Wyoming Water Quality & Pollution Control Association

The Wyoming Water Quality & Pollution Control Association (WWQ-PCA, or WWQ for short) differs from most wastewater associations in more ways than just its name. “We are different and unique from most other associations in that our sole purpose is to provide training to Wyoming water and wastewater operators for the purpose of certifying as an operator or renewing their certification,” says Zulima Lopez, WWQ’s secretary and treasurer.

Wyoming is a small but mighty state. Geographically, the state is very large, but population-wise it’s very small so WWQ makes their annual conference, held in Casper at the end of October, the association’s central focus.

Lopez says, “We try to sponsor trainings throughout the year, or let members know if there’s any going on, but we focus our efforts on the conference.” A lot of the towns and municipalities spread vastly across Wyoming are not only very small, but they’re very rural as well, which makes traveling a challenge both on budgets and on people. If trainings are happening at other times throughout the year, operators may have to travel hundreds of miles to get to a city in order to participate in a training. Therefore, WWQ focuses a majority of their efforts on the conference where the goal is to provide good, quality training
and as much training as possible all at once.

In Wyoming, operators need to have 24 hours of applicable operations training every three years in order to become licensed or renew their certification, and there are four areas operators can be certified in: Water Treatment, Wastewater Treatment, Water Distribution Systems and Wastewater Collection Systems. Again, because Wyoming is so rural, many operators perform every job so they need to fulfill all four of the 24-hour trainings. Lopez points out, “There’s less waste to treat, but it’s still complicated and very technical and can be an intense amount of training in a small amount of time. Those people are very well educated in their field.”

That expertise starts with the quality of the trainings, which is very good. For instance, this year’s conference saw the Number 2 pump expert in the world teach a class on pumping and optimal pump selection. Lopez taught a pre-conference class in Pipeline Assessment Certification since she is a certified operator—something that is required in order to serve on the association’s board. WWQ is a non-profit organization with only one paid employee. Everyone else on the board is a volunteer and a certified operator.

“We’re all regulated by the same federal government. Some treatment facilities are so small they fall under the threshold for requiring government regulation,” Lopez says, but she adds that even those small communities who fall under the no-regulation threshold still work hard to ensure that they do everything they need to do to get drinking water quality and wastewater quality to the level that is expected.”

While Wyoming doesn’t have the population to drive innovation, they remain on a par with other states. They allocate funding so they can use the latest proven technology and meet ever-changing EPA regulations. The state is comprised of mostly ranch land and world-class fishing, as well as government and state-owned land with part of Yellowstone National Park occupying a portion of its space.

Each year, about 100-130 participants out of the 500 member-strong WWQ-PCA show up at the conference, but sometimes, other operators will attend. If there is an onsite facility at Yellowstone, people will come out from the national park to take the training and to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and best management practices in water and wastewater treatment. Lopez says a lot of drillers will take the trainings because they are required to treat the water they’re using in their drilling processes before they discharge it. In addition to ranching, oil and gas, and mining are the largest industries in the state.

“We are stewards of our environment,” Lopez says. “Everyone really cares about our open spaces, our wildlife, and our public lands so we all work very hard to ensure that our water quality is good, particularly on the wastewater side where we’re discharging back into our rivers.”

For more information, visit www.wwqpca.com

Story by Megan McClure

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