Water Online Radio: Lessons from “The Wastewater Wizard”


Dan Theobald interviewed by Todd Schnick/Todd Youngblood

TODD:   How exciting to talk to our next guest, the WasteWater Wizard. His name is Daniel Theobald, and he IS the WasteWater Wizard. Welcome to the show Dan.

DAN:  Hey thank you.  Glad to be here.

TODD:  Before we get into this take a second to tell us a little about you and your background.

DAN:   Yeah, I actually have a business degree and I started working in waste water in 1987; I started waste water training in 1989; I started working full time in wastewater consulting and training in 1997; I developed my website and cost reduction guarantee services in 2001; and now in 2012 I am working on, and executing on cost reduction through water conservation and I am also doing some authoring work.

TODD:  Authoring work.  Well, we have to ask you the story behind the “WasteWater Wizard” and go deeper into the work you are currently doing.

DAN:  WasteWater Wizard was a name given to me by a customer in 2010.  I started working for this customer who had a lot of problems with their treatment and I finally figured out how to get some consistent quality treatment and I was just designated me as THE “WasteWater Wizard.”

TODD:  A couple minutes ago you mentioned “reduced cost” and I get that.  I mean every business is under that kind of pressure, be it private or public, but just improving the quality of the wastewater treatment at the same time is also important.  How do you balance those two?

DAN:  That’s a good question because most of the time people are going to want to sell equipment and essentially overwhelm the inefficient procedures.  So I primarily optimize operating procedures, I train the operators to improve their skills and look at instrumentation and equipment to streamline the operation and improve the quality of their treatment at the same time.

TODD:  Can you conserve water and be profitable at the same time?

DAN:  Oh yeah.  That’s easy to do, actually. The first thing you do is look to see if you can take a water  application and actually get the task done without using water at all; and of course if you reduce the cost of the water and still get the task done then that is increasing the bottom line – your profitability. Sometimes you can just reuse water; you can simply take the water from one application and re-use it back through another application.  This increases your profitability because you are using the same water for more than one task.  And sometimes you purify the water.  You can purify your water, you can allow you to reuse what would otherwise be your potable water, your city water and ultimately re-using that water multiple times will reduce costs.  So there are several ways you can save on water and be profitable.

TODD:  Keep going on that theme.  You talked pretty extensively about reuse of water; what other kinds of progress is being made and other things that are being done?

DAN:   Well, there are two main process units that can help achieve this.  The first one is ultra-filtration. You can actually use ultra-filtration equipment to remove the physical solids, and then, when you have the physical solids out, then you can actually purify the water with equipment like reverse-osmosis, and that just takes all the dissolved materials out of the it; so the ultra-filtration takes the physical particles that you can see, and the reverse osmosis purifies the water and takes the impurities out that you cannot see.

TODD:   Dan, EPA regulations.  In the all the interviews we do the EPA.   Dan, talk about the impact of these regulations on municipalities and the water industry as a whole.

DAN:   This is really big because the EPA is like the “mother of all regulations” and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency is the federal regulatory arm and they just established regulations, it goes down to the states.  The states have to enforce the regulations on the municipalities and the municipalities enforce the regulation on to the industry.  So the bottom line is:   there are new regulations, they more demanding, they’re more costly, and they are more stringent on everybody.  It just has a tremendous impact.

TODD:  Talk to us a little more about the impact of regulations has on cost.  We’ve been talking about reuse and conservation and at the same time having cost reduction.  It sounds like regulations are pushing things in the opposite direction.

DAN:   Well that’s true, they really are, and that is where new technology and new equipment comes in and actually allow people to be more precise.  So you have more demand, but then you have the new equipment that allows you to be more precise and ultimately it comes back into balance.  But it is not an overnight thing; it actually takes time for that to occur.

TODD:   Dan, talk about the importance of safety and security in wastewater operations.

DAN:  Safety and security in the work place is paramount.  It has always been very important, however as we learn more about the connection between safety and security and the general health of the environment we just naturally place greater emphasis on safety and security.  It’s kind of like an evolving, borrowing process that just becomes more demanding as we go on.

TODD:  Dan, I’m curious about progress.  Talk a little about that.  What kind of technologies do you see coming down the pike in the next three to five years?

DAN:   I think on the ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis to actually allow us to purify the water and reuse it.  There is a great opportunity to capture and reuse storm water, there is a great opportunity to capture and reuse water in industrial processes and ultra-filtration and reverse osmosis is ultimately going to go a long way in helping us achieve that.

TODD:  Dan, it is no secret that we are trying to fight our way out of this economy.  How does industry finance these new projects in this slower economy?

DAN:  That is a really timely question because industrial companies are being forced to turn to alternative financing through government and quasi-public grants to fund their projects.  We are getting more and more of them and industry is turning to them more and more as their demands require.

TODD:  I’ve asked you a couple times about different technology that are emerging for wastewater treatment, Dan.  How about new contaminants?  It seems like with the progress of industry, in the private sector specifically you have all sorts of new chemicals and materials and substances.  How are we doing to deal with all that?

DAN:  Well, this problem is evolving and increasing in frequency.  I think first if you define emerging contaminant you see that hazardous materials are mixtures that are threatening to human health. Examples of that are certain pharmaceutical and personal care products which actually have through the development of new products; they have the presence of some of these emerging contaminants. Also there are man-made chemicals that are manufactured to actually resist heat, resist oil, and resist stains to your products so it becomes very often that these products are being manufactured and that actually have the emerging contaminants in it.  Now, the course of action, if you will allow me, there is very little that has been done up to this point.   Some of these contaminants are in low concentration and some of these contaminants are increasing in concentration.  Right now it is in a research stage, and the EPA has really not done any work establishing the regulation, and once they do, then we will be able to respond. But there is very little done, but the research is showing that it’s occurring more and more.

TODD:  Time to go, but how can people get a hold of the WasteWater Wizard?

DAN:  The easiest way is wastewater.com.  You can also go to ConserveOnWater.com. That is another easy way to do it.  And if you go to my website you can see my email, a toll free number, or you can fill out a contact form and I’ll be glad to help you.

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