waste disposal. I was there 28 years ago and at that point only about 5% had clean drinking water. Now I believe it’s up to 95%, however wastewater treatment is severely lacking. I’m kind of an amateur photographer so I have lots of photos of what is getting dumped into the streams and eventually into the ocean. I have a photo of a river where you can’t even see water surface because of all the debris and another of a littered beach with people swimming in the water. Something that really is apparent from traveling in developing countries is the distribution of wealth in the world. Even the poorest people in the United States have more wealth than half the planet. I think it’s very important that we recognize this and help other nations who are not as fortunate as we are in this regard. The planet is our responsibility to protect. Lakeside is very committed to the environment. We want to be good stewards and help other people.

GWS: Is there anything else you would like to tell me about Lakeside or your choice to support GWS?

W: We realize the importance of wastewater treatment worldwide. Even though we don’t do much a ton of international work, we believe that supporting the effort is very important. We want to show that we believe in it through helping out wherever we can. This is why we always support WEF and exhibit at every conference. We also try to exhibit at all of the state organization conferences because we know that the exhibit money goes back to the organization and helps support programs like yours [GWS]. I have learned from traveling overseas shows how blessed we are and I want to help others realize that. My kids are grown now but when they were growing up if they complained about something I would show them a photo of Manila [Philippines] to get them to realize how lucky we are and that we often take it for granted. I hope that I can continue to instill that idea in others through my work with Lakeside and organizations such as GWS.

GWS: That’s great to hear. I agree with you, we are very lucky and sometimes forget to realize that. It’s great to talk to someone who really believes in what we are doing, not just as GWS but the wastewater industry as a whole. Sometimes it seems like people get bogged down with permit limits and regulations and forget the big picture, that we are trying to protect our waterways and reduced water pollution. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and thank you so much for supporting GWS!