2023 WQP Industry Icon: Frank DeSilva

Nov. 7, 2023
Frank DeSilva of ResinTech has had a long career – but it stems beyond his desk.

Frank DeSilva’s name is nearly synonymous with ion exchange.  

Since 1989, DeSilva has worked for ResinTech in all aspects of ion exchange resin and currently serves there as a technical consultant and dean for ResinTech University.  

“I guess the most concise way to put it is Frank, for years, has been my go-to guy with regard to any ion exchange technical question that I have,” Peter Cartwright of Cartwright Consulting said.  

Prior to starting his job with ResinTech, DeSilva designed ion exchange units for demineralization and condensate polishing for Belco Pollution Control; served as a wastewater plant operator for Singer Corporation, where he worked on the ion exchange plant to provide rinse-recycled water; and worked in field service mapping municipal wastewater lines for Elston T. Killam Associates.  

DeSilva earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Technology from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1978, and in 1982, he earned his Masters of Science degree in Environmental Science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  

His interest in chemistry, resin and more was insatiable. He recalled going to lunch regularly with ResinTech founder Mike Gottlieb where DeSilva would set up a recorder and ask Gottlieb questions then write what he calls technical data sheets based off the answers. He also said he got his hands on every ion exchange book he could and read it.  

He said his fascination for ion exchange started at Belco when math and chemistry became more synonymous with his role. 

“When we get into nuclear power plants, microelectronics, or pharmaceutical settings, they were talking about theoretically pure water – nothing in the water – and that’s only made possible because of ion exchange,” he said. “...but that’s really the science that got me hooked.”  

But his impact is far more reaching than just his office.  

In the industry

DeSilva has a history of industry involvement. Not only has he spoken at numerous conferences to share his insight and expertise but has served on committees and boards for various associations. He is the current vice president and past president of the board of directors for the Pacific Water Quality Association (PWQA); former chair and current member of the Federal Governmental Relations Committee for the Water Quality Association (WQA); member of the Ion Exchange Standards Committee for the American Water Works Assocation (AWWA); and member of the legislative and regulatory committee for the Association of Water Technologies (AWT). 

“When I was presented with a problem I couldn’t immediately solve, I dug in,” he said.  

That means he spoke with colleagues, such as Peter Meyers and Mike Gottlieb, and they reviewed articles which they then turned into technical files. Thus began his involvement in the regional water quality associations as he authored articles and became a frequent conference speaker. He said he still gets emails about articles he wrote 20 years ago.  

“Frank is, for me, one of those subject matters peers I go to whenever I get questions on ion exchange,” Tanya Lubner, professional certification and training director for the Water Quality Association aid.  

Lubner said DeSilva has a way of supplying answers to questions that are not overly complicated, and she finds that he does not take himself too seriously. Plus, she said, he makes his speaking engagements fun, especially by handing out lollipops to attendees who answer his questions correctly.  

Importance of mentorship

 DeSilva remains a steadfast source of mentoring, support and insight for the industry.  

“There is a genuine sincerity to everything that Frank DeSilva does,” Larry Gottlieb, president of ResinTech, said. “He never pretends. Frank finds the positive in people, the positive in whatever it is that he is doing, and when he talks about it, there is belief and enthusiasm that comes through. He’s just a guy that you want to listen to, that you believe, that you trust.”  

While DeSilva is semi-retired, he is the incoming president of PWQA and continues to work eight hours a week, though he admits he sometimes works more than that. He is trying to find a more balanced schedule – one that includes more time for surfing and traveling.  

“With that said, I am still going to read about ion exchange, and for the younger readers, I cannot emphasize that enough. Don’t Google it. Read the book from cover to cover and you’ll be an instant expert,” he said. 

Despite this semi-retired status, he wants to remain active in industry organizations and is speaking at Aquatech Amsterdam this year. And, surely, he will continue to learn. Up until December of last year, DeSilva still had ion exchange books on his nightstand and would read at least one page a night of those books until reading recreationally. 

“If I can do it, anybody can do it. I just was lucky enough to have these great mentors and I applied myself to the technology by reading everything I could get my hands on and forcing myself to get up on stage and talk,” he said.   

About the Author

Katie Johns

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