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.


5 Replies to “P is for Perseverance

  • Thomas H. Culhane on said:

    W is for Wonderful! I would really enjoy a “sneak preview of the pre-published paper”; you know how important I think your work is and how relevant to so many domains! Congratulations and keep perservering!

  • Frank Mahuta on said:

    Michael, you were a great encouragement to many of the younger students, as well as being a role model for the virtues of perseverance. I also was blessed to have been able to work with you on parts of your final project. I look forward to hearing great things from you in the future!

    • kelemanm on said:

      Thanks Frank! I hope we can work together on future research projects. Your assistance was instrumental to my project. I would certainly enjoy assiting with any course development for the civil program, say the future wastewater laboratory course.

  • Maarten on said:

    Hi,I would be interested in your paper as we have some indications that (without AD in the treatment plant) an insinkerator tends to solubilise too much of the food waste to be of significant value to the treatment process.

    Thanks, Maarten

    • kelemanm on said:

      My paper certainly focuses on conventional activated sludge processes with anaerobic digestion. With a majority of BOD settling out during primary clarification there is a significant opportunity to produce energy from methane generated from digestion. I need to get clarification on your response though, because there are two separate issues here. If you do not have anaerobic digestion at your plant, than the value of the food waste is indeed less, since there is no opportunity to produce energy. The solubilzation is a a different subject altogether. If you have primary clarification, ~60% of the BOD is still removed prior to secondary aeration. Because 40% of the BOD is available after primary settling there is carbon for nutrient removal. This 40% would be the portion you are referencing I presume, but it is not completely soluble. I was able to confirm that 40% of disposer discharge is smaller than 100 microns by mass. I will forward my paper to your email. Thanks again.

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