Biosolids SPOTLIGHT: A focus on the people of biosolids who work in our region

SPOTLIGHT on Biosolids OPs (Old Professionals)

Two hundred years... that is approximately the combined years of experience of the biosolids practitioners of this month's SPOTLIGHT.  This past month we had a fabulous "meet and greet" organized by MABA Board member Carolyn Christy of YPs, those wonderfully talented and committed folks new to the biosolids profession whom we call "Young Professionals." We, who have decades of experience, who have seen the development of national standards, who were present for the launch of the new word "biosolids," are now cheering the brilliance of the YPs who have joined our niche in environmental stewardship. We will hear from a few of these YPs in April. But please join us in celebrating a few of the OPs, "the Old Professionals."

Robert (Bob) Adamski 

Bob AdamskiRobert (Bob) Adamski, retired NYCDEP and Gannett Fleming, ([email protected], (917) 836-2614). Bob’s environmental engineering career started with service in the US Army Corps of Engineers, including environmental assessments in the New York metropolitan area. Bob was at NYCDEP when New York got "out of the ocean" and helped set up the beneficial land-based alternatives. “I went on to become Deputy Commissioner and was involved nationally in WEF's and NACWA's Biosolids Committees with setting up the third-party verification of compliance.” He moved to the private sector, for ten years as VP with Gannett Fleming.  Since retiring, Bob continues to share information on biosolid issues, both nationally and internationally. He has been involved in water and sanitation projects in developing countries, serving on the Boards of Water For People and Hermandad and as Chair of NYWEA's Humanitarian Assistance Committee. He is a local director of the American Society of Military Engineers.


Robert (Bob) Pepperman

Bob PeppermanRobert (Bob) Pepperman, Synagro, ([email protected], 443-510-5695).  Bob has been employed in the biosolids management industry for 38 years. A holder of two degrees from Penn State (BS ERM, 76; MS Agronomy, 81), Bob began his career developing approaches for reclamation of disturbed lands, including the use of biosolids, for an engineering consultant in Pittsburgh.  Since moving to Baltimore in 1984, he has filled multiple roles in the industry, ranging from lead agronomist to managing biosolids-derived product distribution and to his current position in business development. Among his “favorite” projects was the assessment of subsequent development of a model for nitrogen transformation within the deep-row method of biosolids application for land reclamation.  He was a key member of the team that enabled New York to cease ocean disposal of biosolids. He and his colleagues established the program that ultimately shipped over 1,000,000 tons of NYC’s dewatered cake via rail to southeastern Colorado for beneficial use, the largest US biosolids project no one ever heard about.  In addition to his current development role, Bob also works with Synagro’s Legislative Affairs/Compliance team in addressing new regulatory initiatives. Growing up in Camp Hill (PA), Bob was a fan of all things Philadelphia (Flyers, Phillies, Eagles and, most importantly, cheesesteaks) but having married a Pittsburgh native he has, in the interest of domestic harmony, become a Steelers season ticket holder. 

Diane Garvey 

Diane HarveyDiane Garvey, Garvey Resources, Inc. (215-362-4444, [email protected]). Diane, principal of her residuals consultancy, was present at the very start of the modern biosolids era. Her career began as an entry-level engineer with the Philadelphia Water Department, witnessing the last barge load of ocean dispersed sludge, and leading its iconic research at Penn State on demonstrating the use of wastewater solids for reclaiming Pennsylvania’s surface mining. Diane served as state, regional, and national leader in this emerging professional practice, leading a new biosolids committee that helped guide Pennsylvania regulations after Part 503 was promulgated. She served as Program Chair for the WEF Residuals and Biosolids Committee in Kansas City. Diane became a certified nutrient management specialist in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and she participated in WERF research on biosolids cost accounting and on pathogen regrowth and odor. Diane married an agronomist colleague at PWD, raised two boys, and has all along kept an active life. She has been skiing in Switzerland, river cruising in Europe, horseback riding in the Wissahickon, and rescuing over 200 Weimaraners. Today, Diane also embraces her role as a grandparent to three with two more on the way, the next generation of environmentalists.  


