by Peng Xie and Erin Partlan
WQTC 2014, the AWWA Water Quality Technology Conference and Exposition, was held this November in New Orleans, LA. Dr. Ladner’s road trip idea led to hours of driving and good conversation with Pauline, Onur, Erin and Peng. The conference was held in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, a few blocks from the colorful French Quarter and infamous Bourbon Street.
The conference gathered many eminent names from both industry and academia, and competition for paper acceptance was fierce, which was reflected by the high quality of presentations. Dr. Ladner delivered a podium presentation on some of our activated carbon work, speaking directly to many peers interested in the topic from research, commercial, and municipal positions. Erin presented a poster on additional data from our activated carbon project, and had the opportunity to speak with several carbon vendors that gave helpful feedback regarding the scope of the project based on actual industrial applications. A distinct trend at the conference were the number of activated carbon talks, and talks in general, focused on applications to the removal of emerging contaminants, ours included. Emerging contaminants in drinking water include pharmaceutical compounds, pesticides, and ingredients originating from personal care products that make their way to drinking water intakes from surface runoff or treated wastewater discharge. A special session of the conference, held bright and early at 7 am, focused on the prevalence of wastewater impacted drinking water sources in the United States.
Another presentation series that greatly appealed to us was on membrane technologies, which had the honor of being one of the last sessions of the conference. The focuses included membrane fouling and unique applications; topics that were directly applicable to Peng’s research on reducing fouling on reverse osmosis membranes through better spacer designs. One particularly unique application, and one that Peng’s research also applies to, is the use of membranes in water reuse applications. Water reuse was clearly a recurring theme throughout the conference, speaking back to the keynote session takeaway that “All Water is Source Water.”
The conference also hosted special sessions where students could interact with industry representatives including a lunchtime meet-up and a “speed dating” session for getting started as young professionals within AWWA. It might seem difficult to get involved in such a large organization, but the key is to begin by volunteering for committees and getting to know others involved as well. As students, we benefit greatly from just hearing about what various jobs look like on a day-to-day basis and learning about different types of career paths. Truth be told, the most exciting part of the conference was meeting people and getting inspired by what they were doing.
Our last night in New Orleans was spent in the famous French Quarter, and boy, was it worth it. After waiting in line for our turn to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a group of musicians that plays old-timey jazz tunes in a setting true to its origins, we ended with a late night trip to the equally famous Cafe Du Monde where we enjoyed coffee, hot cocoa, and trays of delicious beignets. All in all, it was a very memorable trip and a great learning experience for us as burgeoning members of the water industry community.