Our Industry person of the week is Ben Roberson, Water System Consultant with Suez for Central Illinois and Northwest Indiana. Here’s what he had to share!
Q. How did you get started working in your field?
Ben: I graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree from Iowa State University and began working with municipalities and consulting engineers soon after. I was assisting them with handling / transmitting and treating their storm water, potable water and wastewater. I found it extremely rewarding to work on a project such as a new subdivision with a beautiful retention pond or a new storm water treatment system.
Q. What do you love the most about your job? What are you most proud of?
Ben: I really enjoy working with Municipalities to assist them in solving their water problems. I have worked with a number of industries over the years (from candy manufacturers and chemical plants to power plants), but have always really enjoyed working with municipalities and the water professionals who are very passionate about supplying safe and great tasting drinking water at a reasonable price to the public. Currently, I am really enjoy assisting municipalities with long term management of their water infrastructure assets. The most common assets that we are assisting with are their water tanks and towers. This asset management includes regular inspections of the tanks and towers, washouts, chemical cleans, repairs and complete interior and exterior replacement of protective coatings. One of the biggest advantages to the municipalities is they can contract for these services with a low annual budget rather than having very large expenditures every 10 to 15 years, all while extending the life of their assets indefinitely.
Q. What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work or new to the field?
Ben: I would highly recommend working in the water industry. There is real pride in being even a small part of supplying the public with safe high quality drinking water. It is truly a great industry to be a part of. The people you meet at trade shows and regulatory meetings are very approachable and helpful to new people in the industry and will go out of their way to help new water professionals.
Q. Can you talk about a project you recently worked on?
Ben: I was recently working with a small municipality in rural Illinois who was looking to have some work done on their water tower. I began speaking with them about the EPA’s recommendations on asset management (https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi/P1000LP0.PDF?Dockey=P1000LP0.PDF) and inspections on their water tower. This was something that really resonated with this village and their mayor because they saw the benefits of having professionals with specific expertise in maintaining one of their most expensive assets. This management also comes with a low fixed annual cost, and meant that the village would not have any surprise expenses or large renovation costs in the future. This really will help them plan for and manage other projects and expenses in the future.
Q. Anything else you would like to add?
Ben: I find it extremely interesting and applicable currently regarding the COVID-19 virus. The number one recommendation from every expert is to wash your hands with soap and clean water frequently. This reminds me of how important the professionals are that supply clean water are, and I am quite pleased to be able to assist them, in any way possible to protect the public.