A. Thomas Ferrero, Jr.

Tom FerreroA. Thomas (Tom) Ferrero, Jr., NAWC Environmental LLC ([email protected], (267) 250-4068).  Tom began as a septic tank pumper in a family-owned business that his father started in 1941. Tom never strayed too far from a septic tank! Tom has a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering and has been a certified Sewage Treatment Plant Operator and Sewage Enforcement Officer. From 1970 to 1998 he owned and managed a full-service septic system company, and developed, and continues to use daily (e.g., 35 MG in 2020), a process which pretreats septage prior to introduction of the liquid faction into a municipal sewage collection system and landfills or beneficially uses the dewatered solids. Tom has held positions in the septage industry Associations on a National, State, and local level, and his leadership includes being MABA’s first treasurer. He is a past President of the National Association of Wastewater Technicians (NAWT) and currently the Association’s Secretary. While no longer flying, Tom, a private pilot, could often be found flying around Pennsylvania and the surrounding states rallying support for the unification and training of septage haulers. Tom would prefer to be found miles out in the ocean hunting for elusive game fish and is looking forward to 2021 better than 2020 for fishing and traveling the United States with his wife of 53 years, Eileen, in their 5th wheel travel trailer.

Trudy Johnston

Trudy JohnstonTrudy Johnston, Managing Director, Material Matters, Inc. (717) 367-9697 x102, [email protected]). Trudy has been in the wastewater field and biosolids community for nearly 40 years. The specialty consulting firm she helped establish in 1997 offers a wide range of services for managing and recycling residuals, evaluating residuals programs, conducting market studies, and acquiring regulatory permits. This huge commitment to biosolids does not stop her from enjoying gardening and flowers, but you might guess that biosolids samples that come into the office abet her hobby and generally end up in her large garden or flower beds.  She eats the vegetables from her garden yet does not consider herself a “highly exposed individual,” and she is consistently proving that healthy biosolids-amended soils grow exceptional vegetables!  She and her husband (nicknamed poor Ray or Saint Ray) also have two large composters where they compost most yard waste (with a biosolids boost from time to time) and return it to the garden.  Trudy has a daughter and 2 grandsons that also occupy her time.  She runs, hikes, bikes, and lifts weights, which leaves no time for relaxing.  “After all,” she says. ” when I get old, I want to be able to transfer from the wheelchair to the toilet by myself.”


SPOTLIGHT on Biosolids YP (Young Professionals)

This SPOTLIGHT is a special treat for us all as it celebrates the young talent in our environmental realm. What is more, we are able to call out several special opportunities.  1. Join the YP Committee, by notifying [email protected] to be added to the list and putting Tuesday, May 18th at 10 am. on your calendar for the next YP meeting.  2. Speak at our July Symposium, as the Programming Committee is reserving a slot during the July Virtual Biosolids Symposium for a YP presentation; so while the official deadline from proposals is passed, send yours by the end of this week to Howard Matteson, [email protected] 3. Be the MABA Social Media Guru, as the Communications Committee is in need of a social media savvy young person to help MABA better engage through its Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube pages; contact [email protected]  with your ideas. 

Carolyn Christy 

Carolyn Christy

Carolyn Christy, RDP Technologies, ([email protected], 610-574-3037). Carolyn has a degree in environmental earth sciences with a minor in soil science and a minor in agricultural business from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She has been working for RDP Technologies for over 5 years doing sales support and marketing. RDP is a family-owned manufacturing company that specializes in lime chemical feed equipment. Carolyn says, “I am passionate about creating a quality biosolids end product for regenerative agriculture. I have given a number of papers on this subject. I am also starting the YP subcommittee for MABA and am looking for more people to get involved.” If you are in the YP category, consider attending the next MABA YP Committee meeting! Carolyn enjoys being outside doing recreational sports. Her favorites are hiking, running, swimming, skiing, and road biking.  The picture shows Carolyn hiking Zion national park in the fall of 2019. 

DJ Wacker          

DJ WackerDJ Wacker, Project Engineer, RK&K (410-462-9192, [email protected]). DJ’s introduction into the world of biosolids started about 10 years ago as an intern at RK&K. He was tasked with collecting and lugging several 5-gallon samples of undigested sludge out of the lower level of a pumping station in the 95-degree summer heat. Somehow that did not deter him from biosolids, in fact, he went on to design that plant’s dewatering facility. DJ reports, “I ended up doing my master’s thesis on anaerobic digestion and never looked back.”  DJ loves seeing projects from conception all the way through commissioning and has had the opportunity to work on a wide range of biosolids projects from thickening and anaerobic digestion to thermal drying, digester gas utilization, and RNG. He also loves innovation in technology and helping clients find the right process that suits their needs and goals. DJ is now carrying his biosolids enthusiasm out into the wider world; check out his recent blog by clicking HERE. When not working in the world of biosolids or wastewater, DJ typically looks for his next destination to travel to and/or thrill-seeking adventure. You can see that in this picture of DJ running with the bulls in Spain.

  Emma Yates 

Emma YatesEmma Yates, Sales Rep, WeCare Denali – Hilburn, NY (845-521-6568, [email protected]). Emma has served as a Business Development Representative for WeCare Denali for the past four years. In this position, she is responsible to sell and market WeCare Compost®. Emma graduated from Allegheny College where she majored in Environmental Science. While she tried to avoid taking any classes related to soil, Emma ended up in a class where they were tasked to increase their school's carbon sequestration through composting. She became smitten with compost and found her home at WeCare Denali where she could create a large-scale impact in the industry and work on an incredible team of composting experts. Marketing biosolids and green waste compost in the tri-state area is a dynamic operation that has provided her with countless connections, learning opportunities, challenges, and enjoyment. Emma currently resides in Jersey City, NJ, and spends her free time practicing yoga, hiking, or exploring the area’s food scene. 

 Garrett Benisch     

Garrett BenischGarrett Benisch, Director of Design Development, Bioforcetech ([email protected], (973) 985-4265). From a young age, Garrett has been fascinated by materials. He says, “As my mother would work on custom centerpieces for parties in our backyard, I would be completely content ‘painting’ water on the railings of our wooden deck just to watch it change color, absorb the water, and then dry out again.”  Still today, Garrett walks through a park or cuts vegetables while cooking, intrigued by how materials change and transform as people interact with them.  He completed his Master's thesis in Industrial Design, Sum Waste, which envisioned turning biosolids into clean valuable resources that society could interact with directly. Shortly after graduating, he met Valentino Villa at the MABA Summer Symposium, and soon after joined the Bioforcetech team to research and develop what he now calls OurCarbon.™  The new job took him from Brooklyn to San Francisco in the midst of a world-changing pandemic, spending time on the phone with testing labs, manufacturers, and Instagram influencers alike.  When not tinkering with OurCarbon™ in the office, Garrett can be found at Ocean Beach with his dog, Hoya, or catching waves in the surf, with very little grace and a really big smile.


Kelli Timbrook

Kelli TimbrookKelli Timbrook, Facilities Manager, Casella Resource Solutions (518-631-3763, [email protected]). As a lifelong environmentalist, Kelli got her start in traditional recycling helping to build municipal and K-12 recycling programs. She then transferred those waste diversion skills into beneficial use of residual organics, always with the same goal of reuse, diverting as much material as possible from the landfill. In her seven years with Casella, she has contributed to the diversion of over 10,000 tons of organic materials, such as biosolids, paper mill residuals, and food scraps. In addition to her work with Casella, Kelli is a Board member of the New York State Association of Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3) since 2012, serving two terms as President from 2016-2020, and Vice Chairperson of the Federation of Solid Waste Association of NY.  When she is not hanging out at compost facilities or WWTPs, Kelli is busy dragging her two kids and husband around both local trails and the Adirondacks (she aspires to be a 46er, climbing all 46 peaks in the Adirondacks) while commenting on the soil and crop health of all the farm fields they pass along the way. 


SPOTLIGHT FEBRUARY 2021 on Data Nerds of Biosolids

Just the other day the big news was that Bitcoin valuation had topped a trillion dollars, but today its value is off 17%. Had I not written the blog on Blockchain Biosolids, I would have even been more clueless than I am about bitcoin and blockchains, except that occasionally I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). What I can say is that, but for the enormously expanding capability of digital recordkeeping capabilities in the world, bitcoin would not be a thing. What I can also say is that biosolids recordkeeping and data analysis is much more where the industry was in 1993, when the Part 503 regulations were promulgated, than it is in 2021. For that reason, we must check into the corners of our profession for those individuals who have embraced the kind of "transparency and trust" that blockchain data systems promise, and those who are committed to advancing our processes and practices to a new dimension.  

