Despite a healthy dose of winter weather, the annual UIM Conference — themed “A Holistic Approach to Water Management” — was a success Dec. 6-7 at the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District’s Environmental and Maintenance Services Center. The event gathered 78 participants to discuss the issues of sustainable water and wastewater systems, and included speakers from the district, Cleveland Water, Cleveland State University, the cities of Columbus and Westlake and others.

NEORSD’s Frank Greenland started the conference agenda on Dec. 7 with a presentation on the Cuyahoga River restoration program, including a look back at the 1969 river fire that kick-started the environmental movement and help lead to the passage of the seminal Clean Water Act of 1972. Greenland documented the river’s recovery including the return of aquatic species that had vanished due to pollution. Greenland went on to outline the district’s $3 billion long-term control, which includes large-diameter tunnels to capture combined sewer overflows.

Next, Greg Baird of AWI Consulting gave a fascinating presentation titled “The Aging Water Infrastructure,” in which he stressed the importance of integrated planning between the political, engineering and financial communities. “You can’t build a project if you can’t pay for it,” said Baird. “The financial officers need to be involved in the planning process to make sure the funding is secured.”

Other speakers discussed topics including financing and management strategies, rehabilitation, data management, construction strategies, advanced metering and wastewater treatment.

The conference opened on Monday, Dec. 6, with the Buried Asset Management Institute-International (BAMI-I) annual Board of Directors meeting and a tour of the NEORSD Southerly Treatment Plant, the largest of the district’s three plants with a treatment capacity of 175 million gallons per day. The first day concluded with an open Town Hall discussion that included Greenland, Baird, Dennis Doherty of Haley and Aldrich and Bob Kelly of the City of Westlake.

Hatch Mott MacDonald was the event sponsor and there were eight tabletop sponsors: XPEX Chemical Corp., Conshield Technologies, Badger Daylighting, Aqua-Pipe, Itron, Vermeer Sales & Service, MWH Soft and Hamilton Kent.

Two UIM conferences are planned for 2011. The first one is to be held concurrently with the re-branded Trenchless Technology Road Show in Seattle in May, and the second one is scheduled for December in the Washington, D.C., area. Both the UIM Conference and Road Shows are organized by Benjamin Media Inc., publishers of Trenchless Technology and UIM.

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