Civil engineers have also led in the upgrading our wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure. Technology has significantly improved since wastewater and storm water runoff were collected in combined sewers and discharged into nearby streams and rivers. Civil engineers and scientists have made major advances in wastewater infrastructure since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began in 1970 and the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. These advances have improved the water quality of our streams, rivers and lakes.
However, new methods, strategies, and technologies must be continually developed to fix wastewater issues from the past, meet current water quality standards, and address future challenges. In older cities across the country, work is being performed to reduce and eliminate wastewater discharges from combined sewer overflows. Treatment plants are being upgraded to improve treatment capability, and new technologies are being introduced to increase performance and efficiency. Engineers are also working to address the challenges of runoff from modern farming activities and blue green algae blooms which have impacted Ohio and other states water supplies.
As new political leaders begin to formulate policy, engineers and other scientific and technical personnel should be included in the process. As we learned in Flint, a technical understanding of the situation is critical; costs should not be the only factor when making policy decisions.
Engineers are not typically flashy, but they have solid skills to analyze situations, solve problems, and make good things happen. Their expertise has played a critical role in the development of our country and they should continue to be a major factor in our future.
During this National Engineers Week, please urge politicians to keep engineers involved in formulating and developing policy; and emphasize the importance of learning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to our daughters and sons, and encourage them to consider an engineering career.
Tony Klimek is a Civil Engineer for the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnat.