Changing Times Demand Changing Perspectives

In the municipal and industrial wastewater treatment market, there are numerous tradeshows and conferences all across the world focused on various segments of the industry.

By Michele LaNoue

In the municipal and industrial wastewater treatment market, there are numerous tradeshows and conferences all across the world focused on various segments of the industry. Two of the largest of these, IFAT and WEFTEC, were held in September and October of this year, respectively. The more comprehensive of the two, IFAT, had over 2,000 exhibiters covering approximately 200,000 square meters of exhibit space with equipment and information focused on environmental technologies. The statistics for WEFTEC 2010 are not in as of the writing of this article; however, like at IFAT, it is certain that the changes in our industry will be on display at the exhibit and highlighted in the presentation of papers during the conference.

Headworks Inc. and Headworks Bio Inc. will be attending its 16th WEFTEC this year and if our experience at IFAT is a gauge of what to expect, the continuing evolution of the industry will be in evidence. In the early years, change was resisted strenuously. The unknown and untried was to be avoided. European regulations had driven the technology available in Europe way ahead of what was being seen in the USA and trying to introduce even the most basic of advances such as 100% stainless steel manufacture rather than carbon steel took years.

But in the States, the world doesn't stand still forever. In the last few years the pace of change in the water and wastewater treatment sector has gained traction as never before. Technologies related to process treatment innovations such as desalination, MBR, MBBR, IFAS, and SBR have caught the attention of numerous companies and sector analysts. Reduction in carbon footprints and energy saving measures are hot buttons for both municipalities and corporations looking to improve their water and wastewater treatment processes. Water Re-Use, or gray water, is another sizzling topic and in many regions becoming a serious concern for future sustainability of agriculture, business, and communities.

The acceptance of new innovations and the need for advances in the technology of our business has attracted big businesses such as GE, Siemens, and Veolia to the sector. All of these major corporations have the financial resource capability to continue pushing new technology out into the marketplace. Given their financial muscle, they have the power to consolidate small businesses into the wider global market.

Small businesses with innovative ideas now have more incentive to try out their products and services in this market as the likelihood of acceptance has substantially increased recently. Primarily, the water and wastewater industry is made up of small businesses, which is defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration as companies with less than 500 employees. True entrepreneurs have grown these companies by developing and manufacturing inventive products that help municipalities and industries meet the ever-expanding requirements for enhanced effluent discharge limits. As people of the emerging countries attain middle class status, they are demanding water quality at levels available in the industrialized nations. All of these outside pressures will continue to create a perfect environment for continuing innovation today and into the future.

One might ask how does this help our industry and the answer is this: The creative ability of these small independent businesses to align closely with the needs of municipalities, industry owners, and their engineering consultants while meeting stringent governmental discharge requirements has in the past been stifled by their inability to take their new designs to market in a reasonable time. The slow acceptance of change meant the suffocation of these ideas and the loss to the world community of the products' possibility. With today's faster acceptance rate, smaller companies which are hothouses for new ideas now can utilize their flexibility and speed to market profitably and affordably to the end-user. As much of our industry is supported through taxes, we as taxpayers can only respond with a sigh of relief.

We are in the midst of a true sea change in the way our industry looks at solving the technological problems we face. Through the brains of entrepreneurs and the muscle of big global businesses, the era of change is here and none of us should blink or we might miss it. As members of WWEMA since 2003, we are proud to stand as one of the member companies dedicated to aiding the needs and environmental challenges of municipalities and industry today. WW

About the Author: Michele LaNoue is a co-founder and President/CEO of Headworks Inc. and Headworks Bio Inc., companies specializing in the design, engineering, and manufacturing of the leading solids handling equipment and MBBR and IFAS systems for municipal and industrial wastewater treatment worldwide. Ms. LaNoue serves on the Board of Directors of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA). She is also a member of the Water Environment Federation and a founding member of the Clean Water Alliance.

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