AAEE West Coast Event Takes Closer Look at Sustainability

Speakers Tim Haug, Deputy City of LA Engineer and Rich Atwater General Manager IEUA

Speakers Tim Haug, Deputy City Engineer for Los Angeles and Rich Atwater General Manager of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency.

By Wendy Wert
LABS Director
CWEA Chair, Training Coordination

On September 24, 2009 the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE) hosted a dinner and networking seminar at Loyola Marymount University (LMU).  Participants were enlightened, inspired, and entertained.  The “Sustainable Wastewater Operations” topic drew attendees from a broad spectrum of the environmental profession, including: professors, researchers, managers, practitioners, technicians, advocates, manufacturers, vendors and students.  The evening began with a stimulating networking session on the breezeway of LMU’s University Center. Participants then dined in the MacIntosh Room where they engaged in discussions of resource recovery alternatives from individual experiences.  In addition to the sponsored students, two LMU engineering classes joined attendees in the Ahmanson Auditorium for the presentation portion of the event. 

Mike Selna, AAEE Vice President and retired Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (Districts) Assistant Chief Engineer, initiated the program with a brief introduction to the Academy.  A primary objective of the Academy is to certify environmental engineers in their area of expertise, which include: Air Pollution Control, General Environmental Engineering, Hazardous Waste Management, Industrial Hygiene, Radiation Protection, Solid Waste Management, Water Supply/Wastewater Engineering and most recently Sustainability Engineering.  AAEE is developing a new certification in Sustainability Engineering, which will provide an opportunity for recognition of expertise in this expanding area in the Environmental Engineering profession.  Board Certification is the next step beyond Professional Engineering licensure.  An essential component of Certification is the Academy’s continuing education requirements, which help assure that certificate holders maintain their proficiency.  Seminars, such as the 2009 West Coast Event, contribute to this objective by providing the membership with timely training opportunities on rising subject areas.


Featured Speaker Tim Haug initiated the dialog through a compelling presentation entitled “Sustainability-What is It and Do We Mean It.”  Dr. Haug is acting AAEE Trustee-At-Large and Deputy City Engineer/Wastewater Program Manager for the City of Los Angeles.  He has both an M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford and a B.S. from LMU, where he maintains a position as Professor Emeritus. Dr. Haug began by asking participants to confront “a really uncomfortable problem” which he explained as humanities exponentially
increasing needs in the context of globally limited resources.  Dr. Haug explained that the concept of “Sustainability” provides an appealing solution to our current dilemma.  In fact, the term “Sustainability” is used so prolifically lately that its practical meaning has become ambiguous.  Dr. Haug suggested that the definition we are seeking is “Let’s build a better world for the long-term.”  The good news is that this is that sustainable concepts are being applied in many arenas.  Politicians are establishing lofty goals, for example “No coal … 40% renewables by 2020” Mayor Villaraigosa and “30% renewables by 2020” Gov. Schwarzenegger.  Utilities are conserving resources, there are new U.S. fuel standards, there is a possible cap and trade applied to green house gasses (GHGs).  The bottom line is that the carbon footprint is being considered more often.  The message is out there, the scientific basis has been established through the Keeling curve, which documents increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. 

Attendees enjoy networking Dave Haug LACSD (lt) Doug Sereno Port of Long Beach (ctr) Mike Selna AAEE VP (rt)

Attendees enjoy networking, including Dave Haug, LACSD (lt) Doug Sereno, Port of Long Beach (ctr) and Mike Selna AAEE VP (rt)

Dr. Haug explained that the environmental engineering profession has historically provided solutions to many humanitarian issues in the developed world.  For example, water borne diseases, which were once catastrophic, have been overcome through water and wastewater treatment technologies.  Droughts, and the associated famines, have been overcome through the availability of viable water supplies even in arid regions.  So why can’t we rely on the environmental engineering profession to apply “Sustainability” principals and solve the current dilemma?  

Dr. Haug suggested that there are several impediments to a comprehensive “Sustainable” solution.  For example, it is common to observe a dichotomy between semantics and actions.

Most individuals agree with the concept of “Sustainability” however there is less enthusiasm expressed for associated costs and inconveniences.  In addition, even brilliant engineers and scientists cannot circumvent the first and second laws of thermodynamics.  Dr. Haug explained the “really uncomfortable problem” in terms of exponential population expansion and the associated economic and social impediments to achieving stabilized, “Sustainable” anthropologic impacts to our biosphere.   
Featured Speaker Richard Atwater continued the dialog through a pragmatic presentation entitled “Sustainable Water Futures – Opportunities at Water and Wastewater Utilities.”  Mr. Atwater is the President of the WateReuse Association and General Manager/CEO of the Inland Empire Utility Agency (IEUA).  Mr. Atwater focused the discussion by explaining that utilities have become increasingly aware of the causes of our global water situation, such as exponential population growth, increased standard of living, climate change, and urbanization.  As a result of these factors nearly half the global population will experience water stress by 2025.

Mr. Atwater explained that the IEUA has responded to this challenge by developing sustainable programs such as innovation in energy conservation/production, water reuse, biosolids management, and green building design.  Mr. Atwater explained that the primary “Sustainability” goal at IEUA is a paradigm transition from a consumption-based approach to a production-based approach.  The three IEUA wastewater utility products are recycled water, biosolids/compost, and renewable energy. 

Mr. Atwater explained that the reliability of imported water in Southern California continues to be threatened by Colorado River water shortages and by delta pumping issues that have simultaneously reduced the availability of State Water Project supplies.   In response, IEUA is exploring local sources consisting of stormwater, groundwater, and recycled water with renewed enthusiasm.

Patrick Shields, IEUA and Steve Maguin LACSD

Patrick Shields, IEUA and Steve Maguin LACSD

 IEUA is currently recycling and average of 58 million gallons per day (MGD) at four regional water-recycling facilities these systems have a design capacity of 84.4 MGD. As an element of “Sustainable” practices, IEUA has assessed not only the availability of water supplies but also the associated energy requirements of each source.  For example recycled water requires 400 KWH/AF whereas Colorado River water requires 2,000 KWH/AF and State Water Project water requires 2,500 KWH/AF.

Mr. Atwater described “Sustainable” aspects of the IEUA biosolids management program.  In response to restrictive air quality regulations the existing IEUA composting facility was decommissioned in 2006.  In 2007 IEUA partnered with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts to construct a fully enclosed regional composting facility, which meets the requirements of Rule 1133.2.  IEUA’s “Sustainable” initiatives include multiple renewable energy programs such as thermophilic digestion with food waste additions, combined heat and power,  flared biogas recovery, solar power, wind power, fuel cells and even the use of algae.  Mr. Atwater highlighted a zero to 1 MW solar power plant that IEUA constructed in four months.  IEUA operates five solar projects that result in a combined annual production of 7.2 MWH. 

Tim Haug and Rich Atwater, were then recognized as water hero’s for their continued dedication to the practice of “Sustainable Wastewater Operations” by both the Academy and the Blue Planet Run Foundation, a global humanitarian organization.  Through the contributions of dedicated individuals, the Environmental Engineering profession, continues the journey toward making universal safe water a reality.  

The evening concluded by encouraging other environmental professionals to achieve recognition in their area of expertise through the Academy’s board certification process, an exam fee waiver was awarded to two candidates.

To learn more about AAEE visit www.aaee.net.

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