2013 Federal Engineer of the Year Honored for Improving Water Safety

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Stacey A. Ober
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Friday, February 22, 2013

Capt. Richard Gelting, Ph.D., P.E., a team leader and senior environmental engineer with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, has been named the National Society of Professional Engineers' 2013 Federal Engineer of the Year. Gelting received the honor during the 34th Annual FEYA Banquet at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on February 21, 2013.

"I'd like to recognize the people on the teams that I've worked with and the people on the teams that I've led, because I wouldn't be here without them," said Gelting, shortly after he was named the winner. "I think these kinds of awards are really important because it shows people what engineers do, what engineers are capable of, and ultimately what engineers contribute to society on a daily basis." 

Managing the work of the water, sanitation, and hygiene team within the CDC, Gelting has coordinated the global implementation of multiple Water Safety Plans in Jamaica, Guyana, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and St. Lucia. WSPs are a World Health Organization methodology to assess and manage risk in drinking water systems from catchment to consumer, and guides water utility companies to provide safe drinking water in compliance with health-based targets. WSP implementation has resulted in improved communication and partnerships, improved monitoring of water sources, and improved drinking water quality. In Brazil, implementation results were used as grounds to revise the national drinking water regulations that now require safety plans for all drinking water systems.

Collaborating with the International Water Association and the WHO, he led teams to develop WSP documents and shape the global research agenda. Gelting's leadership and expertise were instrumental in producing innovative research and evaluation documents that have educated global audiences. Gelting also championed and directed a 10-year sustainability study of water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions implemented by the Red Cross in four countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala). Results from this study have led to changes in the way the Red Cross works to sustain health benefits.

"On behalf of the U.S. Public Health Service, I want to thank the National Society of Professional Engineers for recognizing the outstanding contributions and accomplishments of federal engineers," said Rear Adm. Sven Rodenbeck, P.E., chief engineer of the U.S. Public Health Service. "It is an honor to serve with outstanding engineers like Capt. Gelting as we protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of our nation."

In addition to this work, Gelting is the co-founder and co-chair of the CDC Water Working Group, and currently serves on the Water Safety Plan committee for the WHO. He has written and published numerous papers concerning water safety and also serves as an adjunct professor at Emory University, where he both teaches and mentors students in the Master of Public Health program. As a result of his exemplary service and contributions to his profession, Gelting has received much prestigious recognition including both the "Excellence in Program or Policy Evaluation" and "Excellence in Partnering (International) Award" in 2010 from the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and numerous honor and service awards through his commission in the Public Health Service. 

Gelting holds a bachelor's degree in hydrology from the University of New Hampshire, a master's degree in water resources engineering from Stanford University, and a doctoral degree in civil engineering, also from Stanford. He is active in his local community through St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church and the Parkview Christian School. Gelting and his wife, Sue, reside outside of Atlanta, and have one daughter, Maya. 

A panel of judges established by NSPE's Professional Engineers in Government selects the FEYA winner. Hailing from various federal agencies, departments, and military branches, the nominated engineers are evaluated based on factors such as engineering achievements, education, professional and technical society activities, awards and honors, and civic and humanitarian activities. For more information about the program or how to submit nominations for 2014, contact Erin Garcia-Reyes at ereyes@nspe.org or 703-684-2884.

Additional Notes: 

The National Society of Professional Engineers is the national society of licensed professional engineers from all disciplines that promotes the ethical and competent practice of engineering, advocates licensure, and enhances the image and well-being of its members. Founded in 1934, NSPE serves more than 35,000 members and the public through 53 state and territorial societies and more than 400 chapters. For more information, please visit www.nspe.org.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Digital photos of Gelting, the ceremony, and additional award winners are currently available.