P is for Perseverance

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“Endeavor to persevere,” said Chief Dan George in “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” The quote is from my favorite movie and it’s the theme for this post, having just closed a chapter in my professional career – receiving a master’s degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). It took five years to complete the requirements for a Master’s of Science in Environmental Engineering, which included a 76-page capstone project that spanned three of them. Whew!  No more late evenings of research and writing…for now.


Chief Dan George in The Outlaw Josey Wales-Copyright © MCMLXXVI by Warner Brothers Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

In many ways my professional life is defined by perseverance. After all, it took me seven years to finish my undergraduate degree (too many “hobbies” if you know what I mean) and another 17 years to attain my current position as a technical expert on wastewater treatment.

Because of my work with InSinkErator, back in 2010 I had the honor of meeting the foremost authority of wastewater engineering, Dr. George Tchobanoglous, at a symposium we hosted. It was an honor to get to know him and this spring, we had lunch together in Davis, California right before my graduation. Discussing my capstone project with George and hearing his encouragement to pursue its publishing was even more thrilling. So now I hope to contribute to the body of knowledge in the area of wastewater treatment with my paper, “Mass Balance Evaluation of Food Waste Carbon on the Conventional Activated Sludge Process.”

Me with Dr.GeorgeTchobanoglous in Chicago 2010. He signed my copy of “Wastewater Engineering” ‒ which he authored.

My project quantified the potential amount of food waste carbon in the form of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) that reaches the secondary aeration operations of a conventional activated sludge treatment plant through expanded use of residential food waste disposers. Increasingly, communities seek options to divert organics from landfills; wastewater treatment plants are moving towards resource recovery. Given the widespread acceptance and use of disposers, this research will provide stakeholders the information necessary to understand the total potential impacts of disposers by quantifying the actual organic contribution of food waste to the conventional activated sludge process. A mass balance evaluation provides stakeholders a more comprehensive understanding of the issues of managing food waste using disposers and wastewater treatment.  

While attending classes I got to sit alongside young people and share some of my experiences. Just as people like George have influenced my career, hopefully I too was a positive influence with a few of them. And maybe by this time next year perseverance will again prevail with the achievement of publication. Drop me an email if you’re interested in the topic of my study and would like a sneak preview of the pre-published paper.


A Twice Told Tale*

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I’ve been known to say my job was ultra-stimulating and there were never two days alike. I was completely sincere in saying so.  It wasn’t until I was asked to go to Dallas for International Code Council hearings a few weeks ago that I realized I’d completely wiped from memory the last time I had to attend a plumbing code conference. Psychologists call this type of memory block “PTSD.”

Mind you, I have nothing but respect for the people involved. It’s an important job and not for the impatient. The guidance of codes results in clean drinking water and functional plumbing systems, derived from the input and testimony of public health and sanitation directors, building officials, engineers, design consultants and hundreds of others testifying at code hearings lasting seven days . . . for twelve hours a day . . . spanning three years. Then they start all over again.

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