From the Floor of WEFTEC 2021: An Interview with Dale Miller, LO

Posted by Christine Gunsaullus on Thursday, January 13, 2022

WEFTEC 2021 Tradeshow Floor Image
Attendees flood the exhibit hall at WEFTEC 2021

What do wastewater operators do on vacation? Entech’s Dale Miller, Operations Specialist, recently returned from another trip to the annual WEFTEC Conference. This year the Water Environment Federation (WEF) held their event in Chicago, gathering more than 10,000 water and wastewater professionals over the course of five days. We asked Dale about the experience, and why he’s gone back more than 10 times.

What’s so great about WEFTEC?

I love to learn about new technologies. For example, we’re working on a dryer project, and I wanted to see the equipment for myself. Sure, I could view it online or look at a manual, but to touch it and get a feel for the control panel and layout, have a discussion with the manufacturer’s reps, and have all the various ones lined up… it’s a great way to test drive the equipment. Then I could call our client the next day, discuss what I saw and give my opinion, and help them to choose the best equipment for their project.

"There’s nothing better than talking shop with someone with hands-on experience – I learned so much."
- Dale Miller, LO

On another project, we’re considering two different grit systems for the headworks on a $10 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade we’re designing, so I had in-depth conversations with the two manufacturers to really understand the differences between their products, and the benefits of one over the other.

What’s the conference like?

The attendees are a mix of engineers, operators, and the vendors. There were several technical talks I was really interested in. For example, I listened to a guy from Alabama who’s operating the first Granular Activated Sludge Process Plant in the state, and then I discussed it in detail with him afterwards. There’s nothing better than talking shop with someone with hands-on experience – I learned so much.

Hydro Profiler for lagoons

I wanted to spend more time in the Innovations Pavilion, but there’s so much to see and so many vendors to visit, but never enough time! While not new, I was curious about a process to do hydraulic profiling of lagoons with a remote control boat and sonar, which can be used to measure sediment depth in lagoons. We did it for a client in Maryland a few years ago, but our low-tech approach was no fun and very limited when sticking a pole 15’ into sludge from a rowboat. This technology is much cleaner, faster, and accurate, a win all around.

WEF Community Service Project Video. Watch for Dale's cameo at 2:43

Finally, my wife and I participated in the Community Service Event that the WEF Students and Young Professionals Committee organized, and it was awesome! This year about 50 of us spent six hours just outside downtown Chicago cleaning up the 12th Street Beach on Northerly Island and gathering native seeds of the prairie grass for replanting nearby to help with stormwater runoff. I love mentoring, and thoroughly enjoyed talking with the students to learn about their studies, and give them insight into how they can help our industry in the future. It gives me great hope.

What else did you learn?

The operator shortage problem we see in Pennsylvania isn’t just localized; it’s happening throughout the country. Nobody knows when the COVID issues will end, but everyone was so happy to be together in person at this conference – online just can’t compare.

Will you go back to WEFTEC in 2022?

Absolutely! I really enjoy myself, and there’s no other place to see so much treatment equipment at once, and talk to the people who understand it.

Christine Gunsaullus Photo

Christine Gunsaullus

storage tank queen


Categories: Municipal Infrastructure  |  Entech, Engineering, & Beyond

Tagged: Potable Water  |  Wastewater

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