Eckenfelder on the Evolution of ‘Bugs’

At a luncheon in Providence, RI, last summer, over 100 people rose to applaud the career of Dr. Wes Eckenfelder Jr. after an amusing, anectdote-filled keynote given from the...

by Carlos David Mogollón, Managing Editor

At a luncheon in Providence, RI, last summer, over 100 people rose to applaud the career of Dr. Wes Eckenfelder Jr. after an amusing, anecdote-filled keynote given from the comfort of a leather lounge chair set up on the dais for the 80-year-old Bronx native. The occasion was presentation of the first Industrial Water Quality Lifetime Achievement Award by the WEF Industrial Wastes Committee. A professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University and senior technical director for AquaAeTer in Brentwood, TN, Eckenfelder has been one of the foremost authorities on industrial wastewater management for nearly 60 years.

Graduating from Penn State University in 1948, he went back to New York where he taught at Manhattan College and worked with engineering consultant Roy Weston, founder of Roy F. Weston Inc. In 1952, they formed Weston, Eckenfelder & Associates, but parted ways in 1956 because Eckenfelder wanted to keep teaching rather than move to Pennsylvania. In 1960, he launched HydroScience, which later became HydroQual. In 1966, he did move to teach at the University of Texas and, in 1970, on to Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN, where he later formed AWARE, which became Eckenfelder Inc. in 1989, and was purchased by Brown & Caldwell in 1998.

Along the way, Eckenfelder – who pioneered work on biological activated sludge applications – organized workshops, seminars and conferences on industrial wastewater treatment and giving related presentations around the world. He’s now coordinating a workshop co-sponsored by Vanderbilt and Siemens for the end of June to focus on advanced activated sludge technology for consultants and environmental managers, with an emphasis on biological membrane and nutrient removal technologies. And the latest edition of his book, Industrial Water Pollution Control – now with co-authors Drs. D.L. Ford and A.J. Englund – will be available at WEFTEC.08 in Chicago this fall.

Among his successes, he designed the first activated sludge plant for pulp & paper and pharmaceutical plants in the 1950s. A notable failure, he reminisces, left a Heinz ketchup plant in Pennsylvania a red, gooey mess: “The sludge overran everything and poured over the effluent weir. That is not one of my laudable achievements, to say the least.” Click here to read "An Interview with AquaAeTer's Wes Eckenfelder" in full in Q&A format.

More in Technologies