Dec 07, 2017

A Farewell From Ferguson

After five years as a columnist for Water & Wastes Digest, Bob Ferguson says farewell

Bob Ferguson says farewell to his readers in Water & Wastes Digest

It is with mixed feelings that I announce that this will be my final column in Water & Wastes Digest (W&WD). The first of these columns was published in 2012. I was invited by then-editor Neda Simeonova about a variety of topics. At the time, I’m pretty sure that neither one of us knew what those topics would be. I do recall Neda telling me to keep writing until I was able to “find my voice.” I am sure at the time I didn’t appreciate what she was saying.

I have been involved with water and wastewater issues most of my career. One of my first jobs out of college was in an analytical laboratory in Princeton, N.J., and then, after a few years, I worked for what was then one of the largest water and wastewater engineering firms in the eastern U.S. So I have read this magazine for many years and am familiar with the topics that are usually covered.

But it wasn’t until I started writing this column that I fully realized the depth and breadth of the topics covered–not only by W&WD, but also by you, the readers of W&WD.

During these past five years, I have written about a wide variety of topics, including the hunt for Osama bin Laden and how clues that could be found in wastewater could have been the key to making a positive identification of his location, a proposal for a small portable nuclear power generator for electricity in remote areas, and an entrepreneur’s business idea for a low water-use car-wash business.

I had a chance to write multiple articles about the environmental and economic impact of fracking. Those articles also gave me the opportunity for a friendly debate on the pros and cons of fracking with Ben Grumbles, the former assistant administrator for water at U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the current Administrator of the Maryland Department of the Environment and, at that time, a colleague whose column appeared in the alternate months from mine in this magazine.

I wrote about advancements in water treatment to make drinking water better and more available in water-scarce Brazil, as well as the tragedy and mistakes that made water dangerous in Flint, Mich. I wrote about developing countries around the world that often have no water at all and how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the Millennium Development Goals that preceded them, have helped focus resources to cut the number of people living in severe poverty in half.

I even gave a shot this year at writing about politics—a risky proposition in any year, but perhaps a third rail to stay away from in 2017. But I proceeded anyway and wrote predictions about the incoming Trump Administration (happy to report that most of my predictions were so far correct), about budgets and infrastructure, and about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his administration’s likely impact on our industry.

In response to these columns over the past five years and these different topics, I have received emails from many of you. Most, but not all, of the emails were positive. When I took a specific position, I am pleased to report that most of the readers wrote to agree. Many of them wrote thanks for expressing an opinion that was not often heard, and they were glad to see it in this magazine. Sometimes, the email was to strongly disagree and point out the flaws in my thinking (I got a few of those on my article about the portable nuclear generator; one started “I usually agree with you, but on this last one…”). In response to this past August’s column, in which I argued that regardless of your position on climate change, you should support the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, I even got an invitation to be a speechwriter for a congressional candidate (which I politely declined).

The emails always were thoughtful and constructive. Each was thought- provoking and showed an understanding of the details of each of the topics. Some of my topics strayed far from water and wastewater, but your responses always proved how well-informed, educated and sensible the readership of this magazine is. I want to say thank you for that, and for reading these columns. I can say that I enjoyed writing every one of them, and I hope I was able to “find my voice.”

I want to again thank Neda Simeonova for getting me started and for all her sage advice, and to thank Elisabeth Lisican for sustaining the column and for all her help and advice, especially when I started to write about politics.

And my thanks and best wishes to Bob Crossen, as he takes the reins as editor and continues to bring you great content, and to everyone at Scranton Gillette Communications and W&WD.

About the author

Bob Ferguson is a consultant in water and wastewater, industrial microbiology, laboratory analysis, markets and business strategy and is a frequent author on water and environmental topics. Ferguson can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @SCI_Ferguson

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