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!

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