2020 Wave Awards

The Association of Environmental Authorities bestows Wave Awards to recognize excellence in the public water, wastewater, recycling, and solid waste sector in New Jersey, with awards divided into a number of categories. Submissions are reviewed by a three- member committee. The awards are presented at the spring utility management conference. For more information, visit this page. Here are the winners for 2020.

Thank you to this years’ review committee Diane Alexander, Ron Anastasio and Jeff Rollins.

Wave Achievement Award

Michael A. Gianforte, Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority
Michael A. Gianforte, Executive Director of the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority, is being honored with a Wave Achievement Award for his efforts to change how authorities handle enterococcus limits. The Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority has been actively petitioning the NJDEP to revise the sampling methodology for reporting for enterococcus to account for the disinfection that occurs in the outfall pipeline prior to discharge. Based on Mr. Gianforte’s efforts, the Department agreed that the additional disinfection occurring in the outfall pipeline can be accommodated and they presented an approvable sampling approach that could be implemented in all Coastal Group NJPDES permits. This is a win for the Authorities and the State on this matter, with no need for any additional petition or litigation. The TRWRA developed a procedure and a sampling apparatus that once approved, all Ocean Dischargers will benefit from enhanced assurance of compliance and will be able to reduce the discharge of chlorine to the environment.


Individual Wave Achievement

Christopher Kelly, Middlesex County Utilities Authority
Chris Kelly is the Operations Superintendent of the Middlesex County Utilities Authority, supervising 44 employees and served as such throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and bringing with him a diverse background of knowledge in both operations and maintenance. Mr. Kelly is currently participating in the AEA EPDA. He began as an operator at the MCUA, and his talents and drive have resulted in his continued advancement. He brings much needed perspective to MCUA’s operation and provides recognition and credit to the great work of his staff. As shown during the response to the Covid-19 crisis, Mr. Kelly, along with his colleague, Michael “Mickey” Facendo, lead by example and because of this, they have the respect and trust of their operators. Their concern for the well-being and safety of their staffs, together with their cooperative and coordinated efforts ensured that the MCUA continued to provide the highest level of service to its participant municipalities while meeting all its regulatory obligations. It may not be difficult to be a leader when times are easy, but the true leaders excel when the going gets tough. Mr. Kelly has demonstrated time and again that he is up to the challenge, no matter the obstacles, and that’s why he earned this Individual Wave Achievement award.

Michael Facendo, Middlesex County Utilities Authority
Michael “Mickey” Facendo is the Solids Superintendent/Assistant Operations Superintendent for Middlesex County Utilities Authority, supervising 24 employees. At the onset of the pandemic, the MCUA developed a health and safety response plan that included multiple stages. One of those stages was to alter work schedules to keep as many employees as safe as possible while still maintaining the operation of the treatment plant and the collection system. Mr. Facendo (along with Chris Kelly) responded quickly and professionally to split shifts where assigned, coordinated temperature checks before an automated system was in place, adjusted personnel schedules when positive or exposed cases kept personnel out of work, and even stayed at the treatment plant continuously during a two-week lockdown. They slept at the plant with the staff and ensured all had the needed food and resources, as well as keeping the treatment process going without interruption. The COVID-19 pandemic gave being “on-call” a whole new meaning. These two individuals answered phone calls night and day regarding the well-being of employees, immediately adjusting schedules to fill vacancies without crossover of groups, dealt with supply logistics as well as the myriad issues that arise daily in a large and complex wastewater treatment plant like the MCUA. These efforts make Mr. Facendo worthy of an Individual Wave Achievement award.


Life Member

Stephen R. Blankenship, Hamilton Township Municipal Utilities Authority
Since 2000, Mr. Blankenship has served as the Executive Director/Chief Engineer for the Hamilton Township MUA and currently serves as the licensed operator of record for the HTMUA’s Water Distribution System and Wastewater Collection System. Mr. Blankenship has been an active member in AEA for over 13 years and has served on the Board of Directors for more than 5 years, as well as the legislative and water committees. In addition to his involvement in AEA, Mr. Blankenship gives his time and expertise to many other professional organizations, including the South Jersey Water Professionals Association, the NJ Water Environment Association (NJ WEA), the New Jersey Water Supply Advisory Council (WSAC), and many others. Mr. Blankenship’s involvement in these organizations speaks to his dedication to advancing and supporting the work of environmental authorities. Mr. Blankenship’s deep level of involvement in numerous organizations has brought incredible benefits to the AEA. He brings the perspective of AEA members to the table when critical planning, decisions and policy discussions are taking place. Mr. Blankenship’s longstanding service and contribution to AEA has provided guidance and leadership for members and member organizations. His involvement in other organizations has given him a broad perspective and insights into industry trends and direction that have been invaluable to AEA, its members, and Mr. Blankenship’s MUA.


