The Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers
Just who are those rowdies sitting at the back of the room, heckling the Association President during his speech? Odds are, they are the distinguished members of the Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers, or the 5-S’ers.
But just who, or what, is the Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers? There are no real rules. It is not possible to “join” the Society. Election is by vote of members present at a called meeting and must be unanimous by those present at the meeting. There are no dues, committees, or reports. The only officer is the “Influent Integrator” (known as pH 7). His/her duties are to preside at meetings, maintain records, arrange for badges and certificates and manage the induction ceremony.
Although similar groups existed prior, the first 5-S induction ceremony was held in Arizona in October of 1940. The concept is credited to A.W. “Dusty” Miller and F. Carlyle Roberts, Jr., who were seeking to recognize members who do not receive coveted awards or serve as officers, but who contribute outstanding service to the success and progress of their associations.
The emphasis for the Society is on fun. Each inductee receives a badge in the form of a gold tie bar in the shape of a round-nosed shovel. The shovel must be displayed at all official functions of the Society, the Association, or the Federation. The penalty is that the offender must buy drinks for all other shovelers present until the shovel is displayed (borrowing a shovel from another member is strictly prohibited). New members receive the accolade of “elevation on the official shovel to the highest ridge on the sludge bed, with the title of Select Sludge Shoveler and all the honor, atmosphere, perquisites, and dignity pertaining thereto.” (The Society has steadfastly refused to adopt the politically correct term “biosolids,” out of fear that their name would become some variant of _ _ _ BS!)
The appointed station of the Society’s members is at the opposite end of the room from the presiding officer. Somehow that seems appropriate.
Excerpts freely taken and modified from the article “The Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers,” by Steve Modrick included in History of the Iowa Water Pollution Control Association, 1995.
* The 5-S’s are not a committee of IAWEA but a separate organization.