By Tom Asmus and Leo Templeton
With excerpts from the WWWOC
Silver Anniversary Declaration

The name, Wisconsin Wastewater Operators Association, is a fourth-generation title for an organization over 70 years old. Although the roots of the organization date back to 1932, the organization as we know it today dates back to 1967. Since then, the name may have changed, but the purpose for the organization has remained the same.

The organization began in the spring of 1932, when the first Conference of Sewerage Works Operators (CSWO) Short Course was offered. The course was held in the hydraulics and sanitary lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The meeting was intended for plant superintendents from medium to large Wisconsin municipalities. During its 34 year tenure, the meeting generated a union of personnel who would share ideas and experiences relating to a commonly held occupation. Today's organization embraces this same quality in its culture.

5th Annual Short Course attendees.
(link to larger version)

The organization reached a turning point in 1967, when it adopted its new name with the acronym WWWOC (Wisconsin Wastewater Operator's Conference). At the time, UW-Madison's short courses were no longer being offered, so an annual meeting was organized. Several visionaries felt that this gathering, in the format of a conference, was important to the profession. The meeting offered a means for wastewater operations' professionals to get together to share ideas and experiences, as well as camaraderie.

During the late 1960s, the organization's leaders recognized the need to include Wisconsin's smaller communities into the annual meeting. Additionally, it was felt that the hands-on plant operators would benefit from the meeting and were encouraged to attend. A major issue was "How can the conference be more responsive to the operator's needs?" For example, many operators found themselves without adequate knowledge about control of secondary treatment facilities, which many communities were required to build. The annual meeting addressed these types of issues.

Annual meeting attendance grew as did the conference length, from 2 to 3 days. Unfortunately, many smaller plant operators were not able to get away long enough to attend, thereby impending the flow of information to them. This impediment was eliminated when Al Winters, Doug Huntoon, and Leo Templeton organized the Lake Michigan District quarterly regional meetings. At about the same time, Tom O'Keefe of Hudson organized the first regional meeting in the northwest part of the state.

The purpose of these meetings were to discuss operating problems, new processes in the field, and share in good fellowship. Additionally, the meetings served as a means to provide the training, experience, and exposure necessary to develop a large group of excellent people from which future conference leaders would be elected. Obviously, this program has been successful, as evidenced by the continued quarterly regional meetings.

Today's Wisconsin Wastewater Operator's Association (WWOA) came to being in 1994, as it was felt that the "Conference" had evolved to what is today recognized as an organization. Essentially, only the name has changed. From its humble beginnings, the organization has grown by leaps and bounds. About 54 members attended the first CSWO conference in Madison in 1937, 200 members attended the first annual WWWOC meeting in Appleton in 1967, and nearly 1,000 members will attend this year's conference in Wisconsin Dells.