2022 Kappe Lecturer

kappelecturerWendy A. Wert, P.E., BCEE

Education

  • BS, Civil Engineering, University of Central Florida, 1998
  • MS, Environmental Engineering, Water Resources Specialty, University of Central Florida, 2005

Credentials

  • Licensed Professional Civil Engineer in California, Colorado, and Pennsylvania (PE)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Board Certified Environmental Engineer in the Water and Wastewater Specialty (BCEE)

Affiliations

  • California Water Environment Association, President 2021
  • Water Environment Federation, Government Affairs Committee, 2021
  • American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, Vice President, 2022

Awards

  • Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts' Science Education Program was selected by the Water Environment Federation as the recipient of the Public Communication and Outreach Program Award October 2020.
  • Stanley E. Kappe Award recipient for contributions to the field of Environmental Engineering by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists April 2020.
  • WEF Utility of the Future for advances in partnering and engagement September 2019.
  • NACWA National Environmental Achievement Award for public information and education February 2020.
  • WEF Recognition of Outstanding Service April 2018.
  • Metropolitan Water District Outstanding Contributions to the World Water Forum 2017.

Wendy is a Board Certified Environmental Engineer with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts. For the past 21 years, she has been working on programs that rely on public participation to integrate water supply, water reuse wastewater facilities planning.

She received a B.S in environmental engineering and an M.S. in water resources engineering from the University of Central Florida (UCF). Her studies gave her opportunities to collaborate with others. It was during this time that Wendy developed an interest in effectively communicating math and science to diverse groups. Today, she uses her position as an engineer to support outreach and education programs that explain how the work of the Sanitation Districts identifies community needs then applies engineering and scientific principles to meet them.

Wendy is an award-winning transformative leader anchored in integration, innovation, and inclusion.

Wendy's journey started on a farm in Pennsylvania. Her father is a Navy veteran and, her mother is a retired school teacher. Wendy's mentor Debra Reinhart, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE, encouraged her to join the Academy. Wendy joined in 1997 and discovered a network of peers to help meet the challenges of our field. Family and mentors continue to inspire her career.


Abstracts of Lectures Offered

Converting Waste Into Resources: Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Solutions

Water scarcity, population growth, and aging infrastructure are impacting water security around the world. Experiencing severe drought during the COVID-19 pandemic, California faces all of these challenges. Utilities must not "waste" resources, rather environmental engineers and scientists are challenged to imagine, research, design, and build a better future. One agency, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County (Sanitation Districts), are fortunate to manage several historical "waste" streams including: sewage, trash, and stormwater. Come discover the synergies among these sources that help amplify resource recovery, thereby, contributing to sustainable regional solutions in Southern California. Annually, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County (Sanitation Districts) turn wastewater trash, and stormwater into:

  • 49 Billion Gallons of Recycled Water
  • 77 Megawatts of Electricity
  • 177,000 Tons of Recycled Commodities
  • 145,000 Tons of Compost

Wastewater

We collect, treat and recycle the wastewater (sewage) from 5.6 million people in Los Angeles County. Our wastewater system currently treats about 400 million gallons per day, enough to fill the Rose Bowl nearly five times a day. This system includes 11 wastewater treatment plants, 48 pump stations, over 1,400 miles of sewer, and two state-of-the art composting facilities for managing the solids removed during treatment. Over 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000) gallons of water recycled since 1962.

Solid Waste

Our solid waste management system accommodates about one quarter of the county's solid waste. We manage the waste hauled to us with a system that includes two active landfills, three materials recovery/transfer facilities and a recycle center. We also have infrastructure for a waste-by-rail system to handle the county's waste in the future when local disposal options are exhausted.

Green Energy

The Sanitation Districts are one of the country's leading producers of green energy. Some of the electricity is used in powering Sanitation Districts' operations; the rest is exported to the local grid, which reduces the poser that utilities must produce and thereby reduces greenhouse gas emissions. 77 Megawatts produced annually enough for 77,000 homes.

Finding the Right Balance

The Sanitation Districts are striving to recycle more water and help our communities meet their water needs. However, when more water is recycled, less is discharged to rivers where that water might support habitat, we completed a 5-year study on the effects of reduced river discharge to find the right balance between societal and environmental needs. This study has resulted in an Adaptive Management Plan that makes more recycled water available for reuse. Under this plan, the timing and volumes of river discharge will be managed to sustain important habitat with annual monitoring performed to ensure there are no negative impacts. This effort can serve as a blueprint for other jurisdictions.

Maximizing Water Reuse

Construction of the San Jose Creek Water Reclamation Plant (WRP) Flow Equalization Project was completed in July 2020. The project consists of two, 4-million-gallon underground tanks, a pump station to drain the tanks and an odor control system. These tanks are the size of a football field and 50 feet deep. During high-flow periods in the mornings and evenings, these tanks store primary effluent (partially treated wastewater). During low-flow periods overnight, the stored water is fed into the WRP's secondary treatment step, which uses naturally occurring microorganisms for treatment. This system allows for more consistent flow and feeding of the microorganisms, which leads to better treatment. The system also makes more clean water available overnight when the demand for recycled water is highest.

