John Gottschall, VP and general manager of WWETCO, sat down with Water Online Radio for this live interview from the show floor at WEFTEC 2011 in Los Angeles. Gottschall explains why this is a time of innovation for the water/wastewater industry, and shares with us WWETCO’s latest contributions to that end. Listen or read on to learn more.
Todd Schnick: We are back, broadcasting live from the Los Angeles Convention Center and the tradeshow floor here at WEFTEC 2011. I am Todd Schnick, joined by my co-host, Todd Youngblood. Todd, this is going to be a fun day. So far, so good.
Todd Youngblood: The education continues. We learned about sludge and the high test aspects thereof in the last interview.
Todd Schnick: Someone’s going to say, “How was your trip to L.A.?” and I’m going to say, “I talked about sludge.”
Todd Youngblood: I am really fascinated at how you can take sludge and apply that kind of technology to it and turn it into something valuable. That is just cool.
Todd Schnick: Cool. Well, I suspect this next conversation will be just as cool. We are joined by the VP and general manager of WWETCO, John Gottschall. Welcome to the Water Online Radio, John.
John: Delightful to be here.
Todd Schnick: Well, before we get into a conversation, why don’t you take a few minutes and just tell us a little bit about you, your background, and about WWETCO?
John: I started in the wastewater industry in 1967. So I’ve had a long, long career in this industry. I’ve worked for a couple of companies, and I think you find a lot of that in this industry, in that we get involved in it and then we stay in it with different companies. I’ve been with Westech, which is the parent of WWETCO, for 18 years.
Todd Schnick: John, I’ve broadcast from WEFTEC several times, and what I love about it is the fact that there is such a tight community. You’re right … once you get into it, you are into it forever. Why is that the case with this water/wastewater industry?
John: I think the basis of it is the fact that when you go home at the end of the day, if you sold anything, water got better somewhere. I know that’s what brought me back to it. I left it for 10 years, but I came back to it simply because of that.
Todd Schnick: John, what are the biggest problems you’re solving for your customers and/or the biggest opportunities you’re helping them to take advantage of?
John: In December of 2010, Westech bought WWETCO. We were just so enthusiastic about the product that WWETCO had developed. They had actually developed two products: a filter and also a control valve.
These two products are going to completely change how certain parts of our industry are approached. We have noticed that the industry has got a couple of main focuses, and these have recently been highlighted.
One of which is stormwater, and we’re being directed by the EPA to do something better about treating stormwater. Also, we’re looking at lower levels of phosphorous in effluent. So our tertiary treatment is becoming more and more important.
What is interesting about the filter developed by WWETCO is that it can be used in both arenas. It also can be used in both arenas at same time, and it’s just a remarkable addition to the toolbox of wastewater treatment.
Todd Schnick: John, stormwater always struck me as a heck of a problem because when you need to deal with it, you’ve got a huge volume that you’ve got to deal with, and then big periods of time where it’s not an issue at all.
That makes it tough, in my mind, to be able to justify any kind of investment in it. How do you get around that issue of spending all kinds of money for something you need once in a while?
John: That is absolutely the reason that stormwater treatment has not taken off. Each municipality has the option of how they spend their money. When you look at the investment in stormwater treatment and you say this sizeable investment, $10 to $20 million dollars, can only be used four to six times a year … obviously, that becomes less priority than the other things that are needed in the operation of the plant every day.
So what is remarkable about the WWETCO flex filter is that we can not only treat the stormwater when those events occur, but we can also treat the effluent of the plant in a tertiary manner to reduce the nutrients in the effluent.
So now we have offered those people that are buying the flex filter the ability to use this product 365 days a year, so it makes it a much better and practical investment for them.
Todd Schnick: So you’re taking – I just want to make sure I understand it – you’re reducing the capacity requirement for the typical wastewater treatment by using the stormwater treatment facilities in a tertiary fashion, as you just said.
John: Exactly. Also, we have experimented with primary treatment as well. So we can go into the plant and we can fix a problem in the process with this filter. In other words, we can reduce solids in any point in the plant, and by doing so, we extend the capacity of that plant without a huge capital expenditure.
Todd Schnick: John, help me and Todd and the thousands of professionals in the Water Online community better understand the value that you’re delivering to your customers by sharing a specific story about a recent win that you achieved on behalf of one of your customers.
John: We are currently working with the city of Springfield, OH. We are designing and we’re going to bring to bid in the first quarter of 2012 a 100 MGD facility for high-rate treatment for the city.
This project is the result of a year of piloting at the facility. We have shown the city of Springfield and the engineering firm – the design engineering firm, which is Black and Veatch – we have done that over the year period of time and demonstrated to the city that we not only can treat the stormwater – because we have done that – we have also frozen the filter, because it’s an outdoor installation. We’ve frozen the filter and then used it in the high-rate treatment, and it performed exactly like it did when it wasn’t frozen.
So we have proven that in this arena. Also, we have done primary filtration and we’ve done tertiary filtration. We’ve actually been able to detect biological removal of soluble BODs.
The treatment options in this filter are just amazing and it’s a proven pilot testing at a specific site. When this equipment is installed, we have suddenly put several tools into that city’s toolbox for treating the wastewater for Springfield, OH.
Todd Schnick: Sounds like flexibility is a big part of what you’re bring to your customers.
John: That’s true.
Todd Schnick: I want to shift gears on you a little bit. Our listeners seem to be very, very interested in regulations. What’s your perspective on that? Is it a blessing, or a curse, or a little bit of both?
John: I think you hit the nail right on the head. I think it’s a little bit of both. Regulation does several things. Number one, it’s a stimulus for innovation. I think that innovation is so very important in what we do in water and wastewater treatment.
The status quo is not going to solve problems for the future. The waste that we are treating is different than the waste that was treated 10, 20, 30 years ago. So innovation is really important to advance the technology to the point where we can address the current problems of wastewater treatment.
The other innovation stimulus is the fact that we now are in a down economy and now we’ve got to deliver those technologies at a very economical price.
That is a really good challenge to all of us because, even though we work in the wastewater industry, when I go back home I’m a taxpayer. I think that it’s important to me that treatment is delivered at the best cost.
Todd Schnick: John, I hate to say it, but we’re out of time. Two things: one, we’ll be contacting you to do some voice-over work for us; and two, please share with the audience how they can get in touch with you and learn more about the work that you’re doing.
John: The website for Westech, which includes the WWETCO product, is www.westech-inc.com. That certainly is a great avenue for people to become familiar with our company and familiar with this product in particular.
Todd Schnick: John Gottschall, it was wonderful to have you. Thanks for joining us on Water Online Radio.
John: What a pleasure it’s been being with you today.
Todd Youngblood: Thanks, John.