After 3 days of pulse-pounding action, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Virginia) crowned the winners of Operations Challenge 2020 during an awards ceremony on October 8.
This year’s competition, adapted to an online format for the first time in its 33-year history, featured modified versions of three classic Operations Challenge events: Process Control, Laboratory, and Collections Systems.
27 teams, each representing a WEF Member Association, completed the Process Control event simultaneously on Monday, October 5. Then, during hour-long time slots throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, teams completed the Laboratory and Collections Systems events. Each team competed live from their home facilities via webcam in front of expert judges and crowds of virtual spectators. This year marks the first time Operations Challenge has ever included video streams of each performance openly available to the public.
“Hands down, the Operations Challenge program is the best training and professional growth program I have ever been involved in,” said John Bennett, WEF Operations Challenge Committee Chair. “More competitors than I can count, including myself, have realized dramatic changes in their careers and almost all of us will attribute the successes we have realized directly to the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to surround ourselves with other professionals that we gained while competing.”
Division 1 teams contained up to four members, at least one of whom had competed in a previous Operations Challenge competition.
Coming away with the Division 1 overall win out of 14 total teams was Controlled Chaos, representing the Water Environment Association of South Carolina. Members of the team include Troy Newton, Patrick Ross, Kevin Ganley, and Seth Duncan.
Controlled Chaos had the strongest showing of their division in the Collections Systems event, achieving a final time of 1 minute and 18 seconds. They finished in second place in their division’s Laboratory event, completing the required procedures in just over 5 minutes. And they hoisted third place in the Process Control event with 95 out of 100 points.
The Pooseidons of the Water Environment Association of Texas finished second in Division 1. And the Surprise Turdologists from the Arizona Water Association earned third overall. Also, Brown Tide, from the New York Water Environment Association, delivered a historic performance; they achieved the highest score ever recorded in the Process Control event.
In Division 2, two-member teams consisting of at least one former competitor took on the challenge.
The Blue Ridge Brawlers from the Virginia Water Environment Association, consisting of Lacy Burnette and Stephen Lofaro, won first-place overall out of five Division 2 teams.
The Brawlers finished first in their division in the Laboratory and Collections Systems events, with final times of 5 minutes, 48 seconds and 1 minute, 31 seconds, respectively. They also netted a fourth-place finish in Process Control, with 71 out of 100 points.
The Women of Wastewater from the North Carolina Water Environment Association placed second in Division 2. Force Maine from the New England Water Environment Association earned third overall.
The new Division 3 featured two-member teams, both of whom were Operations Challenge newcomers participating for the first time. Intended to attract fresh talent to the competition, eight new teams made their Operations Challenge debuts during the 2020 competition.
The Peel Wastewater Connoisewers from the Water Environment Association of Ontario — Lino Zanardo and Maitrik Patel — finished first in the division.
The Connoisewers finished first in their division in the Laboratory event with a time of just under 5 minutes. They took second place in Process Control with 84 out of 100 points. In Collections Systems, they earned third place in with a time of 1 minute, 55 seconds.
Other division-topping newcomers included two teams from the North Carolina Water Environment Association, Smooth Operators 1 and 2, who earned second and third place in Division 3, respectively.
In addition to the overall winners in each division, the WEF Operations Challenge Committee also recognized several teams and volunteers for their exemplary work ethic, sportsmanship, style, and dedication. Each Spirit Award winner received gift cards valued at up to USD $200.
Spirit Award winners included the following
- Laboratory judge and WEF Past President Rhonda Harris and Controlled Chaos from the Water Environment Association of South Carolina won for the top performance in a 50-question quiz on Operations Challenge history.
- Angel French of the Watertown Waterbears (@angel88143813), Madison Quinn (@MADDY_Q), and Mt. Pleasant Waterworks (@mpwaterworks) won for outstanding coverage of the competition on social media.
- The Denmark Great Danes were recognized for being the first to register for this year’s competition.
- Laboratory judge Laura St. Pierre of YSI (Yellow Springs, Ohio) earned the title of this year’s best judge.
- The Central States Water Environment Association Shovelers won for best hard hat design.
- The New York Water Environment Association Genesee Valley Water Recyclers and Watertown Waterbears were recognized for outstanding camaraderie and mentoring.
- Charley’s Chocolate Factory, representing the Water Environment Association of South Carolina, was recognized for demonstrating exemplary perseverance.
- Three teams from Howard County (Maryland) — Fluid Mechanics, Rapid Rise, and the Wet Bandits — earned honors for the best-decorated Collections Systems event toolbox.
- The New York Water Environment Association Bowery Bay Coyotes won for best competition space.
- The New York Water Environment Association Rockaway Sludge Hustlers earned the award for most spectators.
Visit the official Operations Challenge 2020 event site to watch recordings of this year’s competitors in action as well as the Operations Challenge Awards Ceremony.
Operations Challenge 2020 Supporters
The WEF Operations Challenge Committee extends its gratitude to the following sponsors, without whom Operations Challenge 2020 would not have been possible:
- Dräger (Lübeck, Germany);
- KSB (Frankenthal, Germany);
- Teledyne ISCO (Lincoln, Nebraska);
- Vaughan (Montesano, Washington); and
- Woodard & Curran (Portland, Maine).
Coming away with the Division 1 win out of 14 total teams was Controlled Chaos, representing the Water Environment Association of South Carolina. Members of the team included Troy Newton, Patrick Ross, Kevin Ganley, and Seth Duncan.
In Division 2, two-member teams consisting of at least one former competitor took on the challenge. The Blue Ridge Brawlers from the Virginia Water Environment Association, consisting of Lacy Burnette and Stephen Lofaro, won first-place overall out of five Division 2 teams.
The new Division 3 featured two-member teams, both of whom were Operations Challenge newcomers participating for the first time. The Peel Wastewater Connoisewers from the Water Environment Association of Ontario — Lino Zanardo and Maitrik Patel — finished first in the division.