Wes Eckenfelder

Wes Eckenfelder's Legacy Will Live On

Wes Eckenfelder 

Dr. William Wesley Eckenfelder Jr. Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt School of Engineering.

Dr. William Wesley Eckenfelder Jr., passed away on March 28 in Nashville, Tenn. He was 83.

A pioneer in the field of water and wastewater treatment, he was a professor at four different universities, with his last appointment being as Distinguished Professor at Vanderbilt University. Eckenfelder influenced a countless number of engineers and scientists through his textbooks, journal articles, workshops, and courses. Among Eckenfelder’s more than 30 technical books, his second book, Industrial Water Pollution Control published by McGraw-Hill, is a classic text initially intended for the classroom. The most recent third edition is marketed and used by practicing professionals in the field.

His accolades include being one of the first to design and use aerated lagoons and activated sludge treatments in the remediation of pulp and paper mill wastewater.

Eckenfelder was the founding principal of several companies, including AWARE, Inc. in Nashville, Tenn., that was later named Eckenfelder, Inc. in his honor. AWARE merged in 1998 with Brown and Caldwell, a California-based full-service environmental engineering firm. In recognition of Eckenfelder’s many contributions to the profession of environmental engineering, Brown and Caldwell established the Dr. W. Wesley Eckenfelder Scholarship.

He received many awards and accolades from professional societies. In December 1999, he was named along with two others as one of the “20th Century Pollution Control Pioneers” by Environmental Protection magazine, the other two being Rachael Carson who wrote Silent Spring and A. J. P. Martin who invented the gas chromatograph. In addition, he is enshrined at the Adventure Science Center in Nashville as one of the “Tennessee Engineers and Builders of the Twentieth Century” and in 2007, the Water Environment Federation created a “Dr. Wesley Eckenfelder Industrial Water Quality Lifetime Achievement Award” in his honor.

He published his memoir, Wesley Eckenfelder Waste Water Extraordinaire, last October.

Eckenfelder's primary research interest at retirement was advanced activated sludge technology. At his death, Eckenfelder was a technical director at AquAeTer, a Nashville-based engineering firm that focuses on projects related to energy, engineering, environmental, sustainability and risk analyses.

To read more about or by Dr. Eckenfelder, visit "Head of the Class" and " Water Quality Management 101."

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