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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year


By Lynn Nystrom

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 28 - April 18, 1996

For more than a quarter of a century, Clifford Randall has been making a difference as one of the world's renowned environmentalists. His pioneering work in the enhancement of water quality in the northern Virginia and eastern shore areas is viewed as a model for the rest of the U.S. At Virginia Tech, his impressive record of achievement has culminated this year in his receipt of the university's Public Service Excellence Award.

Randall's power rests in his knowledge and his ability to work with a wide array of people. As Randall views his work, the challenge is not just in the scientific arena. "I have learned that I have to work with scientists, engineers, civil-service people, and politicians if I want to make any progress."

The civil engineer is a familiar face to the members of the northern Virginia boards of supervisors, as well as the political figures in Richmond. He chairs the scientific and technical advisory committee of the Chesapeake Bay Program, presides over the Association of Environmental Engineering Professors, and serves as the USA representative to the Scientific and Technical Committee of the International Association on Water Quality. He also chairs the Nutrient Removal Specialty Group of the International Association on Water Quality, and is vice-chairman of the Occoquan Watershed Monitoring Subcommittee of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Wastewater Management Committee of the Environmental Engineering Division of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

"Public service is an obligation of state university personnel," said Randall, the Charles P. Lunsford professor of civil engineering. "It gives us the opportunity to become involved in real-world problems and to work with people and politicians towards resolving problems of the environment. And we are able to integrate this work with teaching and research."

The integration of teaching and research is demonstrated in Randall's work in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay, where water-quality degradation has had an impact on the area's economy as well as its ecology. "There has been a large number of lost jobs in the fishery industry. The restoration of the bay will restore jobs, and this fact is often missed," Randall says. "We had to work with the politicians to convince them that there are economic solutions to environmental problems that do make sense. We also have the challenge of working with changing perspectives on which wastewater treatment processes are best for preventing problems."

Randall has spent the past 12 years developing and introducing innovative nutrient removal wastewater treatment systems to the East Coast and to the environmental-engineering profession. These efforts have resulted in the development of a patented process now in use in Norfolk at one of the largest wastewater treatment plants in Virginia, and in modifications to more than 25 plants in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and North Carolina. For his efforts in Maryland, Randall received a Salute to Excellence from the governor in 1995.

Randall and his students are working to upgrade 34 plants in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contract.