In 1987, WEF’s Task Force on Wastewater Biology met to discuss how to roll out a new manual, titled “Wastewater Biology: The Microlife,” at the 1988 WEF conference. Chairman Michael H. Gerardi requested volunteers to develop a preconference workshop on wastewater treatment microbiology. Thirty-five years later multiple sessions of this workshop still sell out every year at WEFTEC.
Back in 1987, members Martha Dow from Montana and Ron Schuyler from Colorado offered to develop and present the workshop. Dow, a microbiologist, had extensive experience developing training materials for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 104 program. And for about 10 years, Schuyler, a civil engineer and microbiologist, had been presenting annual training programs on activated sludge process control for the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association, University of Colorado, and Colorado State University.
As always, the best-laid plans do not always materialize and the official rollout of the manual was delayed. Temporary materials were used for the workshops in 1988 and 1989 before the official actual roll-out of the manual and training materials came in 1990.
Hands-On Training and Support
While the manual and written training materials were, and still are, important, the trainers agreed that hands-on microscope training was essential.
Dow and Schuyler both had Olympus CH-2 microscopes that traveled with them when they were in the field troubleshooting treatment facilities or training operators. However, two microscopes were not enough to provide hands-on opportunities for the many workshop participants.
To help, Tom Nail, Regional Manager for Olympus, stepped up to offer six microscopes that were used for Olympus demonstrations. However, in those days, microscopes accompanied the trainers by plane. When the microscopes arrived, some worked, some did not, and one or two had to be cannibalized to keep the others working. After about 10 or so years, Olympus developed a different approach and shared about 10 good-quality Olympus scopes for the workshops.
A Legacy of Trainers
While the hands-on workshop relied on microscopes, experienced trainers were needed to maintain a high-quality experience. Over the course of many years, several new trainers joined the workshop
- 1990 — Rich Weigand from the West Virginia Environmental Training Center
- 1995 — Enos Stover from the Stover Group (Stillwater, Oklahoma)
- 2003 — Steve Leach from Novozymes (Franklinton, North Carolina)
- 2012 — Ross Stover from the Stover Group and Sean Scuras from Garver (North Little Rock, Arkansas)
- 2015 — David Jenkins from the University of CA at Berkeley
- 2016 — Lindsay Swain from Novozymes.
Also notable is that Sharon Schuyler, Ron’s wife and has supported the workshop since its beginning. She has organized the slide staining, samples, and materials for as long as Ron has been involved.
All these years later, all these folks, except for Dow and Jenkins who have passed away, are still involved with the workshop.
Limited by Equipment
In 2022, 64 participants completed the microbiology workshop. WEFTEC offered two sessions of 32 participants each. The workshop typically has 16 microscopes and limits the number of participants to no more than two people per microscope.
Finding microscopes has always been the major problem for the workshops. About 10 years ago, Olympus stopped supporting the water/wastewater fields and the workshop lost its support. However, Nikon stepped in to provide the needed equipment.
Enos Stover, Ron Schuyler, and Rich Weigand (pictured left to right), among many others, helped organize and present the 35th year of the WEFTEC Microbiology Workshop. This year EnviroZyme (Bowling Green, Ohio) provided support to ensure the workshop had the microscopes needed for hands-on training.
Empowered by Generosity
In 2022, the costs to ship and use microscopes increased substantially. To cover this increase solely with workshop fees would have meant increasing registration fees by more than $100 — an untenable situation.
Generously, Envirozyme (Bowling Green, Ohio), stepped in to cover these extra costs. The company is a leader in the bioaugmentation industry and leverages the power of naturally sustainable microbial solutions to effectively solve problems for people and the planet.
Without this support, there would have been no 2022 microbiology workshops. Now, however, the workshop planners are busy preparing for and looking forward to year 36 in Chicago in 2023.