Author Archive



OSHA’s Top 10 Hazards of 2023

Posted on: January 3rd, 2024 by eric

Each month, our safety committee releases a newsletter with tips, updates, and useful links and information. This month’s newsletter includes links, resources and information on Common Office Risks & OSHA’s Top 10 Hazards of 2023, and more. View or download it here.

Winter Weather Safety and Landfill Operation Tips

Posted on: December 4th, 2023 by eric

Each month, our safety committee releases a newsletter with tips, updates, and useful links and information. This month’s newsletter includes resources and information on winter weather safety, tips on how to be safe on a landfill site, and more. View or download it here.

Nominations for the 2024 Wave Awards are open!

Posted on: November 10th, 2023 by eric

The Association of Environmental Authorities bestows Wave Awards to recognize excellence in the public water, wastewater, recycling, and solid waste sector in New Jersey. Submissions are reviewed by a three- member committee.

The awards will be presented on Day Two, Wed., March 13, 2024 of the spring utility management conference.

You may view and download a nomination form at this linkNominations are due January 26, 2024

Why Should I Submit a Nomination?

Good work deserves attention. By submitting, you foster more success. You instill pride. You motivate. You help us raise awareness about the work we all do.

How Do I Submit A Nomination?

Complete the appropriate nomination form (see below). For each nomination, explain why the organization or individual award is merited. Include supporting documentation such as news stories, resumes, testimonial letters, or other material. Relevant project cost, savings attributed to an effort or project, descriptions of methodologies and other pertinent and distinguishing information should be included. Include photos or charts too, if applicable. Note: Certain limits on who can submit in some categories. See individual award type descriptions.

Nominations are due January 26, 2024

Send the nomination via email (preferred method) to Karen Burris ([email protected]), by fax to 609-584-8271, or by postal mail, addressed to Karen, at the AEA offices, 2333 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road, Suite 2, Mercerville, 08619. For more information, contact Peggy or Karen.

Award Descriptions

Up-and-Comer

This award is aimed at helping cultivate association leadership and honor those who volunteer time and effort to AEA. The individual receiving this award is on the staff of a member organization and has, in the last three years, been consistently active and engaged in AEA, making a significant contribution to AEA and its members. Staff of regular and municipal member organizations eligible.

Individual Achievement

Recognizes extraordinary performance of duties of an operations or non-managerial staff member under difficult, adverse or challenging circumstances and/or recognizes skill and dedication. Ineligible: executive directors or department managers. Eligible: individual from regular and municipal member organizations.

Mutual Aid Achievement Award

Recognizes AEA regular or municipal member organization for outstanding or extraordinary effort to assist one or more member organizations during the past year. This awards celebrates the essence of AEA, because it is about banding together to face challenges and promote mutual interests.

Wave Service Award

Given to a non-member, individual who has gone to great lengths or effort over time to help AEA achieve its goals. This individual may be a regulator, a member of a local, state or federal legislative body or someone from any organization AEA works with in an on-going manner.

Life Member

Throughout AEAs history, there have been individuals from member organizations, who have devoted themselves to AEA, serving, volunteering and participating, and making outstanding contributions to AEA over time. Eligible individuals, from member organizations, may still be working in their profession or may be retired. The award permanently waives dues for the Lifetime Member upon their retirement, and it entitles them to attend AEA events. Lifetime Membership benefits do not accrue to the organization employing the honoree.

Outstanding Commissioner Award

This award will be given to a member of an authority board who: Has served six years or more; embodies a “customer service ethic” by consistently acting in the best interests of ratepayers; has fostered positive relationships/mutual understanding between a regular/municipal member and its community or between the member organization and legislators; has supported AEA through active participation in AEA events; has offered outstanding leadership. Nominees must be nominated by two other commissioners. Executive directors and professional consultants may not nominate commissioners.

Outstanding Associate Member, Individual

This award goes to an individual employed by an associate member company, who has been active in AEA for more than 6 years and who has contributed in an exceptional manner to AEA through his or her committee work, by speaking or writing to inform and educate members in publications or at workshops and conferences, or who has supported AEA regulatory, legislative or public relations initiatives. Nominations can come from regular, municipal and associate members. But associate members may not nominate someone from their own company.

Outstanding Associate Member, Organization.

This award recognizes an AEA associate member organization that has been a member for six or more consecutive years and that has supported AEA through active participation in committees, as presenters, through sponsorships, contributing to AEA education efforts or in some way consistently supported AEA. Only AEA Board and Executive Committee members may submit nominations, and the recipient is chosen by the Executive Committee.

Forward Thinking Award

This award recognizes regular or municipal member innovation. It is presented to members that adopt successful new approaches or techniques in use of technology, facility design, or management. Authorities will submit applications for review by a selection committee.

Public Education Award

This award recognizes an outstanding public relations or public education efforts on the part of regular or municipal members. The efforts must promote understanding of the water, wastewater, solid waste or recycling industries, provide insight into the vital nature of AEA members’ services, or encourage vocational development in the environmental management field. Regular, municipal or associate members may submit nominations for this award.

Best Management Practices Award

This award goes to an authority/municipality that has implemented a process or program that addressed a need and resulted in measurable improvement in personnel management, consumables and inventory management, technical systems, facility operations and maintenance, performance measurement, security measures, customer service or energy. Regular and municipal members may make nominations in this category.

Energy Savers Award

This award recognizes good management and innovation in connection with energy. Success in saving energy costs or consumption, adopting innovation technology or managing energy use are the types of efforts recognized with this award.