Up and Comer

Brian Brach, Manasquan River Regional SA
Brian Brach’s efforts on behalf of AEA have been significant and numerous. From the earliest days of his becoming MRRSA executive director, Mr. Brach involved himself extensively in AEA. He was instrumental in establishing our Environmental Professional Development Academy (EPDA), helping design the program and promoting it among his colleagues. He chaired our Professional Development Committee. He now serves as AEA treasurer, making himself available for nearly every executive committee meeting and immersing himself in the financial well-being of AEA. Mr. Brach has shown leadership and an extraordinary willingness to take on issues and tasks that will help not just other AEA members, but the entire water/wastewater sector. When the magnitude of the COVID threat was only just beginning to be understood, he recognized that members would need to talk and help each other respond. He then led a special session at the AEA March 2020 conference on the topic. In addition to that, Mr. Brach has been an enthusiastic member of the Strategic Planning Committee, genuinely interested in improving AEA and getting it ready for its next 50 years. He is the epitome of an Up and Comer – someone who hit the ground running when he became involved in AEA. He is a positive force in our association, and we are most fortunate to have him involved.

Kevin Whitney, Atlantic County Utilities Authority
Kevin Whitney is being nominated for an Up and Comer Award because he has made a material and constructive contribution to AEA in the past several years. He readily attends many seminars for the ACUA and expertly summarizes content to share with others, and he is a great collaborator. That extends to his work for AEA: he is a collaborator who supports AEA in many ways. He regularly participates in the AEA weekly check-in calls and summarizes the calls for his colleagues. This is enormously helpful to AEA because it extends our reach, and it helps get important information into circulation. Mr. Whitney was invited to participate in a small group that included other people from AEA who were asked to review the Jersey Water Works Dashboard. AEA and other water sector folks have been extremely concerned about the development of this online tool and the time Mr. Whitney spent reviewing it and noting flaws has been enormously helpful. Mr. Whitney has always been ready to assist AEA with information and feedback in this way. We see the type of skills relating to information and data management that he has as being increasingly important in the years to come and his demonstrated willingness to share those skills with the members of AEA makes a significant contribution to the life of the association.


Outstanding Associate Member

Christine Ballard, CDM Smith
Chrissy Ballard is well deserving of an Outstanding Associate Member award. She has been key in continuing the strong tradition of support that CDM Smith has given AEA over many years. She is an able and active member of our board and has for many years been active in our water committee. Ms. Ballard has actively engaged in promoting the AEA and introducing prospective members to AEA. It was her suggestion that AEA participate in the annual Day Without Water observance and it was through her advice and connections that AEA was able to develop two highly successful information pieces, one about the importance of investing in water infrastructure and the other about reasons to choose a career in water. Many of our members have used these materials and AEA has also used them at student job fairs, other events and in information packages for legislators. Ms. Ballard shares information she gains from events like the One Water conference, and she has devoted many hours to the Strategic Planning effort. Ms. Ballard also has made contributions to the sector’s response to COVID. This includes facilitating discussions with the Department of Health regarding wastewater surveillance. AEA succeeds through relationship building within the organization and outside of it, and it also succeeds by providing helpful member service. For that and more, she earns this award for Outstanding Associate Member.


Best Management Practices

Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission
Every day, hundreds of millions of gallons of human and industrial waste are sent through the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s (PVSC) complex underground wastewater system. One of the challenges in maintaining this extensive wastewater system is that so much of the process takes place underground, out of view and sometimes in difficult to access spaces. In an effort to make PVSC’s treatment process more efficient and to continue to successfully maintain one of the oldest wastewater treatment plants in the United States, PVSC launched an enterprise Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping platform. Rather than simply offer a few key features on a static map, the Enterprise GIS map organizes spatially-enabled layers of data into vivid, 2D and 3D visualization products that are available on PVSC’s Enterprise GIS Portal. The maps offer users access to an aerial, digital representation of PVSC’s robust framework of assets. The maps give the user a perspective on how pipes, equipment and processes in various, seemingly unrelated areas, are linked to each other, making this complex system easier to work with and understand, and truly making it a best management practices project.

