Dean Marriott, director of the Portland, Ore., Bureau of Environmental Services, recently spoke to BC Water News about his career and the city's 20-year CSO Abatement Program. This interview is available exclusively to BC Water News readers and is the type of content you receive free with your subscription. Read and enjoy.
Feb. 29, 2012

10 Minutes With …

Dean Marriott
What drew you to a career in environmental services?
What first grabbed me about the environment was paddling a canoe as a teenager. One gets to see water quality issues up close that way. Back in the mid-1960s most of our rivers and streams were badly polluted, so I saw problems almost every time I ventured out. After getting out of school, I worked in both the public and private sector doing work related to natural resources or the environment. In 1994 I came to Portland, Ore., to become the Director of Environmental Services. Portland is a great city with lots of opportunities to try innovative solutions to environmental problems. The people really care for their Willamette River, and I’m glad to be a part of the effort to keep it clean.

How has the industry changed since you started?
Everything is more sophisticated and more complicated than when I arrived 18 years ago. Our permits are longer and more complex. The technology is more efficient, yet sometimes expensive to operate. We’ve found that sometimes small is beautiful when it comes to letting green infrastructure produce good results. We’ve come to really like the results of green roofs, green streets and green parking lots.

You recently completed Portland’s 20-year CSO Abatement Program. What were the biggest challenges in completing this program?
We started on the odyssey with five goals in mind: get it done on time; get it done on budget; do the work safely; be transparent with the public and elected officials; and get as much of the work to local firms as possible. As you can imagine it was not easy, but we managed to be successful on all five goals. We finished just before our Dec. 1, 2011, deadline, which had been set two decades earlier. We met our financial target set at $1.4 billion. Both our major construction contractors won OSHA awards for safety, and our staff assured everyone working on our jobs did so safely. The Bureau reported every six months along the way in public sessions of the City Council, and we sent direct mail updates to all our ratepayers about four times along the way. The Bureau was also given awards for our local contracting, which was a big deal to us.

What do you see as the top priorities for your agency over the next decade?
We have been focused on developing our asset management systems for the past few years. We have assessed the condition of our collection system, our conveyance system and our treatment works. We have prioritized what needs to be addressed to make sure our systems continue to perform. Our top priority will be to care for our aging infrastructure in the most cost effective way we can.

What is something people might be surprised to know about your organization?
For a large group of technical people, like engineers and scientists, we still like to make the work fun. We have a person at the lab down on the river that likes to swim in the Willamette during lunch. In that way he can testify personally that the river is clean and ready for use. He seems perfectly healthy, which is a good thing to report.

What fun thing would you like our readers to know about you?
My son loves baseball and hopes to pitch this spring for Grant High School here in Portland. By going to his pitching clinics all these years I finally learned to throw a curve ball at age 60. Put me in coach!

What would be the one thing that you would hope to have as your legacy?
It would be great for the people we serve to think of Environmental Services as their first class local utility that took the lead in making the Willamette River and all its local tributaries clean and safe for fish, wildlife and people to enjoy.


Name: Dean Marriott

Title: Director, City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services

Background: Dean holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Florida State University. Prior to joining the City of Portland in 1994, he worked for Chester County Planning Commission in Pennsylvania; was General Counsel for a landscape architecture and planning firm in Philadelphia; worked for an engineering consulting firm in Maine; and was Commissioner of Environmental Protection for the State of Maine.

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