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Deemed the "godfather" of industrial wastewater treatment by many of his colleagues, former students and peers, W. Wesley Eckenfelder has played a significant role in the development of wastewater treatment.

Through research, numerous educational and technical publications plus multiple courses and seminars, his name became well -known to those who are in his field.

Wes' sense of humor has enlightened many a presentation. It has been noted that...

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Deemed the "godfather" of industrial wastewater treatment by many of his colleagues, former students and peers, W. Wesley Eckenfelder has played a significant role in the development of wastewater treatment.

Through research, numerous educational and technical publications plus multiple courses and seminars, his name became well -known to those who are in his field.

Wes' sense of humor has enlightened many a presentation. It has been noted that he has a way of presenting highly technical information that can easily be understood. He encouraged his students to expand their research capacity by "thinking outside the box", and never hesitated to share his knowledge with others in his field. This book covers Wes' experiences in his professional career, starting with his college education and continuing until the present day.

A true story that will keep you laughing.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781449035341
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 10/16/2009
  • Pages: 236
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.54 (d)

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WWE: W. Wesley Eckenfelder-Waste Water Extraordinaire

-the life of an environmental pioneer
By W. Wesley Eckenfelder


Copyright © 2009 W. Wesley Eckenfelder
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-3534-1

Chapter One

Early Years

My life began in New York City on the fifteenth day of November in the year of nineteen hundred and twenty-six. Being the eldest of three boys I was named after my father, William Wesley Eckenfelder. When I was twelve my mother, Martha Richter, passed away with pneumonia. During my childhood I was quite shy, mainly due to the fact that I stuttered heavily. When I was young, my father sent me to a special school to help with the stuttering, but it did no good. At the young age of sixteen, I graduated from high school and started college in the fall semester of 1942.

Chapter Two

College Years at Manhattan

My father along with several of the brothers from Manhattan College were civil defense coordinators. The relationship my father had with the brothers, financial restrictions, and the fact it was walking distance to the college from where we lived were the reasons Manhattan College was chosen as the college I was to attend. As typical of boys my age, I was undecided on a career; however I selected civil engineering.

During the summer after my freshman year, Iobtained a job as a crew member on the Hudson River Day Line. Mid-summer the quartermaster quit. Since I was the only crew member who spoke and understood English, I was given the job. As quartermaster, I proudly stood behind the wheel and steered the boat as instructed. With the change in my position I was given a cabin on the upper deck, and moved from bunking with the other crew members. My father felt the position would go to my head and assumed I would become corrupt by this promotion, so he strongly objected to it. Throughout my life, he never cong ratulated me on a promotion or success.

During my sophomore year at Manhattan College, I decided to work a part-time job as a coal stoker on the Statue of Liberty ferry. The only time I ever saw the Statue of Liberty was from the bottom of the boat when taking a break from shoveling coal into the furnace to produce steam to power it. Covered in soot, and having to go to class, I decided to work the job for only one weekend. One thing I can say is that was the shortest career of my life.

The summer after my sophomore year, I was appointed purser on the Hudson River Day Line. With the increase of passengers, they decided to increase their revenue by starting a moonlight cruise. My work schedule included both the day and evening hours. Since this was during wartime, many attractive, lonely, young women were among the passengers, and I felt it was my patriotic duty to see to their every need. Many evenings after selecting the most attractive passenger, I would wine and dine her in my merchant marine uniform at New York's best nightspots. These excursions didn't lead to a long-lasting relationship, but often did lead to my cabin for the night.

As purser, I was responsible for the safety and comfort of the passengers. Some passengers of the moonlight cruise wanted a little more than comfort, they wanted an intimate place to take their girl. Seeing I was there to keep the passengers happy, for a nominal fee I allowed these couples the comforts of my cabin during the moonlight cruise.

After the first couple of years as an undergraduate, I found I hated structural engineering. Fortunately, as a junior, I had the option to select sanitary engineering. When I elected to take sanitary engineering I had no idea what was involved. Professor C. J. Velz was a great inspiration to me. He was responsible for getting me enthusiastic about the field, and was the inspiration for my remaining in the field. This was the first milestone of my career.

In November of 1944, I turned eighteen. Shortly after, I was called in by the draft board to see if I could be drafted into World War II. They gave me a physical exam and an oral exam and I flunked. That was one of the few tests I have not passed in my lifetime. Since I had the tendency to stutter, I was given a 4-F classification, which didn't allow me to be drafted.

Even though I lived at home during the school year, I pretty much had to pay my own way. To help out financially, I started working a couple nights a week at a bowling alley setting up bowling pins. Since most of the people who worked this job were young males, we were nicknamed "pin boys". There were no electronic mechanisms to pick up pins, or sweep pins out of the way, or send the ball back; instead that was my job.

My senior year was one of heavy studying and writing. My first paper Statistical Analysis of New York City's Rainfall was published in the Manhattan Engineering Magazine.

