Innovation in Wastewater Treatment – Community Workshop Series

In collaboration with the Massachusetts Water Pollution Control Association, and Prof. Nick Tooker at the University of Amherst, we have kick-started a workshop series intended to bring together the wastewater treatment community of New England for small-group discussions about the challenges and opportunities for innovation in the field.

The first workshop was held in July 2019 on the topic of “Current State of Instrumentation and Controls at New England Wastewater Treatment Facilities”. This event brought together a diverse group of plant operators (of plants at scales from <1 MGD up to 170 MGD), process design and consulting engineers, instrumentation experts, and academic researchers to share experiences - successes and challenges - related to use of sensors and instruments for automation and control of wastewater processes. The goal of the event was to gain a better understanding of how different plants are using sensors for (automated or manual) process control, how standardized (or variable) these approaches are, and what might be fruitful areas for future stakeholder collaborations.

The second workshop was held in November 2019 on the topic of “How do we get there from here? Round-table on successes & challenges meeting hot-button issues in the next 3-5 years.” This event brought together a diverse group of plant operators and individuals in related roles at small-to-medium scales (<20 MGD) to share experiences, learn from approaches and experiments at other facilities, and identify fruitful areas of collaboration between industry and academia. The event started with a brainstorm of the "hot-button priority issues" being faced by the industry, or by specific plants, in the next 3-5 years. Then in two round-table sessions several of these topics were unpacked in more detail, discussing roadblocks, gaps, and opportunities.

The next event was scheduled for May 2020, however in-person events are temporarily on hold as essential services and the general community put COVID-19 management plans in place. In fact, this spring has been a time of great behavior change for society and discovery for plant operators experiencing challenges of smaller work teams or need to work remotely while also potentially seeing changes in influent conditions. We imagine some of these experiences have been highly unique and others nearly universal – some discovery of challenges and some ingenuity in solutions – but all valuable opportunities to reflect on our current approach to wastewater treatment and where there might be valuable room for improvement! To aggregate lessons learned, we are currently polling folks involved in all aspects of wastewater treatment with the goal of integrating responses and sharing with the broader community through NEWEA and WEF. If you have received our survey already, we look forward to your input! And if you have not but would like to participate, please reach out to Nick Tooker at

We look forward to opportunities to connect with people in person and virtually in the coming months, and we always welcome suggestions for topics as well as new participants! Please email Dr. Amy Mueller for more information at