Water infrastructure topic of debate at Ottawa Sustainability Symposium

On April 25, PEO’s Ottawa Chapter hosted its bi-annual Sustainability Symposium, an event that seeks to gather engineers, facilitate a discussion of existing and emerging environmental sustainability issues and present strategies that can be applied in engineers’ daily professional activities.

The April event focussed on water sustainability and included presentations from Roberto M. Narbaitz, PhD, P.Eng., environmental engineering professor, University of Ottawa, who discussed the challenges and benefits of climate resilient solutions in the design of sustainable water infrastructure. There was a special focus on the more frequent occurrences of algal and cyanobacterial blooms and how they impact water quality and treatment. Speaker Robert Dick, P.Eng., CEO, Canadian Lighting Company, presented on the impacts of artificial light at night (ATAN) on water source quality. He said ATAN has an impact on the predator-prey cycle; however, the solutions to its negative impact can be simple, low-cost, and are mostly political in nature.

The symposium sent a clear message that water is an invaluable resource that plays a crucial role in our economic, social and cultural development and has a direct impact on our quality of life. Current unsustainable industrial practices yield potentially toxic cyanobacterial blooms in drinking water sources, such as in Lake Erie.

In an effort to raise awareness about such issues, the Ottawa Chapter Sustainability Symposiums are open to the public and consist of expert guest presentations followed by an open question-and-answer style discussion with an expert panel and a period for networking.

The idea for the symposiums came to Sucha Mann, P.Eng., FEC, an executive of the Ottawa Chapter, at PEO’s 2006 Annual General Meeting when Phil McNeely, P.Eng., MPP (Ottawa-Orleans), gave a talk on sustainable energy. In his presentation, McNeely discussed how coal lobbies have influenced governments across North America, including Ontario’s provincial government, preventing the development and adoption of cleaner and healthier energy options. Mann was fascinated by how McNeely openly challenged his own government ministers to be responsible for protecting the environment.

McNeely supported the sustainability symposium initiative and helped its development. Over the years, numerous individuals from the PEO member community, research institutes, universities, and consulting companies across Canada volunteered their time to present on topics such as Ontario’s Green Energy Act, solar energy technologies, and Tesla’s Model-S electric car and the evolution of battery storage.

Ottawa’s Sustainability Committee is interested in working with other PEO chapters to organize more Sustainability Symposiums. Contact Ottawa Chapter Sustainability Committee Chair Sucha Mann at sucham@bell.net.

Stéphane Venne, EIT, and Sucha Mann, P.Eng., FEC, are members of PEO’s Ottawa Chapter.