WEF honours water professionals and organisations for service and contributions

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has proudly announced the 2017 WEF Awards recipients for service and contributions.

These prestigious awards recognise individuals and organisations that have made outstanding contributions to the sustainability of water resources and made a profound impact on the future of the water profession. 

“The Water Environment Federation is extremely proud to honor the incredible contributions of these individuals and organisations in protecting one of the world’s most valuable resources and contributing to their communities,” Eileen O’Neill, Executive Director of WEF, said.

The 2017 recipients for Individual Service and Contribution Awards are:


Camp Applied Research Award: Michael Stenstrom, PhD

The Camp Applied Research Award recognises a WEF member who demonstrates a unique application of basic research or fundamental principles through the design or development of a wastewater collection or treatment system.

Dr Stenstrom’s lifetime work in wastewater system aeration and oxygen transfer has been far-reaching and seminal for a very large number of wastewater plants in North America.


Emerson Distinguished Service Medal: Karen Pallansch PE, BCEE, WEF Fellow

This medal commemorates the service of the first president of the Federation, Charles Alvin Emerson, who served from 1928 to 1941, and was its first honorary member. This medal is presented to an individual member whose contributions to the water environment profession most deserve recognition.

Karen Pallansch has been a leader in innovation and service to the water profession for 30 years and made numerous contributions to the goals of WEF. 


Outstanding Young Water Environment Professional Award: Michelle Hatcher

This award recognises the contributions of young water environment professionals for significant contributions to WEF and to the wastewater collection and treatment industry.

Michelle Hatcher has been an active member of WEF since joining as a student and participating in the WEF Student Design Competition. She has served as chair of WEF’s Students & Young Professionals Committee since 2015.


W. Wesley Eckenfelder Industrial Water Quality Lifetime Achievement Award: Al Goodman and Enos Loy Stover

The Industrial Water Quality Lifetime Achievement Award recognises and honours an individual who has made substantial and measurable engineering, scientific, and/or operations contributions to the management or treatment of industrial wastes related to the improvement of water quality.

Al Goodman and Enos Loy Stover are both long-time contributors to WEFTEC through paper presentations, teaching at workshops, and serving in various committees – Al Goodman served as President of WEF. Both are highly regarded professionals in the industrial wastewater field and have had significant contributions to both WEF and the profession over their more than 40-year careers.


Water Heroes Award

The purpose of the Water Heroes programme is to recognise individuals or municipalities who performed duties above and beyond the usual call of duty during an emergency situation to continue to protect the public and the environment. These duties shall elevate the status of the wastewater industry.


City of Dallas – Water Utilities (DWU) – Central Wastewater Treatment Plant 

In May 2015, spring rains brought widespread flooding to northern Texas, including the Dallas area. On May 8, 2015, City of Dallas employees at the Dallas Water Utilities Central Wastewater Treatment Plant observed an increase in inflow into their facility, attributed to the early spring rains, and began taking the necessary steps to manage the increase in flow.

As subsequent rainfall events followed, the staff could only watch as the Trinity River began to swell its banks. By May 22, 2015, nonessential staff were evacuated as the area flooding began to block the plant’s ingress/egress. For the next three days, the remaining employees operated the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant around the clock, taking on responsibilities outside their regular job requirements to keep the plant compliant with its Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) limits despite a 34 per cent increase in flow above the rated peak capacity of the plant. Because of their heroic efforts, DWU Central plant did not violate the TCEQ discharge permit limits or discharge any untreated flow.

In addition to the challenges faced at their own facility, the Central Plant staff also assisted the Trinity River Water Shed Management Division, DWU’s Southside Wastewater Treatment Plant staff, and DWU’s Collection Department in their efforts to combat the problems created by the area flooding and assisted in the rescue of some stranded kayakers on the Trinity River.


Renewable Water Resources, Greenville, South Carolina

In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall on the coast of South Carolina. Renewable Water Resources (ReWa), an upstate utility, responded to the South Carolina Water and Wastewater Agency Response Network’s call for assistance. ReWa supplied 18 employees, four generators, four pumps, one hose trailer, two fuel trucks, one fleet maintenance truck, and seven maintenance trucks to assist several of the low country’s utilities including Beaufort Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, Fripp Island, Hilton Head, and South Island Public Service Districts in recovering from the devastating effects of Matthew.

These 18 volunteers worked long hours facing adverse conditions assisting these utilities to restore both the water and wastewater services to their customers for a week before returning home to their families and ReWa responsibilities. Within a month of Hurricane Matthew, the Pinnacle Mountain fire broke out in neighbouring Pickens County, South Carolina.

Five ReWa employees responded to the request from Greenville County’s Office of Emergency Management to assist with the fire-fighting activities. For five days, including the Thanksgiving holiday, these employees manned two of ReWa’s large sewer cleaning trucks, carrying 1,500 gallons (5,678 litres) of creek water at a time to the fire lines to keep the forestry crawlers and small brush trucks filled so they could continue working without leaving the area to restock with water. 


Steven Stire and Doug Nielsen, Suncor Firebag Facility, Alberta Canada

In May 2016, a wildfire started southwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. As this fire roared through the community, it destroyed 2,400 homes and buildings and forced the largest wildfire evacuation in Albertan history. More than 90,000 people were impacted by the wildfire which is expected to be Canada’s costliest natural disaster.

The Suncor Firebag facility, approximately 75 miles (120 kilometres) northeast of where the fire started, opened its doors to fire refugees. Before having to shut down, the facility is estimated to have temporarily housed over 16,000 evacuees.

As the fire bore down on the Suncor facility, it was eventually evacuated of refugees and staff with the exception of two CH2M staff members who remained behind to operate the water and wastewater utilities at the facility. Operators Steve Stire and Doug Nielsen remained on site, devised a plan to keep the plant operating and compliant while in shut down mode, maintaining critical process functions while other operations ceased. These two operators managed the site 24 hours a day for 20 days during this life-threatening situation.

The awards will be presented during WEFTEC® 2017, the Federation’s 90th Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference at will be held from the 30th of September to the 4th of October in Chicago, Illinois, United States