Award-Winning Utility: The Women of Wastewater

They were the only all women’s team competing among 47 teams. They worked hard to prepare for the competition is just six short weeks. They won this year’s Spirit Award. They are Charlotte Water’s Women of Wastewater.

Katie Graham, Beth Cunningham, Muriel Steele, Trinh Nguyen, lead by their captain, Johanna McHone, formed a team known fondly as the “Women of Wastwater” or “WOW” for short. This fall, the WOW team competed at this year’s WEFTEC National Operations Challenge, and were the only all women’s team in attendance. The competition consisted of five events:

  • Collections System Event
  • Maintenance Event
  • Laboratory Event
  • Safety Event
  • Process Control Event

Each simulation event was timed, and one event included a thorough written test.

Photo credit: Jeff Frederick
Photo credit: Jeff Frederick
Photo Credit: Jeff Frederick

What is WEFTEC?

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is the non-profit organization behind WEFTEC, which stands for the Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference. The conference is the largest water conference in North America, and the exhibition is the largest annual water quality exhibition in the world. The conference consists of a wide range of topics and focus areas, promotes networking among peers, allows participants to earn professional development credit, and addresses a wide-range of water and wastewater issues and solutions. This year, WEFTEC hosted their 32nd Operations Challenge, in which the Women of Wastewater competed in for the first time.

Prepping for the competition

About six weeks before the event, the team began preparing for the competition. Their weekly prep consisted of two, four-hour practices beginning in the early hours of the morning. So some team members were beginning their workday, while others were ending the day with their practice.

What’s next for WOW?

This past week, the team competed again at NC AWWA WEA’s annual conference, and took home three 1st place trophies, out of their five events, and won 2nd place overall. After all of this year’s success, these ladies are taking a break from competing until next year. Can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish in 2020!

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