Bryan Cauthorn - VADEQ and the new Environmental Data Mapper

Bryan CauthornBryan Cauthorn ([email protected], 804.698.4592) is the Biosolids Compliance Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Bryan started his biosolids career in 1990 working for a private contractor in the land application program.  After 17 years, Bryan made the move to DEQ in 2007. For much of this time, Byran has championed the creation of the Environmental Data Mapper,  a geographic database of all approved land application sites in Virginia, a “groundbreaking” accomplishment in our profession.  Bryan holds a B.S. in Agricultural Economics degree from Virginia Tech and is a Certified Nutrient Management Specialist in the state of Virginia.  He has always liked working with farmers to learn more about agriculture and to share what he has learned.  In his time off, he helps on the family farm raising corn, soybeans, barley, hog, and cattle, and processing meat with custom slaughter.  As a child on the farm, he also raised broiler chickens, laying hens for eggs, rabbits, vegetables, and tobacco.  He enjoys a hard day’s work to help clear the mind from working in an office all week.  In his spare time, he volunteers at the Tappahannock-Warsaw Moose Lodge running bingo and he serves as assistant scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 304 in Tappahannock. 

 Aaron Stephens - Vice President, Data and Information Management, Material Matters

Aaron StephensAaron Stephens, Material Matters, 717-367-9697, x-103, [email protected] is Vice President and partner with Material Matters, responsible for data and information management projects. Aaron is an E.I.T. with an MS degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Penn State.  Starting in 2002, Aaron lent his “data nerd” talent to Material Matters in the development of the Material Manager™ database, a system that provides geographically based records of land applications, both producing worksheets for prospective spreading activities and records for regulatory submissions.  Aaron has served as a project manager since 2006 with multiple industrial and food processing clients and has project experience involving waste heat utilization.  Aaron is a sci-fi aficionado, enjoys playing with microelectronics for home automation, builds small drones, tracks excess deaths from CDC data not properly ascribed to Covid-19, and, on a lighter note, uses his ingenuity to foil the squirrels at his bird feeders.


Elyssa Arnold - US EPA Biosolids Team, Risk Assessment 

Elyssa Arnold

Elyssa Arnold ([email protected], 202-566-1189) is the Risk Assessment Lead in the U.S. EPA Office of Water’s Biosolids Program. She manages EPA’s efforts to assess the risk of chemical pollutants found in biosolids following land application, incineration, or surface disposal to ensure EPA meets its obligations under the Clean Water Act. Elyssa is working to prioritize the list of chemicals found in biosolids for risk assessment and to develop an exposure model to use for screening-level risk assessments. She also spends a lot of time working on PFAS issues. Elyssa joined the Biosolids Program in May 2020 after 9 years focused on ecological risk assessment in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Elyssa grew up in Maryland, where she now lives with her husband, two young children, one very tolerant dog, and a big vegetable garden that produces mostly cucumbers.

Justin Wippo - Technical Manager, Thermal Process Systems

Justin WippoJustin Wippo, Technical Manager for Thermal Process Systems ([email protected] 219-669-6644) studied chemical engineering at Purdue University with a period abroad at the University of Queensland in Australia. After graduating with his B.S. in chemical engineering in 2017 he joined Thermal Process Systems, Inc, based in Crown Point, IN. There he oversees the research and development of several new processes. The most prominent of these projects is the development of a new approach for the combination of anaerobic and aerobic digestion technologies that provide benefits to the anaerobic digester such as the reduction of H2S in the biogas and struvite in the digester. This work has branched off into researching different methods of treating biosolids that improve the efficiency of phosphorus recovery processes and help balance the nitrogen and phosphorus in biosolids for land application. His appreciation for sustainability goes beyond his career, so when he is not traveling to hike in the mountains, he spends his spare time doing preservation and restoration projects at local nature preserves.


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