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    The Michigan Water Environment Association (MWEA) has awarded Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department chemist Sandra Buchner its 2015 Educational Professional of the Year Award recognizing her exemplary professionalism and promotion of water resource learning.

    “Ms. Buchner’s tireless efforts to increase awareness about the critical importance of protecting, preserving and enhancing our state’s water resources reflects a commitment to excellence and leadership that all Michigan residents can applaud,” said MWEA Executive Director Jerry Harte. “Grand Rapids is fortunate to have a public servant who is as skilled and dedicated to her craft and improving the quality of the Grand River as Ms. Buchner.” 

    In addition to her duties as a laboratory chemist at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, Buchner leads free weekly tours of the facility for Grand Rapids third-grade students and above as well as public tours for groups of city residents. 

    During her 10-year career with the department, city records show Buchner has provided environmental instruction to more than 12,000 tour patrons. In addition, Buchner serves on multiple water resources committees and works with the nonprofit FLUSH water education program that informs Michigan Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts about the value of maintaining fresh water resources. 

    Buchner has a biology degree from Michigan State University and graduated from the teacher certification program at Grand Valley State University. She previously served as a teacher at Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School where she coached the school’s Science Olympiad team, and worked at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for eight years as a scientist who helped launch the DEQ’s mobile laboratory program before joining the Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department in 2005.  

    “Sandy’s work is essential to fulfilling our mission of developing environmental leaders in the classroom and in our community,” said Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department Manager Mike Lunn. 

    “Her acceptance of the MWEA award is another example of how Grand Rapids is heralded nationally for embracing state-of-the-art technological innovation, environmental stewardship and smart investment in its wastewater treatment systems,” Lunn said.

    Established in 1925, the MWEA is one of Michigan's oldest organizations and represents more than 2,000 water quality professionals statewide. The MWEA is a member association of the Water Environment Federation (WEF), an international organization with more than 40,000 members worldwide. 

    The MWEA Awards Program offers recognition opportunities in 26 categories encompassing all of the various areas of interest in the water environment profession, while simultaneously creating meaningful awards that inspire and reflect outstanding character and performance. Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls, Mich. hosted the awards ceremony earlier this summer. 

    The MWEA also honored Lunn during the annual event with two awards. Lunn won his second James R. Rumsey Award for a research presentation he delivered in 2015 that highlighted Grand Rapids wastewater treatment plant’s innovative energy-saving initiatives, such as paper reduction, heat recovery and high-efficiency motors. Lunn also received the association’s Willard F. Shephard Award, which recognizes individuals who have completed 20 years of membership in MWEA.

    Lunn’s discussion of Grand Rapids energy technology efficiencies received accolades based on his “effective communication of topics as well as technical content, practical application and overall enjoyment of his presentation,” MWEA board member Jennifer Zelski said in bestowing him the Rumsey award. “Mike has established himself as an ‘out-of-the-box,’ creative thinker, problem solver and is a valuable contributor to our association and programs.”