Advances in Monumental Water Recycling Program

The Sanitation Districts and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California took important steps in their partnership that could result in the largest water recycling program in the country. At full-scale, this program could produce 150 million gallons per day of purified water, which is enough to serve mor than 500,000 homes. Both agencies' Boards of Directors approved starting the environmental and planning studies for this program. The demonstration facility at the Sanitation Districts' Joint Water Pollutions Control Plant (JWPCP) continues to provide information needed for the design and permitting of the full-scale facility.

Addressing Climate Change

The Sanitation Districts have long been a leader in reducing greenhouse gases (GHG). Production and use of recycled water, for example, reduce the need for imported water and the energy used to import water. We have also developed techniques to convert solid waste and food waste into green energy. Annually, our water recycling program avoids using 300,000 megawatt-hours of energy, and our green energy program produces 417,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy. Collectively, these programs reduce GHG emissions by 346,000 metric tons, which is equivalent to removing 75,000 cars from the road annually.

Going forward, we will continue developing better ways to produce recycled water and green energy. We are also preparing climate change vulnerability assessment for our facilities, working on more detailed greenhouse gas inventory; and finding ways to include climate change as a factor in routine decision-making.


Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: Sustainable Green Fleet

As part of its mission to convert waste into resources, the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (Sanitation Districts) operates a biogas purification system to recycle food waste into renewable vehicle fuel. Food waste includes dinner scraps, spoiled fruit and vegetables from grocery stores and restaurants. The program provides a regional solution to global challenges. Methane emissions resulting from the decomposition of organic waste in landfills can be a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which contribute to global climate change. In California Senate Bill (SB) 1383, establishes methane emissions reduction targets in a statewide effort to reduce emissions. The Sustainable Green Fleet program demonstrates the feasibility of an using an innovative biogas purification system, to not only provide renewable natural gas but also help many cities cost-effectively achieve state requirements for organics diversion.

The Sanitation Districts' Green Fleet program has three main initiatives:

  1. increased use of alternative fuels, such as renewable natural gas and renewable diesel, that have cleaner emissions;
  2. production of more renewable natural gas, especially from food waste; and
  3. transition to an electric vehicle fleet.

Over the past five years, the agency's total fuel consumption is down 25% and in 2020, use of fossil fuels dropped 43% compared to the previous year.

The Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (Sanitation Districts) rely on a fleet of 687 on-road vehicles, 85 utility carts, and 354 pieces of off-road equipment to help provide regional wastewater and solid waste management. In 2020, the agency's vehicles travelled 4,151,990 miles and their off-road equipment was operated over 140,000 hours. The vehicles and equipment used to perform the agency's essential duties have historically relied on fossil fuels (gasoline and diesel). Fossil fuel combustion is the biggest source of human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, which can negatively impact human health and the environment. Thus, the Sanitation Districts have been moving to a green fleet. Already, this transition has reduced the agency's GHG emissions, including a 43% reduction in fossil fuel use in 2020 alone. Improvements have been achieved by transitioning to alternative and renewable fuels; using technology and data to optimize service and reduce fuel consumption; and purchasing more fuel-efficient vehicles and equipment with hybrid technologies.

Over the past five years, the Sanitation Districts have reduced their fleet fuel consumption from 1.13 million gallons per year to 840,000 gallons in 2020. That's a 25% reduction (see Figure 2). Not only has fuel consumption been reduced, but renewable fuel usage has increased from 3% in 2016 to 53% in 2020. Increasing the use of Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) and Renewable Diesel (RD) has reduced GHG emissions.

Transitioning to alternative and renewable fuels has required a lot of research and work, including verifying fuel capacity; adding fuel storage tanks without restricting operation or visibility; designing and installing new fueling infrastructure; and training staff on the new maintenance and repair procedures.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

The Sanitation Districts have been using CNG vehicles over the past 20 years. The agency has 91 vehicles powered by CNG, which represents 13% of their on-road fleet. Nineteen are heavy-duty trucks, which have certified near-zero emission engines. This is the cleanest commercially available diesel technology today.

Over the past five years, the Sanitation Districts entire fleet of vacuum/jetter sewer cleaning trucks have transitioned from diesel to CNG. The trucks are critical for routine sewer maintenance and emergency response to sewer overflows. Therefore, a dependable source of fuel is a must. One challenge was finding space for the additional CNG storage tanks on trucks that are already loaded with other equipment.

The CNG station at the Puente Hills Materials Recovery Facility was upgraded, making the station faster and more reliable. In summer 2021, the agency will install new CNG fueling infrastructure and upgrade an existing CNG fueling infrastructure. These improvements will provide fast and reliable fueling for the growing fleet of CNG vehicles. The CNG station at the agency's largest wastewater treatment plant, the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant (JWPCP), will be upgraded and expanded next.

