Prior to the opening of our DEN office, we became aware of a water reclamation project to be undertaken by the Denver Water Board. Due in part to a perceived future shortage of potable water supply and in part to a federal court decree mandating reuse of water diverted from the Clorado River Basin, Denver had a need to reuse treated sewage. They hoped to be able to treat Denver’s sewage to a purity sufficient to allow it to be added directly to Denver’s potable water suppy system. Encouraged by our successful Lake Tahoe tertiary treatment system, we decided to make a proposal to the water board. After an anxious waiting period, we learned that CH2M was one of three firms shortlisted for the project. Greeley and Hanson and Bechtel rounded out the three firm short list.
In a very unique fashion, the water board decided to send a two-man selection committee to visit each firm at their proposed design office. We were certain that our competitors would entertain the selection committee in the finest restaurants available. We also realized that Corvallis could not compare to either San Francisco or Chicago when wining and dining prospective clients. Therefore we decided on the radical approach of hosting the selection committee (Bob McWhinney and Ken Miller) at the home of our project manager, Gene Suhr. We invited various university professors to join us and prepared for an evening of “selling our team” to our visitors.
Holly Cornell was assigned the task of collecting Bob and Ken and transporting them to the Suhr home. As is usually the case, problems began cropping up almost immediately. The visitor’s airplane arrived early and the caterers got lost. Facing the disaster of a houseful of guests without the planned selection of appetizers, Babs Suhr hurriedly put together a selection cheeses and crab dip while Holly delayed our guests’ arrival as long as was practicable. Fortunately, shortly after the selection committee arrived, the caterers found their way and from then on, the affair was a complete success. Clair Hill was pressed into service as a bartender and performed remarkably. Our university friends all opined that our team was “right for the job” and the evening was a great success.
The next morning, as a part of our presentation, we gathered in the conference room of the Western Ave. office and demonstrated how we could employ chemical coagulation as one step in purifying sewage. Our visitors were greatly impressed to learn that Gene had air-freighted a 55 gallon drum of Denver sewage to our CVO lab and that our demostration was the “real McCoy”. We dressed Bob Chapman in a white smock, and he wheeled in a lab stirring device atop the CVO mail cart. In “real time” Bob added premeasured doses of coagulant to the beakers of sewage and showed how the appropriate dose of coagulants would clarify the sewage. Our friendliness, enthusiasm, innovativeness and youthful project team turned out to be exactly what the Denver Water Board desired and we won the project! An interesting sidebar to this story is that Ken Miller, years later, became our Group Director for Water Supply and Distribution.