You may view and download a nomination form at this linkNominations are due Jan. 26, 2024

Driving Drowsy, Diesel Fuel Concerns, and Work Zone Safety

Posted on: November 1st, 2023 by eric

Each month, our safety committee releases a newsletter with tips, updates, and useful links and information. This month’s newsletter includes resources and information on how to address driving drowsy, diesel fuel concerns, and work zone safety. View or download it here.

How Authorities Can Prepare for “First Amendment Auditors”

Posted on: September 29th, 2023 by eric

If you or your staff have encountered someone filming on or outside your utility’s property, especially someone who challenges your authority to ask them to stop, you may have encountered a First Amendment Auditor.

First Amendment Auditors are activists who use their right to free speech and assembly to monitor and document police interactions in public spaces, as well as those by other public officials and staff. First Amendment Auditors have visited some AEA member offices.  

“These visitors can be difficult to deal with,” AEA Executive Director Peg Gallos said.  “Members who have experienced these activists’ visits recommend doing staff training and creating policies to address them fairly, legally, and with a minimum of disruption.”

These individuals use their cameras as a tool to measure compliance with the First Amendment, looking for potential violations of civil liberties that have gone unnoticed or ignored by authorities.

Often, they travel to police stations, government buildings, and other restricted areas to film interactions between public employees and citizens, ostensibly with the goal of ensuring that public servants behave professionally and do not violate citizens’ civil rights. Some police departments have accused them of interfering with police work or “cop-watching,” while Auditors argue that they are simply exercising their constitutional rights and holding public servants accountable.

However, some auditors seem to deliberately provoke those they film or engage in aggressive behavior, seeking to, it appears, intentionally escalate situations. These auditors often post their recordings on YouTube, and they can sometimes be provocative, intentionally seeking to cause disruption for the purposes of “entertainment” or Youtube views. For example, they may aggressively pepper staff with confrontational questions or request access to secured areas even when it’s clear the request will be denied.

It’s important to note that in general, individuals have the right to film or take pictures of anything and anyone visible from a public space, as long as they are not interfering with government activities. This includes public servants such as police officers and other public employees. There have been several court cases that have affirmed this right, including Glik v. Cunniffe (2011), which held that filming police officers in public is a constitutionally protected right, and Turner v. Driver (2017), which found that citizens have a First Amendment right to film police officers during traffic stops.

However, there are some limitations. For example, you are not allowed to interfere with the work of the public servants, you cannot enter certain restricted areas or private property without permission to film, and laws against harassment still apply. There may also be some limitations based on state laws and local ordinances, such as restrictions on filming in certain public areas or recording conversations without consent.

Note that New Jersey is a one-party consent state when it comes to filming and recording. This means that as long as one party (such as the person recording the conversation) knows and agrees to the recording, it is legally permissible. However, using a recording for illegal purposes, such as blackmail or harassment, is still a crime regardless of the state’s consent laws.

First Amendment Audits are not looking for blackmail. However, they often are looking for attention in order to generate views for their Youtube or TikTok channels.

“If the interaction between public employees and the auditor begins to devolve or turns aggressive, this is often leaned into by the auditor. The more ‘entertainment value’ the video has, the more likely it is to generate more views online, which translates into more income via advertising for the auditor who posts it,” said Kevin Whitney, Senior Advisor at Cape May County MUA (CMCMUA). 

Whitney said that after a presentation by the Cape May County League of Municipalities, his organization put a guidance document together to help staff and leadership deal with the issue, if and when it arose. The document is still in draft form, but can be made available to AEA members after it has been reviewed and finalized.

“We also resolved to revise our Administration Building Access and Visitor Policy so that it included information regarding these audits, as well as clearly defining ‘public spaces’ in the building through the policy and signage. Defining ‘public space’ will help to keep members of the public (i.e. auditors) in those public spaces, such as our front lobby or public meeting room on board meeting days, as opposed to having them free to move about the building upon entering.”

Whitney said he has seen videos of auditors trying to enter any door or room that was not explicitly secured. Because of this, having better signage, better managing public and open house events, and training staff on how to deal with auditors is essential. The organization’s document outlines what staff can expect from such a situation, how to report an event, and provides some scripted examples of how best to interact with an auditor.

“I also want to mention that it is stated several times that should an employee ever feel unsafe or that the building is at risk, they should contact the police,” Whitney said. “While we respect the citizen’s First Amendment rights, we do not expect our employees to feel unsafe or harassed at their place of work. Ultimately, while a citizen is entitled to their First Amendment rights and access to a public building, the Authority has the right to define those public spaces and employees have the right to carry out their work, for the good of the public, without being harassed or otherwise interfered with.”

In the event that you encounter a First Amendment auditor, remain aware of your surroundings and respectful of the rights of all parties involved. Avoid physical contact or confrontational behavior, as this not only could escalate into an unnecessary altercation, it may be exactly what the person filming wants. While not all auditors behave this way, many are purposely trying to “bait” public officials into a confrontation so they can catch it on camera.

Additionally, it is best to keep one’s distance from the auditor to reduce tension and maintain a safe environment. If you believe the auditor is trespassing or otherwise engaging in illegal activity, call the police rather than deal with it yourself.

Also, remember that if you are being recorded. Your statements and actions are likely to end up on the Internet. That means if you work for a public agency, you effectively represent that agency during the time you are being filmed. Act accordingly, no matter how much they try to provoke you. The actions of these auditors can be unwelcome and annoying, but in many cases – though not all – they may be legal.

Addressing workplace harassment, violence, and discrimination

Posted on: September 6th, 2023 by eric

Each month, our safety committee releases a newsletter with tips, updates, and useful links and information. This month’s newsletter includes resources and information on how to address workplace violence, harassment, and discrimination. It also discusses how to prevent falls in the workplace, and more. View or download it here.