Food Waste to Renewable Natural Gas (RNG)

Since 2016, the Sanitation Districts have been recycling food waste into green energy to help their member cities meet state organic waste recycling requirements. In 2020, this system was expanded to produce renewable natural gas, which is used to fuel vehicles. Waste haulers bring food waste slurry to JWPCP, where the food waste is anaerobically digested and converted to biogas. Some of the biogas is used at a power plant, which makes the JWPCP essentially energy self-sufficient. The remainder is sent to a biogas purification system that produces renewable natural gas that is dispensed at a nearby Sanitation Districts fueling station, which is also open to the public. This biogas reduces the need for natural gas and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. By the end of 2021, the vast majority of the CNG dispensed at this station will be RNG.

Electric Vehicles (EVs)

The Sanitation Districts are in the process of electrifying their fleet. Over the past three years, the agency has purchased 48 electric cars and four hybrids, which has reduced fossil fuel consumption by more than 26,000 gallons per year. To support the EV fleet, the Sanitation Districts have installed 84 EV charging stations. At most facilities, the EV chargers are used by agency vehicles, employee vehicles and the public. In 2020, the Sanitation Districts also purchased their first fully electric zero-emission ride-on mower, the Mean Green Rival.

Renewable Diesel (RD)

Although most Sanitation Districts on-road vehicles are being transitioned to alternative fuels like CNG and electricity, the agency still needs off-road equipment that is only powered by diesel. The Sanitation Districts started using RD in September 2018. This fuel is produced from waste fats, oils and greases. RD reduces GHG emissions by about 75% and produces significantly less particulate matter and NOx (a common air pollutant) than diesel. Last year, over 80% of the agency's diesel usage was RD. This year, the agency is targeting close to 100%. The agency is currently saving $0.24 per gallon compared to fossil-based diesel. Because RD burns cleaner, RD usage has extended maintenance intervals on engines. By summer 2021, the agency will have used over one million gallons of RD resulting in a cost savings of $193,000 and a reduction of over 7,600 metric tons of GHG emissions. That is equivalent to removing 4,260 cars from the road or planting more than 517,000 trees.

Maintenance

The transition to alternative fuels has required the agency to review and adjust maintenance practices. With EVs, there is no internal combustion engine, which means no oil changes. Mechanics and service crew workers have adapted to the increased electronics, smart hydraulic systems and transmissions, different types of fuel systems, and the need for pressure vessel inspections.

What is next?

The Sanitation Districts' transition is not complete. The agency is focused on expanding the EV charging network at its facilities to meet growing needs. This expansion will require a greater number of DC Fast charging stations to support future medium- and heavy-duty EVs. The Sanitation Districts is committed to further protecting the environment by reducing its carbon footprint and increasing its production of renewable energy for the region.

Interesting in having Wendy Wert visit your campus?

There is still time to reserve a lecture with Wendy Wert, but a limited number of spots are available.  Complete the form below to reserve your space today.  There is a fee of $550 if you wish to schedule a virtual lecture.  If you wish to have Wendy visit your campus, the in-person fee is $1225.  Please let us know at the time you submit your form which option you prefer.  Thank you.

 

Click here to complete the
Kappe Lecturer Reservation Form.

 

Click here to download the 2022 Kappe Lecture Brochure.

 

Previous Kappe Lecturers

2021 Dzombak, David A. Brochure
2020 Oerther, Daniel B. Brochure
2019 Love, Nancy G. Brochure
2018 Rood, Mark J. Brochure
2017 Reible, Danny D. Brochure
2016 Murthy, Sudhir Brochure
2015 Banner, Jay Brochure
2014 Neethling, JB Brochure
2013 Tchobanoglous, George Brochure
2012 Novotny, Vladimir Brochure
2011 Patterson, James W. Brochure
2010 Barlaz, Morton A. Brochure
2009 Surampalli, Rao Y. Brochure
2008 Brown, Jeanette A. Brochure
2007 Tekippe, Rudy J. Brochure
2006 Gilbert, Jerome B. Brochure
2005 Vasuki, N.C. Brochure
2004 Logsdon, Gary S.
2003 Lue-Hing, Cecil
2002 Crook, James
2001 Daigger, Glen T.
2000 Eckenfelder, W. Wesley
1999 Trussell, R. Rhodes
1998 Kuchenrither, Richard D.
1997 Albertson, Orris E.
1996 Whitman, Ira L.
1995 Okun, Daniel A.
1994 Ford, Davis L.
1993 Kavanaugh, Michael C.
1992 Touhill, C. Joseph
1991 Carroll, William J.
1990 Busch, Paul L.
1989 Schwartz, Jr., H. Gerard
 

Our Partners

ABET AEESP AIChE APHA APWA ASCE ASEE AWMA Black and Veatch CESB DC Water DSWA EESF Geosyntec LACSD LADWP MWDSC NCEES NSPE OCSAN PDH Online SCS EngineersSWANA WEF