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Water & Pollution

Control Operators Association

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Historical Committee

Chairman: Al Monteleone



The purpose of the historical committee is to keep us in touch with past. Too often we forget the hard work and long hours spent by our predecessors in the FW&PCOA. If you have some history on the water and or wastewater industry in Florida or of the FW&PCOA and wish to share it, drop Al a line. You would be surprised just how interesting some of the old tidbits can be.

Below are some blasts from the past. As time permits more of these "The Way it Was" pages will appear. So stop by regularly to see if something OLD has arrived.

From the Dinosaur's Corner - July 2007

The year was 1969. Bill Allman of Orlando was our FW&PCOA secretary; Tom Smith of Tallahassee was vice president; I, Dick Vogh of Gainesville, was in the Chair. It was a memorable year. It was the year of the moonwalk for in July of that year NASA sent three astronauts from Merritt Island - Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., and Neil Armstrong - to orbit then Aldrin and Armstrong to descend by space boat to walk on the moon. Armstrong said, "That's a small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

We of the Operators Association took a small step that year. Sid Berkowitz, who had recently become the Chief of the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering, was agreeable and a source of good advice in our overcoming the political resistance to mandatory certification of water and wastewater operators under the provisions of the existing Florida Sanitary Code. After political agreement was finally reached, Mr. John Miller, Bureau of Sanitary Engineering, was assigned to Chair a committee for the writing of licensing regulations. John Miller worked with operators, Bureau staff, and Department legal staff. Florida Administrative Code, F.A.C 10D-11 was drafted in 1969. The regulations were filed with the state department in 1970 and became effective January 1, 1971. F.A.C. 10D-11 was later superseded by F.A.C. 17-16 and administered by the Department of Environmental Regulation.

The more active members of the Association had thought for years that a mandatory licensing program for operators was desirable and possible under existing law. The major stumbling block in prior years had been Mr. David B. Lee, Chief of the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering, in the Florida Health Department. He was a man with many facets.

Mr. Lee had been as tough an administrator as had ever held a rough job, but he and the personnel of the Bureau had a soft heart for the operators. The Bureau sent staff, on a mission of help, to the operators of any plant in trouble. They organized short schools, provided highly competent instructors, administered an awards program, and conducted an excellent voluntary operator licensing program with the requisite grading of tests and record keeping. David Lee had, on occasion, said that when there were one thousand active license holders in both water and sewage he would consider activating a mandatory program. The operators worked to achieve this minimum goal, and I think we had done so by 1969. Already, for several years, it had been mandatory for any Drinking Water System to have a full time Class B Water Operator if it was to practice fluoridation. (The Gainesville Water Plant was the first in Florida, the second in the South, and the eleventh in the nation to provide fluoridation.)

I want to take time to hold a candle to our memory of Mr. Lee. The Bureau of Sanitary Engineering was composed of highly competent and hard working men (I've said that before). When Mr. Lee retired from the Bureau, he planned to enter into an engineering partnership with Mr. David B. Smith, which would concern itself with Industrial waste treatment and disposal. However, Mr. Lee had pretty well worn himself out at the Bureau and only lived a year of retirement. Prior to the time he served with the Bureau, Florida water known as a septic tank state, but before he retired, cities had sewage treatment plants.

I remember one story: A Mayor said, " Mr. Lee, you can't come to my city and tell me what I have got to do." "You are correct, Mr. Mayor," said Mr. Lee, "But what I can do is go to my office in Jacksonville and tell you what you have got to do!" Mr. Lee and I did not always get along wonderfully well. I went to his office in Jacksonville to obtain his agreement for me to supervise/operate both the Water and Sewage Plants for the City of Gainesville. I did not get his unqualified approval, just a "no objection" if I did well enough. I remember the Awards Banquet when I had received the David B. Lee cup. It was in Gainesville, my hometown. I had worked a bit late that day and was still wearing work clothes and sitting in the back of the hall. When my name was called, one operator loaned me his necktie and another put his sport coat on me. When I reached the head table where the photographer was waiting, David Lee said, "Come on, Dick. I can stand it if you can."

Note: The Lee cup was originated by Charlie Shreve, another old dinosaur.

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