After graduation I found a job as a junior civil engineer for New York City. This involved checking the painting on the Third Avenue elevated railway. The elevated railway was being painted and my job was inspecting the painters' work. Using a big, long pole I pointed out where they missed spots that needed painting. It was a "highly intellectual" job for a sanitary engineer graduate. In fact, when I had to be up on the top platform where the trains came through, there was little space so I had to flatten my body out against the wall when the train passed by. People on the subway would lean out the windows and spit on me. The compensation for this was an indefinite pass to ride the subway, which had cost a nickel at that time.

Knowing this was not the job I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I discussed this situation with some of my previous professors and realized that furthering my education would be the best thing to do. Someone told me about a research assistantship at North Carolina State University, so I applied for it. Dr. Velz sent the university a letter highly recommending me for the position. With my GPA and this letter I was accepted, and I resigned from my job and headed to North Carolina.

Chapter Three

North Carolina & Penn State

Dr. Bob Stiemke was my advisor while I was at North Carolina State University. Since I had taken most of the sanitary courses at Manhattan College, most of my course work was now in chemical engineering. The research I did there was a project for my mentor, Bob Stiemke. At the end of the school year, Bob moved to Pennsylvania State. After he left, no one at North Carolina State University was left in my field, so I returned home.

During the summer I met Joyce Ritter. She was sixteen and I was twenty when I happened to sit beside her at the Kent Theater in Yonkers. We started talking and things progressed from there.

The desire to finish my master's degree, lead me to consider transferring to Rutgers University, but I found that it would take an additional two more years to complete my degree. Fortunately, Bob Stiemke contacted me and offered me a research assistantship to Pennsylvania State. This opportunity gave me a chance to finish my degree in a year, so I readily accepted the opportunity.

Although I did not want to be far away from Joyce, we stayed in contact through many phone conversations. The only time we saw each other was when I came home for the holidays. Before I left I gave her a photo to remember me by, and I wrote her a note on the back of it.

While at Pennsylvania State, I was the president of the dorm. Most of the students in the dorm were older veterans that had returned to school after coming back from the war. It wasn't long before the guys turned the dorm into a gambling den. They were playing poker and bringing in booze, which was against the regulations. As president, I decided to take my cut and look the other way. The money they gave me went to pay all my expenses while I was there.

It wasn't until they began to sneak women into the dorm, that someone reported me, and I was immediately terminated as president. The university was going to kick me out of school, but my mentor, Bob Stiemke, pleaded with them to let me finish his research project and allow me to graduate. There were only a couple months left to go, so they relented and allowed me to finish the research project and graduate. Knowing I wasn't one of the cherished graduates that year, I didn't attend the graduation; I was long gone by that point.

After graduating from Pennsylvania State in June 1948, I accepted a job as a junior sanitary engineer at the Atlantic Refining Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Roy F. Weston was my boss, and my job was in the lab setting up hundreds of Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) tests. It was a very boring and uninspiring job.

Luckily in December, I was offered a research assistantship at New York University. With the opportunity to continue my education, and the fact that my girlfriend was there, I accepted the assistantship, resigned from the Atlantic Refining Company, and went back to New York.

Chapter Four

Back to New York

Taking the assistantship at New York University yielded a lower salary, but I felt it was a good decision to continue my education. Although I would have preferred to work during the day, the research was to be conducted at night. Soon thereafter, I applied for a daytime research position that became available at the Village of Ridgewood in New Jersey. My application was accepted and I started working at Ridgewood with John Hood. My salary dropped more by taking the position but I felt it was a good move to start completing research for myself, as well as a good strategy for my career path in continuing to do research after I graduated with my PhD.

Wes, the first I heard about you dates back to the time when a couple of engineers at The Village of Ridgewood were beginning to write about industrial wastes. At the time, you were collecting samples from domestic sewage treatment plants in New Jersey. - Earnest F. Gloyna Chairman from the University of Texas at Austin

The job at Ridgewood was to conduct a pilot study to convert the plant to an activated sludge plant. Through my research, I found that with a 15-minute detention time, I was able to achieve a clear effluent with up to 85 percent BOD removal.

We now know that the reason for this phenomenon is that BOD in municipal wastewater is about one-third part particulate, one-third part colloidal and one-third part soluble. When contacted with activated sludge the particulates are enmeshed in the biological flow; the colloids absorb to the floc; and some of the soluble is absorbed by the floc. This discovery led to what I named the biosorption process, which was the keystone to my future. The process is still used and taught to this day.

Infilco, a major equipment manufacturer, expressed an interest in pursuing the development of the biosorption process. While still employed at Ridgewood, I was retained by Infilco for a salary of ten thousand dollars per year. That was a very good income in 1950. Infilco never expanded on the research of the biosorption process.

