By Tom Asmus and Leo Templeton
With excerpts from the WWWOC
Silver Anniversary Declaration
The name, Wisconsin Wastewater Operators Association, is a fourth-generation title for an organization over 70 years old. Although the roots of the organization date back to 1932, the organization as we know it today dates back to 1967. Since then, the name may have changed, but the purpose for the organization has remained the same.
The organization began in the spring of 1932, when the first Conference of Sewerage Works Operators (CSWO) Short Course was offered. The course was held in the hydraulics and sanitary lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The meeting was intended for plant superintendents from medium to large Wisconsin municipalities. During its 34 year tenure, the meeting generated a union of personnel who would share ideas and experiences relating to a commonly held occupation. Today's organization embraces this same quality in its culture.
5th Annual Short Course attendees.
The organization reached a turning point in 1967, when it adopted its new name with the acronym WWWOC (Wisconsin Wastewater Operator's Conference). At the time, UW-Madison's short courses were no longer being offered, so an annual meeting was organized. Several visionaries felt that this gathering, in the format of a conference, was important to the profession. The meeting offered a means for wastewater operations' professionals to get together to share ideas and experiences, as well as camaraderie.
During the late 1960s, the organization's leaders recognized the need to include Wisconsin's smaller communities into the annual meeting. Additionally, it was felt that the hands-on plant operators would benefit from the meeting and were encouraged to attend. A major issue was "How can the conference be more responsive to the operator's needs?" For example, many operators found themselves without adequate knowledge about control of secondary treatment facilities, which many communities were required to build. The annual meeting addressed these types of issues.
Annual meeting attendance grew as did the conference length, from 2 to 3 days. Unfortunately, many smaller plant operators were not able to get away long enough to attend, thereby impending the flow of information to them. This impediment was eliminated when Al Winters, Doug Huntoon, and Leo Templeton organized the Lake Michigan District quarterly regional meetings. At about the same time, Tom O'Keefe of Hudson organized the first regional meeting in the northwest part of the state.
The purpose of these meetings were to discuss operating problems, new processes in the field, and share in good fellowship. Additionally, the meetings served as a means to provide the training, experience, and exposure necessary to develop a large group of excellent people from which future conference leaders would be elected. Obviously, this program has been successful, as evidenced by the continued quarterly regional meetings.
Today's Wisconsin Wastewater Operator's Association (WWOA) came to being in 1994, as it was felt that the "Conference" had evolved to what is today recognized as an organization. Essentially, only the name has changed. From its humble beginnings, the organization has grown by leaps and bounds. About 54 members attended the first CSWO conference in Madison in 1937, 200 members attended the first annual WWWOC meeting in Appleton in 1967, and nearly 1,000 members will attend this year's conference in Wisconsin Dells.
Before the WWOA could consider a web site, the Internet had to develop into a user-friendly medium. Early public Internet access was through dial-up shell accounts with an interface similar to a DOS operating system. The user navigated through an ASCII text base menu with arrow keys and a series of control functions.
Typing is "Control- E" gained access to your E-mail and the arrow keys guided the user through e-mail. Once you received your e-mail, there was more header information than actual message. And replying to a message...you don't even want to go there.
Another Internet protocol, Telnet was utilized to access bulletin boards (remember those?). Though it took a while to maneuver through the host computer, telnet was the best thing in its time.
The Web Sets the Standard
As the operational software for the Internet improved, so did its popularity. The user-friendly World Wide Web protocol soon became the accepted standard for Internet users. Soon thereafter, wastewater organizations and manufactures began their Internet presence with their own web sites. One example of an early site is the Water Environment Federation's (WEF) web discussion groups that provided national attention to your problems. Oh yeah, don't forget all those "Under Construction" web sites during this period. There was always some link that took you to a backhoe, bulldozer, or dump truck asking you to stop by later.
E-mail Discussion Groups
One of the most popular wastewater groups was the Sewer-list e-mail discussion group, with early members excited about and eager to find information on the Internet. Discussions were not only centered around troubleshooting and advice, but new web sites were eagerly sought after.
The WWOA Begins Its Presence
It was at this time that the WWOA began its presence on the Internet. It all began with initial encouragement from Scott Thompson of the Green Bay Metro Treatment Facility. Scott gathered some information on having a web site for WWOA board members to review. Soon afterward, at the April 1996 Board of Directors (BOD) meeting, the idea was pitched to the Board. The following excerpt is from minutes published in the June 1996 Clarifier:
Hanson asked the Board to allow McKee to purchase the equipment and the needed service for getting on-line to enable electronic communication of information. Hanson made a motion and direction McKee to purchase the necessary equipment and services. We could even post on the WWOA bulletin Board the schedule of meeting as put out by WWEA calendar so our membership with computer can use it. Busch seconded the motion. Motion carried.
Scott designed our first site and put it on-line September 26, 1996 with a URL of http://www.win.bright.net/~wwoai. (the "i" at the end is for incorporated)
Scott revealed the site to members of the WWOA during a technical session at the 1996 annual conference in Oconomowoc. Below is a image of the first site main page.
As the web site grew in content, more direction was need for new ideas. Scott discussed the possibility of forming a web committee with WWOA President Gary Hanson during the Internet Workshop presented at the LaCrosse Annual Conference. As a result, at the December 1997 BOD meeting, it was decided to form a web committee. Below are the meeting minutes published in the February 1998 Clarifier:
President Hanson stated he would like the Board to consider forming a Web Site Committee. Scott Thompson feels a committee would help handle the job of keeping the site current. With representation from each of the state regions, the web site would truly belong tot the entire state organization. Regional representation could mean promotion of the site at the regional meetings. It's important that the committee also have Executive Board representation, as the site grows there will President Hanson asked Boden to become the Chairperson of this standing committee. President Hanson also directed McKee to insert a section in the policy book for this electronic mailing committee. [snip] Fales made a motion we move ahead with expenditure funds to develop this committee under the direction of Rich Boden, Scott Thompson, and Ron Altmann. Strackbein seconded the motion. Motion carried.
A web committee was put together soon afterward with Rich Boden of Plover as Chair, Scott Thompson and Dan Busch of Green Bay, Bob Scherr of Lake Mills, and Gary Zimmerman of Beloit. In the spring of 1998 the web committee met for the first time at the Green Bay treatment plant.
Up to this time, Scott Thompson preformed his web site duties while an operator at Green Bay's treatment facility. When he left to pursue other interests, Rich Boden recommended keeping Scott on as a hired webmaster. Those details can be found in the February 2000 Clarifier BOD minutes along with other site developments such as, the searchable database and the creation of a Wisconsin treatment plant directory.
The site was renovated in the spring of 2001. Better coding allows pages to download faster. The site has a personal feel as random photos of Wisconsin treatment facilities appear on the pages. (Members are encouraged to provide a photo or digital jpeg of their facility for the site.)
The WWOA web committee has tried a lot of new ideas to serve members better. The site has expanded its content beyond announcements as it now offers an e-mail list, digital copies of the Clarifier, demonstrations for plant tours, tips from other wastewater operators, Bob's Big Bug page, and a Wisconsin treatment plant database.
WWOA Web Committee Chairpersons