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December 2017 - If It’s Fall It Must Be Conference Season

06 Dec 2017 9:12 PM | Natalie Love (Administrator)

When the leaves start turning colors in beautiful Colorado, it’s the signal of what is called the “shoulder” season. Shoulder season is that time when Summer and Winter vacation destination locations try to attract visitors, and offer discounted rates to convention organizers.  September and October are chalk full of industry conferences in Colorado and across the country.  This year was no exception.  I ended up crisscrossing the country for no less than 5 conferences in a period of 5 weeks.


First up was the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association/Rocky Mountain Section of American Water Works Association Joint Annual Conference (now there’s a mouth full!) in Loveland, CO.  This year saw the largest attendance ever at a JAC.  For those that have never had the opportunity to attend before, it is a chance to meet industry professionals from throughout Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming in both the water and wastewater professions.  Operators, engineers, and of course laboratory professionals all gathered for 3 days and 165 technical sessions on that one thing that we all share a passion for; water, in all its glorious forms.  This year’s conference began with an exceptional Keynote talk by Charlie Lundquist, Deputy Manager of NASA’s Orion Program.  One of the highlights of every annual conference is the annual Toilet Trivia Bowl Contest, hosted by our very own Blair Corning (yes, once ours, always ours), otherwise known as SewerDude.  Topics covered such things as WTF, Rhymes with Water, and Movies about Water.  There was a fantastic track of Laboratory talks this year covering many aspects of the analytical lab.  They attracted standing room only crowds for many of the discussions.  Tuesday night was the awards dinner, where Ms. Natalie Love received the prestigious Water Environment Federation, Laboratory Professional Excellence Award.  Congratulations Natalie!  The award was well deserved, and thank you for all that you do for the Colorado lab community.


Next was the Special Districts Association (SDA) Conference in Keystone.  A wonderful conference in the mountains of colorful Colorado during early Fall.  There is no more beautiful place to attend a 3 day gathering of Fire Protection, Parks & Rec, and Sanitation professionals.  There were numerous technical sessions on issues that are unique to special districts, in law, community relations, politics, and management.  All of the Keynote speakers were fantastic!  The running theme for each of their talks was valuing employees.  There was something to take home from each of the talks that can be applied in all of our jobs.  The most poignant for me this year though was “You have to be present to Win”.  You can’t just “mail it in” and hope for success.  You have to show up every day, be present, and participate, whether an Analyst or Manager, to reap the benefits of team success.


WEFTEC, a gathering of over 22,000 leading professionals in the wastewater industry from around the world.   This year’s gathering occurred in Chicago in early October.  A very large conference by any standard.  So large it can only be held in cities that have very large convention centers.  Generally, WEFTEC alternates between Chicago and New Orleans.  There were over 500 technical sessions covering every conceivable wastewater topic.  The plethora of topics covering new and innovating technologies is mesmerizing.  I found myself being drawn to over 12 different technical sessions on peracetic acid disinfection alone.  Besides all of the tremendous talks, there were over 3.5 miles of vendor booths to see on the exhibition floor, which included many representing lab equipment, and in-line instrumentation.  An annual highlight is the OPS Challenge, where over 60 teams compete nationally for prestigious awards in 5 different categories, one of which is a laboratory event.  The teams practice all year long for this competition.  Colorado was well represented this with 2 teams from Metro Wastewater Reclamation District and 1 team from Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Both Metro and L/E have been National champions in the past.  Some members of our organization have even competed on these teams.


Off to LA.  So the forth conference wasn’t for work.  It was the 31st Annual National Hot Wheels Convention.  Yes, there really is one, and yes it really was the 31st annual.  There were over 1500 hobby enthusiasts in attendance.  I am not going to bore everyone with the rest of the details, except to say, find your passion and play hard!  Finding your balance outside of work allows one to grow in every aspect, the yin and yang of life.


So to that end, I rented a sports car and drove down the coast to San Diego for the Association of Lab Managers (ALMA) conference.  This is a conference that I have not attended often.  When I had attended in the past, I found that most in attendance were from research and pharmaceutical labs.  I was pleasantly surprised this year.  Over half in attendance were from environmental labs.  It was a great opportunity to connect with colleagues facing similar issues and discuss new and innovative ways for managing today’s laboratory.  The focus being on managing our most valuable asset; people.  There were many half day seminars that provided refreshing ideas on managing the multi-generations that occupy today’s lab.  I highly recommend this conference to any lab supervisor that has a chance to attend in the future, but if you go, be sure to attend the workshops prior to the actual conference.


Well that was my Fall.  I’m tired, and ready for a long Winter’s nap!  March and PittCon in Orlando will be here before you know it!



Kevin Feeley, B.S. Biology, M.B.A, is the Chief of Analytical Services and has been employed with Metro Wastewater Reclamation District for 27 years. Mr. Feeley is the former Chair of the RMWEA Lab Practices Committee, a RMWQAA board participant, and on the Red Rocks Water Quality Program Advisory Board. Outside of the water and wastewater world, Kevin holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and is the owner of 25,000+ Hot Wheels cars.

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