Chapter Five

Beginning of My New Life

With my newfound wealth I asked Joyce to marry me. She accepted and we were married in September of 1950. Our honeymoon was a trip to the Catskill Mountains. The weather was terrible, so we turned around and went home. We lived in an apartment during the first couple of years of our marriage, and later purchased a home in Tenafly, New Jersey.

I enjoyed the challenges created in research and new discoveries, so I decided to form my own consulting firm, Eckenfelder & Associates. During 1950-51, I wrote several new papers. The Mechanism of Oxidative Sewage Purification was the first paper I was asked to present, and I presented it to the Water Environment Association (WEA) in New Jersey. Being the first paper I had ever given to a large group, I was worried about stuttering, yet I felt that this was the best way to overcome my speech impediment and gain self-confidence. It took me several years to get to the point of only stuttering occasionally, but it worked. The second time I presented one of my papers to a large group was the following year at the Purdue Industrial Wastewater Conference. The paper I presented was called The Application of Oxidation-Reduction Potential to Biological Waste Treatment. Due to the success of many of the papers I wrote over the years, I was asked to present at each of the annual Purdue conferences for more than forty years.

I first met Wes in Roanoke, Virginia. It was in the early fifties at the state meeting of the Water and Sewage Organization. He was standing alone in the hall of the conference hotel outside the meeting room. I remember him as quite thin and shy. I introduced myself and although I do not remember what we chatted about, it was probably about one of his early papers. Subsequent to our first meeting in Roanoke, our paths did not cross again for several years. When we met again, I was amazed how he had changed from the thin, shy kid in Roanoke to the confident bon vivant that we came to know. Strangely enough, although we are in the same profession, over the years our paths have seldom crossed. The reason I suspect is that his field has been mostly in industrial wastewater while my activities have focused on municipal wastewaters. Regardless of personal contacts, I have followed his work with great interest and admiration. It is my opinion that he has contributed more to the application of the tools of process engineering to wastewater treatment than about anyone else. From time to time, we may chide him on his curve construction and other minutia, but the known fact is he is a giant in our field. -Gene Rich Colleague

Chapter Six

Teaching at Manhattan College

There were two people who were largely responsible for aiding my research efforts in the 1950s. Dr. Nandor Porgis, with the US Department of Agriculture, who was working with the secondary wastewater treatment of dairy waste; and Elmer Gaden, a professor of biochemical engineering at Columbia University who was working with concentration kinetics and oxygen transfer. We frequently met and discussed the research I was involved in.

The year 1952 was a banner year for me. We had our first child Lawrence Eckenfelder, and in the same year, Manhattan College invited me to fill in for Brother McCabe while he was on sabbatical.

When I went to the classroom to begin teaching, low and behold there were a couple of guys taking my class whom I had started college with. The guys had been drafted into World War II, and when they returned, they started back to college. One of the guys' names was Jack Harrison. Jack and I became close friends. He and his wife joined Joyce and me in many card games. We did a lot together, until I left for Texas in 1963.

Roy Weston, my former boss from Atlantic Refining, decided to go into private practice. He asked me and my colleague, John Hood, to join him; and we accepted. The company became known as Weston, Eckenfelder, and Hood. After going into business with Roy, I resigned from my position at Ridgewood. John soon resigned from our consulting company and the company became Weston and Eckenfelder.

Many of my weekends were spent in Pennsylvania working for our consulting company. Two of our clients were the John Lucas Paint Company and Wyeth Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company. A physical-chemical treatability study was initiated for the John Lucas Paint Company, and a biological treatability study was completed for Wyeth Laboratories. These studies were invaluable experiences. They taught me how the "bugs" (chemical, biological, and the bacteria) worked, and it really got me started understanding the processes. One of the philosophies I hold true is, "You can read a book but it doesn't hold a candle to hands-on experience."


Excerpted from WWE: W. Wesley Eckenfelder-Waste Water Extraordinaire by W. Wesley Eckenfelder Copyright © 2009 by W. Wesley Eckenfelder. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Chapters One Early Years....................3
Two College Years at Manhattan....................7
Three North Carolina & Penn State....................15
Four Back to New York....................21
Five Beginning of My New Life....................25
Six Teaching at Manhattan College....................31
Seven Failures and Successes....................39
Eight Staying at Manhattan College....................47
Nine University of Texas at Austin....................59
Ten 1965-1969....................67
Eleven End of Teaching at Texas....................83
Twelve 1970....................95
Thirteen 1971-1972....................103
Fourteen 1973....................111
Fifteen The Rest of the Seventies....................117
Sixteen The Eighties....................131
Seventeen Last Years at Vanderbilt....................141
Eighteen Retirement?....................151
Nineteen More Traveling and Lecturing....................159
Twenty A New Millennium....................171
Twenty-one 2005 Until the Present....................185
Addendum My Life With Wes....................201
Awards and Honors....................212
Published Books....................218
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