The Association of Environmental Authorities of New Jersey recognized the ingenuity, management skill and dedication of 15 individuals and organizations at its annual spring awards luncheon.
“These award recipients exemplify excellence,” said Jerry Cevetello, AEA president. AEA is a trade association of publicly owned government agencies and private-sector businesses that provide or support clean water and solid waste utility service in New Jersey. AEA members provide drinking water, wastewater, recycling and/or solid waste services to about eight million New Jerseyans.
The Wave Awards are presented annually, and this year they recognized great work of several individuals as well as efforts of member organizations in the categories of energy, management, innovation, and public education. The categories and recipients were:
Award goes to members of utilities authority boards -- dedicated leaders who place high priority on values such as ethics, customer service, community relations or public education.
G. Steven Errickson, chairman of Landis SA in Vineland (and executive director of Cumberland County Utilities Authority), received this award for his ability to articulate the value and efficiency of the sewerage authority at a time when the City of Vineland is stepping up efforts to effectively manage municipal and clean water utility service. Mr. Errickson worked closely with City officials to develop shared services and partnerships and eliminate duplication. He also has devoted significant time to help members of the State Legislature understand the need to protect clean water and solid waste funding–so that the money is available to repair and maintain high-quality infrastructure.
Denny Reiter of Willingboro received the award for more than two decades of service to the Willingboro MUA. Mr. Reiter has made it his consistent practice to ask whether board actions are in the best interest of the ratepayers. He fostered positive relationships with the municipality, with the wider community, and with legislators, and he brought special knowledge about pension and labor matters to his service on the board because of his work at the NJ Department of Education and the labor union, CWA.
This award recognizes dedication and service over many years to AEA. Once retired and no long eligible for AEA membership through their organization, awardees continue to attend association events, free of charge.
Robert N. Bongiovanni, Executive Director of Two Bridges SA, was given Life Member recognition because of his work, as an AEA representative, of advocating common-sense regulatory standards. Mr. Bongiovanni over many years played a key role in creating a dialogue with regulators and other stakeholder that has resulted in regulations that aim to protect the interests of the ratepayer and the environment. Many of today’s water quality regulations and the environmental benefits that they promote were developed with input from Mr. Bongiovanni. Through him, AEA established itself as a key stakeholder and liaison in the public clean water sector.
Wave Service Award
The NJDEP Water Resources Management, Division of Water Quality was the recipient of this award, which goes to a non-member organization or individual that has gone to great lengths or effort over time to help AEA achieve its goals. The Division was chosen for this award because of the assistance Division staff gave to AEA members after Superstorm Sandy. In the aftermath of an event no emergency response plan envisioned, the DWQ staff quickly and efficiently, and in the midst of great upheaval, gathered the data and information needed to guide and ensure timely disaster response. In the weeks and months that followed Sandy, DWQ became partners with managers of affected wastewater utilities, helping them navigate complex environmental issues, and coordinating with federal agencies even as they upheld regulatory standards.
Individual Achievement Award
Lynn DeMicco, of Jackson Township, a long-time staff member at the Jackson Township Municipal Utilities Authority was given this award for a forty-year record of accomplishment and her ability to change and grow with the authority. She began as a part-timer and grew into seasoned utilities industry professional, establishing high standards of performance and customer service.
Patricia Skrocki, a resident of Lakewood Township and Director of Human Services at Ocean County Utilities Authority, was given this award, which recognizes an individual who has become active in AEA in the last several years and who has great potential for continuing leadership. Ms. Skrocki is a founder and driving force behind the AEA Human Resources Committee, which has developed into a valuable forum for learning. Ms. Skrocki arranges speakers who discuss health care, retirement and pensions, workplace regulation, employee management, IRS matters and more. She also provides guidance to AEA on HR workshops and writes on HR topics for AEA publications.
Best Management Practices
This award goes to an AEA member organization that has implemented a process or program that addresses a need and has resulted in measurable improvement in the operations, financing and administration of the organizations. This year we have three awardees.
Hamilton Township MUA, in Atlantic County, is being honored for systematically laying the foundation for efficient planning, high-quality service and stable rate. Nine years ago, HTMUA began to incorporate its physical assets into a Geographical Information System. Today 95% have been added. Then HTMUA developed a new and improved operations monitoring system (called SCADA in the industry). The next step was to create a static hydraulic model of its systems. These three measures – GIS, SCADA and modeling – have positioned HTMUA to do sophisticated asset and system management.
Hanover Sewerage Authority received the BMP award for its collection system life extension program, a well-tuned maintenance and inspection program adhered to over many years. This approach is the opposite of a “run-it-till-it breaks” mentality and is marked by cyclical inspections, maintenance best practices, careful records keeping, erosion control, robust use of available grants and coordination of inspection and repair work with township projects to minimize cost and inconvenience to residents. This program represents a philosophy embedded in HSA operations that has extended the life of the sewer line, drastically reduced costly inflow and infiltration, backups and blockages.
Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority received the BMP award for its efforts to improve operator training, minimize the cost of professional services, and better plant efficiency. RVSA ran an Operator Enhancement Program with the goal of enhancing the professional credentials (licensing) of its sewer plant operators. RVSA offered on-site courses, stipends and pay incentives to encourage participation, and this resulted in a cadre of highly trained operators whose advanced knowledge enables the plant operate at lower staffing levels, particularly at night. RVSA was able to save $145,000 annually through this program. Other financial benefits were realized through reverse-auction electric and gas purchasing (saved $100,000) and treating trucked in, low-strength wastewater (added $500,000 in revenues). RVSA adopted billing guidelines for legal and professional contracts recommended by the State Office of Comptroller.