Warren Township Sewerage Authority
Over the past several years, the Warren Township Sewerage Authority (WTSA), led by Spencer Pierini, P.E., Executive Director, has been aggressively planning and implementing Infiltration and Inflow (I&I) projects throughout their sewer collection systems. The goals of the program are to reduce average and peak flows to their wastewater treatment plants to ensure long term compliance with their NJPDES permits and provide for consistent and continual capacity in their collection systems.  The program ultimately achieved the stated goals through the performance of flow studies in several sewer service areas, GIS mapping locating assets, smoke testing and the CCTV’ing of nearly 150,000 linear feet of sewer lines. The projects helped reduce wet weather peak I&I flows and improved the overall health of the system. Thanks to this project, the average flows to the Stage I/II and Stage IV WWTF’s were reduced to sustainable levels. Peak flows during storm events were substantially reduced at both plants wherein there is no longer a sustained peak for several days after a storm event and flows return to normal baseflow within 24 hours of a storm event. These efforts earned WTSA this Wave Award for Best Management Practices.


Forward Thinking Award

Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission

The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) owns and operates one of the nation’s largest wastewater treatment facilities, and recently took on the task of increasing the plant’s overall wet weather treatment capacity. Studying eight different methods, the study proved that there was No Feasible Alternative to both increase PVSC’s wet weather capacity and maintain permit compliance without bypassing wet weather flow around secondary treatment. The innovative approach also identified process changes to sludge recycling that would benefit the facility during both dry and wet weather conditions. The secondary bypass will reduce CSOs to historically polluted waterways by approximately 1.4 billion gallons per year and support urban renewal and the pursuit of safe, fishable, swimmable water for the surrounding communities. By targeting treatment of such a large portion of the annual CSO volume through a single solution (i.e., a secondary bypass at PVSC), the overall LTCP costs are greatly reduced, too. The facility is anticipated to be placed into operation in 2026, making this a clear example of forward thinking in the industry.

Township of Ocean Sewerage Authority
The Township of Ocean Sewerage Authority’s 50+-year old offshore outfall was showing signs of significant distress and due to aggressive marine environment, the asset was quickly reaching the end of its useful life. Also, due to the outfall’s limited access along the pipeline’s onshore segment (i.e., nearly a mile inland), there was uncertainty if that portion was also in need of rehabilitation or some kind of replacement. TOSA seized the moment and undertook a project to perform an innovative condition assessment to better understand the pipeline’s true-condition rather than simply replace it. Ultimately this approach determined that replacement was only required for the easternmost offshore section, which resulted in significant cost savings. Ultimately, the project was completed three weeks ahead the targeted date and the actual total project construction cost was $220,000 less than the budgeted construction cost. This forward thinking TOSA project demonstrates how to combine results of specialized investigations to develop a robust, cost-effective design that will provide many decades of reliable, safe service for a vital asset that has no backup. The project utilized the latest technologies to do repair vital infrastructure for lower cost and less public disruption, minimizing land disturbance and beach impacts.


Mutual Aid

Water and Wastewater Sector Security and Resiliency Working Group
The Water and Wastewater Sector Security and Resiliency Working Group (the Working Group) was formed under the New Jersey Domestic Security Task Force.  The Working Group is comprised of representatives of water and wastewater utilities from throughout New Jersey, and representatives of federal and state regulatory agencies related to the water and wastewater sector. Since the Working Group’s beginning in 2001, after the 9/11, members have met regularly to develop security and resiliency-related guidance, receive briefings, provide seminars, discuss security-related incidents and foster communication between utilities and regulators. When the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact New Jersey, our water and wastewater utilities encountered new challenges: social distancing at the workplace, personnel health, safety and management issues, PPE shortages, operational impacts and more. Under the leadership of Rick Howlett, the Working Group started to convene twice weekly meetings, trying to anticipate needs, organize responses, and ensure the sector was aware of new guidance from the DEP, CDC, the federal government, and others. Throughout this unprecedented emergency, the interaction within the Working Group has been marked by mutual respect, generosity and candor. New Jersey’s water sector has risen to the challenge of COVID-19. Water, wastewater and solid waste services have continued uninterrupted, even while its workforce taught children at home, cared for sick family and friends, quarantined, navigated shortages of household items and generally coped with the pandemic. The mutual aid and sharing that occurred at the Working Group meetings made a huge contribution to this excellent performance, and thus earns them this Wave Award.