Ron, second from the left, with his wife Alison, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. (photo provided by the family)

Ron Wade, Longtime CWEA Member, has Passed Away

By Paula Zeller, CWEA Past President, and Alec Mackie, CWEA Staff, Members in the News, Santa Ana River Basin

The CWEA community is heartbroken to share the news about the passing of Ron Wade, a longtime CWEA member and owner of the private O&M consulting firm Facility Process Solutions Consulting.

Ron was passionate about the environment and about water. He also understood people and would do things to convince them to be just as enthusiastic. As a cherished CWEA and WEF Life Member, Ron’s legacy extends beyond his professional achievements. His unwavering commitment to preserving the planet’s clean water was evident in everything he accomplished.

Ron was an avid deep sea fisherman, taking overnight trips off the coast of California in search of the biggest fish, including massive 100+ pound tunas. One photo of Ron and a giant tuna made it onto the cover of Western Outdoor News.

His love for the ocean and open water led him to volunteer for occasional sampling trips on board OC San’s ocean going trawler. As fate would have it, in the 1980s during one ocean sampling trip he met his future wife Alison, where she was on board as one of the lab analysts collecting samples at the time.

He was also a big supporter of military veterans, never leaving the house without wearing his American flag pin. His friends said when Ron was out for lunch or dinner he would offer to pay the bill for any veteran, police, or fire department member that he saw at the restaurant. Friend Chris Cervellone chuckled, recounting Ron would even turn the car around and go back if he ever forgot to put on his American flag pin.

OC San Legacy

With over three decades of service at OC San, Ron’s journey from Operator to Senior Operator to Chief Plant Operator exemplifies his tireless work ethic and leadership abilities. Managing one of the West Coast’s largest facilities, Ron learned how different leadership was from knowing the plant processes and equipment.

While he was the chief plant operator, the facility was changing from a conventional activated sludge system to an extended aeration process. He worked with the consulting engineers, process Senior Operator, as well as various supervisors to make sure everyone knew what the game plan was.

Funny thing about microbes, you cannot herd them like cats. At one point, he came and sat down in a passdown meeting (where the previous shift shares information for the oncoming shift) and exclaimed “I am reminded that for process changes, one needs to allow one MCRT (mean cell retention time) per each change. Unfortunately, one needs to have only one person make a change, which means only one person calling the shots.”

Ron considered further promotions, but there were many reasons to stay put at Plant #1, including his dedication to the plant and staff. Executive roles and strategic planning sparked interest, but not as much as the dynamics of supporting his team, starting up a new process, or working on facility expansions.

“He was so proud of that plant and that team,” noted Chris.

In the early 2000s, he worked tirelessly in collaboration with Orange County Water District and engineering firms as a representative for OC San on developing the processes and procedures for the groundbreaking Groundwater Replenishment System which would receive the purified effluent that Ron’s team was responsible for as it flowed from Plant #1. Today, GWRS is the largest advanced treatment system in the world.

He would get some ideas from coworkers but often wanted to be the champion of the ideas. Some thought he wanted the glory, but the usual reason was he knew that “no good deed goes unpunished.” He didn’t want his people to suffer through the same struggles he did.

One of Ron’s many claims to fame includes appearing on KTLA’s morning news program in 2012 explaining OC San’s wastewater treatment process live on air in his trademark steady and clear teaching voice. Watch the segment here.

Ron’s Dedication to Wastewater Professionals

Ron’s presence at CWEA Annual Conferences was a fixture over the last 20 years. You could always spot Ron across the conference center with a big, happy smile, a hearty laugh, a treasured American flag pin, and his distinctive ponytail hair style.

Ron was inducted into the Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovellers (5S) in 2015, receiving his golden shovel at the Annual Conference in San Diego. He also served for over a decade as one of the official Ops Challenge judges for the Water Environment Federation (WEF) during WEFTEC conferences. His contributions to the wastewater profession are numerous and wide ranging.

Friends Chris Cervellone and Don Jamison estimate Ron has mentored and supported hundreds of wastewater operators during his career. He touched the lives of so many people within our profession, including wastewater operator Gary Tuiasosopo-Kemper who was hired on by Ron 30 years ago, and retired as an Operations Supervisor from OC San.

“Ron taught me so many life lessons, showing me the important things I needed to do, and laid out the plan for me. I knew what to do at work everyday,” Gary recalled. “Ron and Alison helped me through the hard times, they saved my marriage. As the years went on, I would call him ‘Dad’ and he’d call me ‘son’, he was that important in my life.”

