Our Industry Person of the Week is Ari Copeland, Water Operations Specialist with Black & Veatch. Here is what he had to share:
Q. How did you get started working in your field?
Ari: I feel water and wastewater treatment has always been a part of my life and something I was exposed to at a very young age. My father was a Chemical Engineer that worked for a private chemical company in Connecticut that produced rubber. He was the Environmental manager which required him to understand how to treat waste produced by the rubber-making process prior to being discharged into the river. He actually passed away inside that facility, unfortunately, but I feel his presence as a lot to do with why I decided to study Civil / Environmental Engineering and work on the Operations side of the Water / Wastewater industry. I went to college at WPI and grad school at the University of Cincinnati. I have worked in consulting for almost my entire career – mostly at Black & Veatch – supporting the Water and Wastewater Operation side of our projects. I also worked on the not-for-profit / professional association side as well at the American Water Works Association (AWWA). That experience really gave me a great understanding of the water industry, in addition to how giving and passionate our water and wastewater professionals are. Many of them work for AWWA purely as volunteers.
Q. What do you love the most about your job? What are you most proud of?
Ari: I love that every day is different. I work at and remotely work on deliverables on many different projects all the time. I work on a lot of operations-related work, so many times I am writing instructions and training operators on water and wastewater plant upgrades or completely new systems. I love that I help people grow professionally. I have trained a lot of operators and assisted in helping them gain an operator license or higher level of certification. It really means a great deal to me to help someone get where they want to be in their career.
I love the industry people I work with. I work with a lot of really passionate, knowledgeable, adaptable, and supportive professionals at Black & Veatch. I love the dedication and passion with the utility professionals I get to work with every day – especially during these extra stressful times of COVID-19, when we are working day-in and day-out to provide safe drinking water and proper sanitation.
I am most proud of holding a Professional Operator Designation (PO) through the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC). I was part of the first class of operators to be awarded a PO. It required me to pass an ABC Grade IV drinking water exam as well as prove experience.
Q. What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work or new to the field?
Ari: Be teachable and trainable. Be open to learning new things. No one is born knowing water and wastewater treatment – so be open to learning from other people and sharing what you know with others. Be curious about what other professionals do in the water and wastewater industry. Everyone in the industry brings something to the table and provides value. You just have to be open to learning about their role and then appreciating it.
Q. Can you talk about a project you recently worked on?
Ari: I provide Wastewater Operations Assistance to the KC Water Services in Kansas City, MO. I have been working on this long-term contract for almost 3.5 years. I assist the City with developing SOPs for the operations staff, monthly operator training, process control assistance at their 6 wastewater plants, and assist with their biosolids annual reporting to both state and federal agencies. I get great support from various other Black & Veatch Professionals on this project. It’s very much a team effort! I am grateful for the B&V professionals that support KC Water Services and me on the Operations Assistance Contract.
Q. Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks to all the Water and Wastewater Professionals working to protect Public Health and the Environment. For many of you, I know you don’t get to work from home and could be sheltering-in-place at your treatment facility. Thanks for all you do. I am extremely grateful everyday to work with you.