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AECOMs Anna Cleaver inspires wastewater process engineers

AECOM's Anna Cleaver inspires wastewater process engineers

 June 09, 2022

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AECOM's People Spotlight series features Anna Cleaver, the market sector leader for wastewater in Ontario, Canada and a process engineer who focuses on biological wastewater treatment design and operations.

The People Spotlight series provides industry insight from AECOM experts around the world, and provides insight into their work and inspiration.

Meet AECOM's Anna Cleaver

Market sector leader for wastewater in Ontario Canada, Anna Cleaver is a process engineer who focuses on biological wastewater treatment design and operations. Anna is a former student of AECOM’s Water Academy, a global advanced training program that nurtures and develops emerging water technical leaders at every stage of their career with the company. Anna has taken on the role of co-director of the Water Academy’s Wastewater Treatment: Liquid Stream program and hopes to inspire budding wastewater process engineers across the globe.

What inspired you to join the industry? 

"I grew up on a farm in southwestern Ontario, where my family was fortunate to have a good well on our property, whereas many well sources in the area contained hydrogen sulfide. I understood at an early age how water quality could significantly influence one’s quality of life," says Anna.

"After doing a school project on dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (commonly known as DDT), I was inspired to develop alternative biopesticides to lessen farming’s impact on the environment. I pursued chemical and biochemical engineering at university, which led me to hydraulics in the oil and gas industry in Calgary, Alberta. This experience provided me with an opportunity to eventually move back to Ontario and work in water distribution. In this new role, I worked closely with a wastewater engineer who loved these ‘little bugs’ and I immediately became curious about biological wastewater treatment. I was thrilled! I had finally found my way back to improving water quality for the public and protecting the environment. Without any formal education in this area, AECOM’s Water Academy provided me with the knowledge to launch a career in the field. I am certainly grateful for this training and support in developing my skills and pursuing my passion — utilizing biology to reduce peoples’ impact on the environment."

What's your favorite project worked on at AECOM?

"The upgrade, expansion and optimization of the Greenway Wastewater Treatment Centre in London, Ontario is by far my most memorable work experience. Greenway is in the heart of the city, adjacent to the very popular river path and equally popular off-leash dog park. Although the surrounding area is owned by the City, it was important to the public to contain the treatment plant within its existing boundaries. I was excited by this challenge and to be involved in this project from the start — from its beginnings in the planning phase through to final construction and optimization. The project increased the plant’s treatment capacity within the existing site boundaries while mitigating raw sewage discharges to the Thames River. Our team repurposed poor performing clarifiers with square concrete tanks for chemically enhanced primary treatment of wet weather flows. The increased plant capacity delayed the need for a new wastewater treatment plant in the City’s southeast. After construction was successfully completed, our team continued to work with the City to evaluate the sewershed and satellite plants to best use available capacity at all plants and avoid the need for future large capacity upgrades," she adds.

How has your work positively impacted the community?

"I am acutely aware that in Canada, the water infrastructure that AECOM designs is funded by public money. I work closely with all levels of wastewater operations to ensure the decisions I make provide value. Large capital upgrades are necessary to sustain our infrastructure – and I search hard to find the balance of spending and improving. The highest value isn’t necessarily the highest cost option. I look to provide infrastructure that the client will use to improve the effluent quality, minimize overflows and simplify operational procedures," Anna explains.

What career advice would you like to share?

"A mentor once told me, “You can have 20 years of experience, or you can have 10 years twice.” I work hard to ensure I’m on a 20-year career path. Careers are built one day at a time. With that in mind, never be comfortable with your current level of knowledge or consider your work to be routine. Always be curious, ask questions, follow up with operators and find learning opportunities in everyday tasks," she concludes.

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