Gary recalled one run-in with Ron after a large, late-night process shutdown for a construction project that went awry. Gary’s team shutdown a massive trickling filter so maintenance teams from Jamison Engineering could complete an overhaul, but an unexpected pieces and parts shortage brought the midnight project to a standstill.

Gary and the operations team knew the job had to get done that night, so he decided to pull parts from the closed warehouse. According to Gary, the next morning Ron gave the supportive, if firm, manager’s lecture of, “Great job, proud of your team, but don’t ever do that again.” Gary laughed as he recalled the incident, then paused for a bit. It’s hard to believe such a great man is gone, he said.

We miss you Ron! Thank you for believing in and mentoring hundreds of wastewater professionals during your career and for serving as a guiding light for excellence within our profession.

Share your Ron Wade stories, memories or photos at

We’ll select stories to publish here on the CWEA website, and we can include your name or post anonymously.

 Ron Wade Stories from CWEA Members

“He helped me to understand that this industry was like “It’s a Small World” in the Magic Kingdom. Once when I was at a WEF (Water Environment Federation) conference for the Operations & Maintenance Committee meeting, I went to introduce him to another member, Keith Radick, from Ohio. Apparently, Ron grew up in Ohio and went to Keith for his first job interview! Funnier still, Ron showed up with a 6-pack for Keith that was the kind that he liked. By the way, you cannot bring alcohol to job interviews anymore.

So many stories to tell of a life well-lived. I can’t help but think of Ron as a Filament – the kind that connects various microbes in an aerobic atmosphere, helping people to get their “stuff” together so they can settle down or even to float or rise together.”
– Paula Zeller, CWEA Past President, retired OC San

“Ron was a wonderful and friendly man. I had several long discussions with him at Tri-state and he was always so enthusiastic and animated in those conversations. We would talk about shop, government or anything else that crossed our minds. So personable and easy to talk to. He will be sorely missed. Rest in peace Ron.”
– Phil Scott, retired, CWEA Past President

“Ron had a generous spirit and gave back to the clean water industry. He was a regular attendee at WEFTEC, usually volunteering as a judge for Operations Challenge. When WEFTEC was in New Orleans, sometimes he and Alison would get a hotel room on Bourbon Street and host a party for friends. But wherever WEFTEC was held, I could always find Ron at Ops Challenge judging the competition. He was also a regular attendee of Jammin’ 4 Water, the charity event held the Saturday evening before WEFTEC.”
Jim Clark, WEF Past President, CWEA-WEF Honorary Member

“I met Ron in 1970 and became fast friends till this very day. Reading the memories here really tells the story of Ron and his drive to become one of the best in his field. Not only that, but it tells of the man Ron is as a husband, father, and friend. One of my fondest memories was from 2019, Ron and I walked Sunset beach on the north shore of Oahu talking how 2 boys from Lima Ohio were able to have a friendship that endured for almost 50 years. Godspeed Ron, yours was truly a life well lived! Ali, as a tear runs down my face, you have our deepest condolences. Love you brother.”
– Tom Graham

“Ron was known as a calm and consistent leader. He was not worried about how he was perceived or what you thought about his style; because he always had the best interest of all at hand. An industry professional, mentor, leader, and downright joy to be around; not to mention a great fisherman.”
– Don Stokes, Maintenance Manager, OC San

“As the CWEA Operations Challenge Chair, I found Ron to be an instrumental member of the team to make sure all went well. Ron tirelessly worked with everyone at CWEA and WEF events. His love for the industry rubbed off on everyone he connected with. He will be missed for many years to come.”

“When you think about it, we spend the great majority of our lives at work. If we’re lucky, the friends we make along the way become lifelong contributors to our lives. For me, Ron wasn’t just a contributor to my life. Ron was someone who helped define the foundation of what friendship means. There was warmth in a Ron Wade hug, strength in a Ron Wade handshake and a forever friend in the Ron Wade smile. He was man who loved his wife and his family fiercely. He was dedicated to his craft and instilled a similar work ethic and respect for our industry with all of those he came in contact with. Each of our lives have been enriched by having Ron as a friend. I am sure Ron’s wish for all of us would be to carry on his legacy by providing the same type of friendship, mentoring and leadership to all those we work with and meet along the way.”
– Tarn Victor, JBI Water and Wastewater