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DEM Engineer Honored by Regional Association for his Contributions to Wastewater Industry

PROVIDENCE The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that Bill Patenaude, a principal engineer in DEM's Office of Water Resources and leader of the Wastewater Leadership Boot Camp, is the recipient of the Clair N. Sawyer Award from the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA). He was presented the award Wednesday at NEWEA's annual conference at the Boston Marriott Copley Place Hotel.

"I am pleased to acknowledge Bill for receiving this prestigious award and celebrate the important work he does every day to protect Rhode Island's precious water resources," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "One of our top priorities at DEM is working to protect wastewater treatment facilities from the effects of climate change. Working closely with plant operators throughout Rhode Island, Bill plays a key role in helping operators address issues related to changing precipitation patterns, sea level rise, and warmer weather due to climate change. Bill's dedicated efforts have ensured that we are better equipped as a state to preserve our waterways and protect critical and costly infrastructure from the effects of severe weather events."

Patenaude was nominated for the award for his contributions to the wastewater treatment industry by longtime NEWEA member Paul Dombrowski, a nationally renowned wastewater process and design engineer with Woodard & Curran Inc. "Bill's passion for protecting the environment and for supporting the folks who serve on the front lines of the wastewater industry is without equal," said Dombrowski. "It is truly a pleasure to both work with Bill and to help our professional community recognize someone who makes such a difference for our region."

Patenaude has worked at DEM for 30 years and is responsible for enforcement and training activities for wastewater treatment operators in Rhode Island. In 2007 he initiated DEM's Wastewater Leadership Boot Camp, which to date has provided training to more than 80 aspiring wastewater treatment facility managers. This free, industry-driven program provides intensive training, networking, and skill-development course work to help groom the next generation of wastewater management leaders. Rhode Island's Boot Camp program has since been replicated and is ongoing in every New England state.

He also has been a key player in a project to improve the storm/flood resiliency of wastewater facilities in RI. Implications of Climate Change for RI Wastewater Collection & Treatment Infrastructure examined Rhode Island's 19 major public wastewater treatment facilities and major collection system infrastructure, and the physical impacts that could be sustained at these facilities from projected increases in storm intensities, rainfall amounts, and rising seas. Its goal is to help state agencies and communities consider how best to protect this critical and expensive infrastructure in current and future conditions. RI's 19 wastewater systems collect and treat a total of about 120 million gallons of residential, commercial, and industrial sewage every day.

A resident of West Warwick, Patenaude holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Rhode Island and an M.A. in theology from Providence College. In addition, he is a certified Myers-Briggs Type facilitator and an acclaimed speaker and writer with a focus on the intersections of religion and environmental protection.

NEWEA's Clair N. Sawyer Award was established in 1976 and honors those who have given truly outstanding service in one or more of the following aspects of the wastewater industry: university teaching, operator training, research, application of innovation to improve the water environment, and the development of technical publications that advance the knowledge of wastewater practitioners. The award honors Dr. Clair N. Sawyer who served New England, the nation, and the world as a professor, consultant, and technical author who pioneered many innovative concepts in wastewater treatment technology.

For information on DEM's Wastewater Leadership Boot Camp program, visit Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at for information on DEM programs and services and other timely updates.

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  • Department or agency: Department of Environmental Management
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  • Release date: 02-01-2019

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