Energy Savers Award
Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority was recognized for better utilizing existing supplies of landfill gas and adopting more efficient fueling practices. CMCMUA began capturing landfill gas in the 1990s and selling it to a nearby state facility. In 2005, the landfill was producing more gas than the facility needed and so Cape May installed special engines enabling it to make its landfill operation self-sufficient electrically, power a recycling center, and sell excess power back to the grid. Cape May also established a new Compressed Natural Gas fueling station and has begun to convert its vehicle fleet to CNG.
Hackettstown MUA was honored for its overall energy reduction effort, which reduced energy use by 40 percent, saved more than $100,000, and utilized Clean Energy Program rebates. The program assisted HMUA with its asset management program as well by helping it replace aging equipment. HMUA did a Clean Energy Program-financed energy audit, the first public agency to be approved for the program. Then HMUA built a 31KW solar energy system at its water pollution control plant. Using another grant from the Clean Energy Program, HMUA developed an energy reduction plan, retrofitting lighting, installing occupancy sensors, replacing aging aeration blowers with more efficient upgrades, and upgrading a pump facility with a variable frequency drive system. HMUA also altered piping to increase reliance on no-energy-consuming gravity.
Jackson Township MUA was recognized for its energy efficiency program, which enabled it to cut water electric costs by 37% and sewer electric costs by 48%. Jackson constructed of a 1M gallon water tank allowing them to cut pumping operatios by four hours a day. They rehabilitated several unused water mains and established a highly efficient interconnection with a neighboring water system. Jackson implemented rigorous temperature control monitoring program across its 50 sites and facilities and joined an energy purchasing cooperative. They also entered into a power-purchase agreement that is expected to reduce electric bills by $50,000 annually.
Forward Thinking Award
Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties earned this award, which recognizes innovation. JMEUC established its Operator Training Program to address succession. Applicants with no experience are brought on board and receive on-the-job training, using manuals specific to the particular JMEUC facility they are working in. The training is under the supervision of a designated training coordinator. Trainees, who are paid considerably less than experienced counterpart, must take a 180-hour evening course, for which they are reimbursed. They qualify for stipends once they obtain operator licenses. Joint Meeting created a partnership with the NJ Institute for Social Justice to recruit minorities and economically disadvantaged individuals for the program. Through these efforts, Joint Meeting has tripled the number of licensees on staff.
North Hudson Sewerage Authority in Hoboken was recognized with a FT award for converting to digital imaging --the first in the state to reach this level of paperless records management. This advance is important because many NHSA paper records were destroyed in the flooding that accompanied Sandy and inundated Hoboken. Last December, North Hudson received certifications for a public records image processing system from the State, after an arduous approval process. With the certification, North Hudson is able to convert paper public records to digital images using scanners and software that meet strict certification requirements. Moving to an electronic format is more sustainable and will enable North Hudson to manage records more effectively and economically, reduce paper storage space, enhance security, and improve file integrity and preservation. North Hudson customers already access account information online, but with this new program, they will be able to review their account history and other relevant information. North Hudson will make it easier for the public to obtain records and reduce the staff time required to respond to such requests.
Public Education Award
Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission was the recipient of two awards in this category. One is for its “Living Classroom,” a project PVSC and Bloomfield Middle School worked on together. The Living Classroom is an outdoor center for environmental and science education for 30 children located at Clark’s Pond, behind the school. PVSC’s River Restoration, Educational Outreach and engineering departments worked with the school on this project. Staff of PVSC and BMS, students and parents recycled logs from the site, transforming them into benches and a lectern, they cleaned up litter and planted trees. Flooding will be alleviated since trees and other debris blocking the nearby Third River were removed as part of the effort. A new phase already in the planning stages will bring a butterfly garden at a nearby brownfield site which will connect via a river-walk to the Living Classroom. This project has proved an inspiration, a positive, for the students, for other educators interested in replicating it, and for all at PVSC who had the satisfaction of working on it.
The second PVSC Public Education award focuses on adults from the 48 municipalities of the PVSC service area. Introduced last May, the PVSC Green Infrastructure program aims to increase public understanding about stormwater pollution and management, as well as address the problem of combined sewer overflows (CSO) and flooding. Working with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, PVSC conducted outreach to municipalities, setting up a website, and holding a kick-off event last May, followed by information sessions held throughout the service area and a workshop. In the first year, nine municipalities determined where and how to employ green infrastructure in their communities. These projects will help PVSC fulfill new CSO permit requirements. PVSC is also constructing two demonstration projects and hopes local officials will begin to view green infrastructure as a viable and highly beneficial tool.
Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority was also a recipient of a Public Education Award for its public education initiative. The program was launched to promote a more accurate perception about wastewater treatment and the people who manage it. Even with a shoestring budget, it’s been a great success. RVSA contacted science teachers throughout their service area, inviting them for free class tours. Operations and administrative staff helped teachers chaperone during the tours which were conducted by senior RVSA staff. They explained and illustrated the treatment process, using customized educational materials. They provided goody bags for young visitors with items such as shower timers, pens and educational brochures. More than 500 students and several area environmental groups have taken RVSA tours.