How did you get started in the environmental industry?
I got interested in the field in my undergraduate courses at UConn and pursued a job with the Connecticut Water Resources Commission in 1967 just after the passage of the Connecticut Clean Water Act. I was able to start a career when the water pollution control laws were no more than 20 pages long and there were no regulations.
What kind of trends are you seeing in the water industry?
I am seeing a trend toward total asset and infrastructure management and maintenance becoming the priority over growth or expansion due in part to the age of the infrastructure and the cost to repair and replace it. Having just retired along with many of my era, I hope to see a trend in new engineers joining the field and taking over management.
If you could change one thing about your business/agency, what would it be?
I would change the organizational relationship between the Board of Commissioners, the management and the municipalities served in order to make the policy roles more relevant to the management of the core business and services provided.
What’s something people might be surprised to know about the Metropolitan District of Hartford?
Not only does it provide water and sewer services, but it also maintains an extensive GIS service to the member towns, provides the maintenance of Riverfront Recapture’s parks and facilities, operates the garbage processing for the regional CRRA resource recovery facility, manages more than 30,000 acres of watershed lands, and assists DEP in wildlife management including stocking fish, relocating bears, and monitoring eagle nesting on its property.
What’s one thing the federal or state governments could do to help the MDC?
The obvious answer is to continue to provide funding through the state's Clean Water Fund and the Drinking Water SRF, but another is to maintain close staff-to-staff relationships in order to understand each others’ needs and prepare for emerging issues and assist in solving problems.
How has the economic downturn affected the MDC?
The MDC Clean Water Project has seen the benefit of several bidders on the projects and lower prices than estimated on most all of the work to date due to the impact of the recession on the construction industry. However, the district has had to reduce operating costs and implement a 10 percent reduction in its workforce through retirement incentives to control its rates and taxes on customers and member towns.
What’s the most significant project you’ve been involved with in your career?
The development of the Connecticut Ground Water Quality Standards and the related programs to protect groundwater including the potable water, aquifer protection, diversion, state Superfund, Brownfields, remedial standards regulations and pesticide management programs and the related GIS mapping to define the groundwater classifications.
What is the biggest challenge the MDC has faced in the past 10 years — and what will it be over the next 10 years?
The biggest challenge MDC faced over the last decade was to establish an asset management program to correct, restore and replace its aging infrastructure including: the development and implementation of its Clean Water Project to abate its combined sewer overflows, reduce the excessive infiltration/inflow in the separated sewers, and reduce nitrogen from its four sewage treatment facilities; the development of its 40-year water distribution system capital replacement program; and restoration and enhancement of its data management systems to meet current control needs. Over the next decade the challenge will be to maintain the funding and commitment to the asset management programs under way and secure future water supply sources.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
A summer job working on a factory assembly line standing next to a drying oven for metal parts and spraying off any remaining water droplets before it went to a paint spray booth. This convinced me that engineering would be much more fun.
What’s on your to-do list?
Having just retired, I have 10 grandchildren to play with and many things to repair, including my 1926 Herreshoff 12½ (sailboat). I hope to assist some regional water quality organizations and some international organizations such as Engineers Without Borders.
We have a lot of passionate young readers who are just getting started on their careers. What advice would you give them based on your career in water and the environment, as well as the challenges you see for water professionals?
Use your knowledge and skills to solve problems, look to the total solution not just the part in front of you, think ahead, challenge those in power and take risks. The challenges in the environment are continually changing as the world changes, as population changes, as weather and climate change, as food and animal production change, as public health changes, and as our knowledge and ability to determine the impact of chemicals on the environment continue to improve. It will be up to the new engineers to accommodate, plan and prepare for these changes.
The challenge I see for water professionals is similar, but they face a problem today with a large population that does not accept the realties of science, does not trust the political system or public officials, and will not pay for the investment in the environment. The challenge today is to find a way to overcome this attitude.
To the consulting engineering professionals, I would challenge them to focus on the best solution to a problem and not on what they think the client wants or is willing to pay for. The client is not well served if they cannot see the right or best solution. I have been frustrated by consultants providing answers only within the limited scope developed before the problem is fully understood and thereby failing to define solutions that recognize the total problem.
What can utilities do to address the gap between funds and tightening regulations?
First they have to market the value of the water and sewer service to establish rates comparable to the value and then continue to pursue state and federal investment in infrastructure. The industry has to anticipate regulation and advocate for control along with the investment needed to meet it. The protection of drinking water and water quality is everyone’s need, not just the industry that makes it possible, and we must convince the local, state and federal governments of that.
What measures need to be taken in Connecticut to ensure its long-term water supplies?
The state must continue to protect the water supply sources from pollution, prevent new sources of pollution, maintain the protection of watershed lands around drinking water supplies and continue to invest in the infrastructure through its Clean Water Fund and Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund.